Lose at Ipswich and We Are Really in Trouble - Notes for Bristol City
Tuesday, 27th Nov 2018 11:30 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Wednesday night’s game at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“Another poor Saturday. We’re following a familiar pattern, a good start and then a poor run”, “This time last year we were a team going places. All we have done since is look like a team on a slippery slope with no clue or direction.” “I feel a relegation battle coming”, “I think we’re already in one.”
The Robins head across to Ipswich with fans peering anxiously down the league table. A four-game losing streak has seen the team slide from eighth place in late October to 14th after Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Leeds. Fans fear that their five-point gap to the relegation places could quickly disappear.
“We are in the middle of one of Lee Johnson’s losing streaks”, “This losing run looks like it has some way to go, looking at our recent displays. For all Johnson’s tinkering he seems unable to do anything about it”, “Does anyone still think we’re too good to go down?”, “History doesn’t bode well at all.”
“The worry about the ‘average Championship side’ line is that we have been playing far worse than that over the last two months. We are playing poor League One stuff, often outplayed and with no threat. We start games very slowly and only seem to give it a go when we inevitably fall behind.”
“Ipswich haven’t won at home all season. We all know what is going to happen.” Many believe that a loss to us will be the result that provokes a crisis. “I have written the Ipswich game off. A few weeks ago, they were playing poorly but have picked up a bit of late”, “It’s now or never for Lee Johnson.”
“I’m not sure that Lee Johnson knows what he believes in. One defeat and he will change everything, then again and again. If I played for him, I would have no confidence in him”, “I will be overwhelmed when he finally leaves because in his three seasons, I have seen nothing but regression at the club.”
The 37-year-old former Robins’ midfielder became head coach at Ashton Gate in February 2016 and steered City to the semi-finals of last season’s EFL Cup. He has been increasingly criticised for failing to settle on a preferred line-up or style of play. His track record of losing runs has also re-emerged.
“This team has no direction under him”, “He gets the team selections wrong, always using players who are out of form. He takes us on extended losing runs and his recruitment is poor”, “I wish that he would stop tinkering and playing people out of position. He should play a system and stick with it.”
“The simple fact is that good coaches don’t allow such massive swings in form. It speaks of someone who is not in control of the situation”, “The complete absence of any clear playing strategy and the lack of consistency that this leads to is rather damning for any coach. We are now going backwards.”
“Lee Johnson worries too much about the opposition and tries to outsmart them. It rarely works and we only look half-decent and cause problems when he ends up changing things”, “This season I have no idea what he is trying to do other than make use of his tombola machine when picking the team.”
His post-match interviews have failed to inspire confidence. “Listening to his comments after the Leeds defeat on Radio Bristol, he said that until the sending off of John Brownhill we were the better team and have our game back”, “Generally good? God help us”, “That’s a man under real pressure.”
“We’re a poor side with little creativity or spark”, “We are so easy to defend against, with no variety or creativity”, “There is no pace to our play whatsoever with no one running at the opposition at all”, “This side is weak and spineless, no structure, passion or pride. What the hell has happened to us?”
“Our football is poor and uninspiring and the midfield looks too disjointed”, “We have become really predictable and clueless, and Lee Johnson seems to have no answers”, “To be fair to everyone they look lost. It often appears like the formation was told to the players only an hour before kick-off.”
“There is simply no semblance of a consistent game-plan this season. Constant changes in formation, personnel and tactics are leading to confusion. No doubt Lee Johnson thinks he’s being clever and sophisticated but it looks chaotic”, “Our attacks have as much menace as a bag of marshmallows.”
“We can’t score goals because the midfield has a total lack of imagination and creativity. We give mediocre opponents the confidence to play better than they really are”, “We’re wasteful on the ball, and we usually give it away cheaply as there is no outlet when we do get a chance to play forward.”
“That team looks risky.” The starting XI against Leeds (above) was set out in a different shape for the fourth consecutive game. Johnson has used wing-backs against Preston and a conventional 4-4-2 shape away to Reading, while he deployed a 4-3-3 in the second half of their home defeat to Stoke.
“We’re decent at the back.” The defence is the least of their concerns. City have three experienced centre-halves, with Nathan Baker adding solidity, Tomas Kalas steel, and Adam Webster praised for his footballing ability. Niki Maenpaa has been a more solid goalkeeper than rookie Max O’Leary.
City have two young players who have impressed at left-back. Lloyd Kelly is a defensively solid player while Jay Dasilva offers more of a cutting edge pushing forward. Jack Hunt is an experienced right-back who can be error-prone defensively but who can also offer a very useful outlet in attack.
The loss of Korey Smith with a knee injury has deprived the team of much-needed energy in central midfield. Marlon Pack is criticised for his lack of pace and poor passing. Josh Brownhill is suspended, so Pack will be partnered by Marley Watkins, who is still returning from injury, or rookie Liam Walsh.
The choice of winger Hakeeb Adelakun for a debut at Elland Road raised eyebrows. With left winger Callum O’Dowda ill before the game, the peppery Niclas Eliasson switched across to the left wing. A source of irritation has been Johnson’s habit of switching striker Andreas Weimann to a wider role.
“Any chance of one of our players going forward?” With five goals in the last eight games, the huge concern is the poor form of their strikers and the degree to which this has been impacted on by the changes in formation and lack of midfield creativity. “We are shockingly poor. Where is our threat?”
“We have nothing resembling a striker”, “We often change to long balls and crossing with intent to set up aerial attacks. Unfortunately, we sold Milan Djuric, our aerial threat in the summer.” Matty Taylor is absent with a hip injury. His leadership and industry will be hugely missed on Wednesday.
“Andreas Weimann and Matty Taylor were forging a good partnership at the start of the season, but as soon as Famara Diedhiou was fit, Lee Johnson changed everything to fit him in. He’s our £5 million striker but he’s just not playing like one”, “We score more goals when Diedhiou isn’t on the pitch.”
No Leadership on the Pitch
“The next few games are important as we are heading into a relegation battle. When we get into that, the confidence goes, tension rises and is becomes a dark cloud. I don’t see the character in the squad to deal with that”, “This team looks half-hearted and one that isn’t prepared to put a foot in.”
The lack of leadership is a recurring theme. “There are no Aden Flint characters in this side. We have no leaders in the pitch. There is too much blandness. Too many players are treading water with no hunger, desire or passion. Last year the team got burned out. This year they aren’t smouldering.”
Leeds 2 – 0 Bristol City
“Well, that was coming, a spineless, gutless performance”, “Once Josh Brownhill was sent off, Leeds started battering us and we couldn’t even get in their half to test their keeper”, “Both teams were poor until the sending off, but Leeds reacted to it as they should have”, “It was a shocking game.”
Leeds comfortably won this game through goals by Kemar Roofe on 69 and Pablo Hernandez on 86 minutes after City’s Josh Brownhill was dismissed on 55 for two bookable offences. Robins were only able to muster one shot on target against Leeds’ 18-year-old keeper Will Huffer on his debut.
“We were in the game apart from having no serious attempts on goal,” “Leeds were ordinary and did enough to comfortably control the game for long periods. At best I would say that we played well in patches, but failed to create a serious threat or goalscoring opportunity”, “We created nothing.”
Bristol City 0 – 1 Preston
“Well, that was horrific. I’m getting fed up with this now”, That tipped the balance for me today. It was an inexcusable mess with no coherent plan. It’s time to look for someone else”, “The 1-0 score flattered us, we were totally dire. There was no single player to get excited about”, “It was insipid.”
“Preston played us like a fiddle.” The Lilywhites won this game courtesy of Callum Robinson’s finish on 35 minutes, but City’s first shot on target landing on 78 minutes said much about their display. “Preston were a hardworking competent side but that was as comfortable a win as you will see.”
The consensus among fans was that Johnson’s starting XI (above) set up to counter the physicality of Preston and nullify their midfield threat, but their loss of pace and width unbalanced the team. “Our team had as much personality as beige wallpaper. It was as bad a performance as you will ever see.”
Reading 3 – 2 Bristol City
“What a terrible result against a very poor Reading side”, “I’m not sure how we lost a game that we dominated for the most part. We conceded three sloppy goals from simply losing the ball”, “Not a single one of our players was at the races today”, “I can’t believe we lost to that pile of rubbish.”
Yakou Meite put Reading ahead on eight minutes, pouncing onto a loose ball in the box but City levelled on 23 when Marlon Pack guided Jack Hunt’s through-ball into the bottom corner. First-half stoppage-time goals from Reading’s Liam Kelly and Josh Brownhill, who headed home City's second equaliser.
“Reading were very clinical in the periods when they dominated the game.” Leandro Bacuna struck the winning goal on 66 and City piled on the pressure to no effect in the closing stages”, “We badly needed an extra pair of legs in central midfield today with Pack’s legs gone and Walsh struggling.”
Johnson reverted to his preferred formation (above) for this game, but Robins felt that Reading were able to isolate their men out wide and outnumber them in midfield. “Both our midfielders were left standing for Reading’s third goal. We allowed multiple one-twos down our right for an easy tap-in.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Niki Maenpaa is fairly decent.” The 33-year-old ex-Brighton keeper and Finland international joined City on a free transfer in August. “He has come here and performed brilliantly up until picking up a groin injury last month”, “His distribution is good and he handles everything that comes his way.”
Niki Maenpaa (Brighton)
“Niki was good at Leeds. He has a strong presence with his huge frame and he also seems to inspire confidence in the defence”, “He can flap at crosses and could communicate better at times, but his handling is spot on and he makes good saves, sprinting to the edge of his area to throw quickly.”
“Jack Hunt played brilliantly to set up our opening goal at Reading.” The 27-year-old former Sheffield Wednesday right-back “had a couple of dodgy games defensively but generally played well”, “He is hit and miss, switching off a few times a game that leads to very serious chances for the opposition.”
“For all the criticism of Hunt’s defensive qualities, he copes well with fast strikers and his positioning is very good”, “He is quick and likes to take on players but often runs into dead ends”, “He is quite effective without bombing forward, but if you can get him overlapping you can get in behind teams.”
“Jay Dasilva had a tough game at Reading and was outdone too many times by Mo Barrow.” The 20-year-old left-back is on a season-long loan from Chelsea. “He was so good in the second half against Stoke but he left us too open”, “He is sloppy on the ball and gives possession away very easily.”
“Dasilva came on in the 20th minute and changed the game in our win at Brentford”, “He is dynamic going forwards but is not at all a very good defender. He has often been beaten all too easily. More threat comes down our left side when he starts”, “I'm a lot less convinced by his defensive abilities.”
“Dasilva is good going forward but Lloyd Kelly is a far better defender, so it all depends on how you want to set up for a game.” The 20-year-old youth product “is a much more solid defender and he shores up one side of the defence. Not a lot of threat comes from that side when Kelly is playing.”
“Kelly has lost the left-back berth to Dasilva after making a few mistakes recently, dropping him is warranted after two poor games”, “He’s a tall and athletic defender who can play football”, “He has put in mature displays, learning from his mistakes and not letting opponents get the better of him.”
“Tomas Kalas was fantastic at the start of the season. Now Lee has got to work on him, he's not so effective.” The 25-year-old Chelsea loanee also played on loan last season at Fulham. He missed first-team action for a month after fracturing his jaw at the end of September in a game against Wigan.
“Kalas is a solid and composed centre-half who is very strong, quick and decisive”, “He’s a far better footballer than Baker and adds steel and experience needed at this level”, “He’s a really aggressive warrior who wants to keep the ball out the net”, “A committed leader who reads the game well.”
“Nathan Baker can be the assured player we know he can be or the worried, error-prone, red-card-in-waiting he was for much of the second half of last season.” The 27-year-old ex-Aston Villa man “did not have a great end to last season but up to January he was one of the division’s best centre-backs”.
“Baker is a good player who needs to show the desire and performances to make him undroppable”, “He doesn't have the ball skills that Webster has. When he comes on, we go long ball as he gets rid of it upfield”, “He can be something of a hothead, but he’s a phenomenal player who has lost form.”
“I really like the look of Webster. Reminds me of John Stones under Guardiola. He is obviously not as good but he has the potential to play at Premier League level with his style of play. Before the season ends, he will probably be responsible for a few goals conceded but we must take that on the chin.”
Chris Martin (Fulham) v Adam Webster
“It’s interesting to hear Johnson say he takes the ‘blame’ for any time Webster gets caught playing football, because it's the way he wants them to play.” The 23-year-old former Ipswich centre-half “is much smoother than Aden Flint, but he puts his body on the line and can show Flint-like passion”.
“Although Webster is tall, he is unimposing but classy on the ball”, “He attacks the ball, wins it and passes pretty well, just what you want your ball-playing centre-back to do. He will defend first and play when you can. He’s a real improvement on Flint defensively and he really grown on me.”
“Liam Walsh is very good at closing down, passing and he has pace.” The 21-year-old former Everton youth product “prompts us forward with his good play and he shows some good touches and ideas”, “He’s a creative player who drives at opponents. He just needs to be given licence to get forward”,
“Walsh is an impactful player with a good first touch. He makes space for himself with the ball when in tight spaces. He passes quickly with either foot and almost always accurately. He’s aggressive and doesn’t hide, demanding the ball”, “I’m not sure what’s his best role to play in a two-man midfield.”
“Every team needs a Marley Watkins but many fans will never recognise that. They will always prefer a flair player.” The 28-year-old former Canary has played as a substitute building match fitness after a recent injury. “He wins balls, has kept possession well at the end of games and puts in decent crosses.”
“Watkins never going to be pacy or imaginative option, but he gives us something else that is useful to have”, “He’s a strong athletic hard-working midfielder and a good finisher”, “He’s good at heading tackling and using his pace and power. He is less good in tight spots or playing it on the half turn.”
“We haven’t seen the best of Marlon Pack for a while but what’s the alternative?” The 27-year-old ex-Cheltenham man “is woefully out of form. His passing has been woeful lately. He was left trailing in the Leeds game”, “He is too slow and allows good opponents to glide through our midfield.”
“Pack has the look of a player who somehow believes that he is far better than he actually is, and at the moment he is awful”, “On his game, he wins his aerial battles and keeps his passing short. He’s neat, tidy and disciplined positionally”, “He is constantly giving away freekicks in dangerous areas.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Hakeeb Adelakun looked some player in League One.” The 22-year-old arrived from Scunthorpe in July but has been sidelined with an ankle injury. “He is more of a winger who can score a few goals”, “He didn't really get into the Leeds game, being too wide when they got the ball and largely quiet.”
“Mo Eisa does not look inclined to fight, even get close to a man or let alone make a tackle.” The 24-year-old July signing from Cheltenham “is the X-factor, but I'm pretty sure he will be the poacher like Tammy Abraham drifting into space off defenders, which doesn't make him a physical target either.”
“Niclas Eliasson looked pretty poor in open play at Leeds.” The 22-year-old ex-IFK Norrkoping winger “loses the ball a lot in the middle third but when he gets isolated one-one in the final third he’s an absolute threat”, “He gives it away in our own half but when further forward he can be well mint.”
“Eliasson is a class act. He’s our biggest threat and should be starting. He has pace, quick feet, and can whip in an excellent delivery”, “His crosses seemingly either fail to beat the first man or are inch perfect to the best-placed City player”, “He doesn’t give up and also gives his full-back good cover.”
“O’Dowda was going to start at Leeds but was ill just before the game.” The 23-year-old ex-Oxford winger “mixes flashes of decent stuff and frustrating play”, “Young players drift in and out of form. If superb every game they play at the highest level”, “He’s good in spells but he can often go missing.”
“You need Eliasson on the left and O'Dowda on the right. Eliasson goes inside and outside. O'Dowda is very left-footed but his best run of form came playing on the right”, “He has quick feet but he runs down blind alleys”, “Watch him off the ball, he makes countless runs which team-mates never see.”
“An in-form Jamie Paterson would help turn things around.” The 26-year-old ex-Nottingham Forest man “can produce a bit of magic out of nothing, but he was in powder-puff, jog-around mode in the Leeds game at times”, “An absolute passenger at best who offers nothing when we need fighters.”
“Paterson has shown flashes of good play and has often been the only player to successfully make a pass into the box”, “For all his occasional close control and head up play he is out of form. He tries to link play and has good moments but his final ball was poor”, “Play him as a full-on ‘10’ or not at all.”
Andreas Weimann and Tom Huddlestone (Derby County) with referee Geoff Eltringham
“Andreas Weimann needs a partner running into the channels and being a threat in the box.” The 27-year-old former Villa and Derby man “puts in so much work and running, He’s the only one trying to get on the ball in the final third, but whatever we may like to think, he lacks a striker’s instincts.”
“Weimann works his socks off but is having to drop deep to get on the ball. He’s getting no service”, “When he gets the ball down the channels, he will turn and goes backwards instead of squaring up and taking the defender on. He needs to take responsibility by trying to beat his man and shooting.”
“Diedhiou is a low-energy striker with a touch like a trampoline.” The 25-year-old ex-Angers striker “has had several good chances to get on the end of crosses but has got nowhere near any of them”, “I have never seen a striker take up such poor positions, as he’s usually hiding behind a defender.”
“Diedhiou hasn’t played well for a few weeks. He has no first touch and is not a physical presence. I’m not quite sure what he brings”, “For a big bloke he’s easy to shift off the ball and he takes up the most ridiculous attacking positions”, “He falls over himself instead of putting the ball in the net.”
“I have no idea what has happened to Famara”, “He doesn’t want to be out there and the fans are beginning to work that out”, “He jumps way too early for crosses and they sail over his head”, “He doesn’t suit our system and doesn’t suit sharp fast passes in and around the box”, “He is hiding.”
Robins’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“There is no way we will lose to Ipswich. Surely not?”, “Ipswich are better than us. We might have a better starting XI, but that don’t make us a team”, “So, our next two games - Ipswich haven't won at home this season and Millwall who haven't won away this season. Make of that what you will.”
“I can't see Johnson going for it. He will try to protect the point we start with.” Robins are viewing this game with apprehension and many would take a draw to stop this run of defeats. “A draw will most likely be the result and we will go on a little run and ‘all will be well again’ until the next blip.”
“Ipswich have had 22 shots in their last two games and it's going to be a bloody tough game. They are targeting this as a match they should win because we are struggling as well”, “They look suspect at the back, but they are capable of scoring and were definitely lifted by the arrival of Paul Lambert.”
“Having watched Ipswich on Friday against West Brom they are not as bad as their position suggests. They can make mistakes and they can’t score. It’s a matter of whether they have more mistakes in them than us and will they find more fluke goals than us!”, “They will certainly be up for the fight.”
“A win at Ipswich feels like a must, otherwise I think Johnson won’t have long left at City”, “Even in the wretched form Ipswich have been in, I can only see a home win. They will win at home at some stage and we are probably the perfect opposition to oblige at the moment.”
“So, the Ipswich and Millwall games are coming up with both in the relegation zone. A nailed-on six points for us then?” With Millwall visiting Ashton Gate on Sunday, these two games have a make-or-break feel to them. “I see another defeat coming and massive pressure for the Millwall home game.”
“As well as guessing the team, can we guess how many shots on target as well? I go for two, one will be a tame skidding effort from 25 yards in first five minutes to dispel the myth we that don't shoot. The next in the last 10 minutes when we are chasing the game having gone 2-0 down.”
“We are not progressing to better things, Wednesday will prove it as we will bring nothing back from Ipswich”, “We have been coasting for a few months waiting for the big game versus Ipswich. It’s an absolutely massive game for Lee Johnson. If he loses that the computer says sack”, “
“Lee can’t ask for an easier game. There really can be no more hiding can there? Except it’s Ipswich. Another grand old name of English football, Sir Bobby, Big Terry, Our Russ, Arnold Muhren, played in Europe and are bigger than us, and we should have played them before their last coach was sacked.”
The busiest Robin’s message-board is the polite and friendly OTIB. Bristol City highlights are available on the Multimedia menu as well as Ipswich Town and for the whole of the Championship and other EFL leagues.
Photo: Action Images
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