It’s fair to say that the 2020/21 season ended with a whimper rather than a bang for Bristol City, finishing with a dismal run of ten winless matches. With the new Championship season kicking off this week, we take a look at The Robins’ prospects for success and ask whether there are any grounds for optimism ahead of the new campaign.
Before their opening game against Blackpool on Saturday, Bristol City are given just a
40/1 shot of winning the Championship, and
11/2 of making it into the top six. Conversely, The Robins are listed as a
5/1 chance of suffering relegation, joint eighth ‘favourites’ for that unhappy fate, which suggests that the oddsmakers are predicting a lower/mid-table finish. Similarly, fans of the club are treating the upcoming season with a sense of wariness rather than optimism, but a win at home on Saturday afternoon would go a long way to lifting the spirits.
Reasons to Be Optimistic
All is not gloom and doom, however, and there are certainly some reasons for cautious optimism as the 2021/22 campaign gets underway. When Nigel Pearson took the managerial reigns in the middle of last season, City were already mired in a tedious limbo with little prospect of either promotion or relegation taking place. Given the off-season to work with his squad, the veteran manager will surely have had more of an opportunity to stamp his mark on the team. Let’s not forget that Pearson is a Championship winner and a man with an impressive managerial CV built over the course a lengthy career.
Introducing the structure and defensive solidity his teams have been famed for will make for a solid foundation, and the hope is that the players will be able to thrive under more of a ‘back-to-basics’ system. Joe Williams and Andreas Weimann were absent for much of last season, and their return will certainly bolster the team. Players like Nagy and Kalas impressed during the Euros, and some of the younger players like Antoine Semenyo will be looking for a breakthrough season this year.
Problems to Overcome
Of course, when we mention these players, there is always the risk that they may not be with the club for too much longer. Pearson has been open about the fact that the wage bill at the club has got to come down, and record-signing (and highest earner) Kalas is an obvious transfer option, particularly after his eye-catching displays for the Czech Republic at the European Championships.
And we cannot ignore the glaring issue faced by Bristol City over recent seasons, which has been their travails in front of goals. Famara Diédhiou was top-scorer last year with a less-than-impressive ten goals over all competitions, and he was sold to Turkish outfit Alanyaspor in July. A 15-goal-a-year striker is generally a minimum requirement for a Championship side looking to push for promotion, and there is no obvious candidate for that role at the club right now. Veteran forward Nakkhi Wells will have to shoulder the responsibility of getting the bulk of the goals as it stands, and the hope is that Pearson will have come up with a system which gets the best out of the Bermudan.
Bring on the New Season!
The mood among fans of the team seems to be that a lack of goals may be the teams undoing, but as with every fanbase there is always that barely repressed sense of hope before the first ball of the season is kicked. The return to Ashton Gate on Saturday afternoon in front of around 20,000 fans is sure to be a raucous occasion, and the honouring of club legend Terry Cooper before kick off will only heighten the atmosphere. Getting off the mark with a win against Blackpool would be a great fillip, and who knows what that could lead to?
Sometimes the heart can rule the head in these matters, but we’re backing Pearson’s boys to make a real charge at the play-offs this year, and we will be supporting them all the way!
*Odds correct at time of writing.