Bristol City: What has gone wrong?

Updated: Jul 5, 2020

Streaky, consistent, inconsistent, consistently inconsistent.

What a source of frustration Bristol City have been since Lee Johnson took over The Robins. Granted, he took over a side that was struggling.

Relegation threatened Bristol City appointed Lee Johnson on 6 February 2016 and what followed has been a roller coaster to say the least.

On the face of it, Bristol City are a side ready to make the leap into the Premier League. Newly refurbished Ashton Gate, a competitive squad and a Chairman ready to back his manager.

But they just can't make that leap. A bungee cord is strapped to the waist of Bristol City and every time it looks as though they might challenge for promotion, the cord pulls them back up.

They're a good side Bristol City, a well balanced side, but they're are under achieving and certainly should be doing better this season.

This article is a look into some of the issues that may well be causing the issues at Bristol City and what the potential solution is to them.

1) Recruitment

One thing Bristol City have been good at is replacing talent that they sell on. Bit of a BTEC Brentford.

But with every Adam Webster, there is a Marley Watkins. Bristol City have a checkered past of late of bringing in players and that has held them back. It's also impacted by Lee Johnson struggling to settle on a style of play, or philosophy. But more on that later.

With a £61m outlay on players since Johnson took over, you'd expect them to at least be competing for the play-offs. Except that isn't the case. With a 17th, 11th, 8th and probably mid-table finish in the Championship for the 19/20 season, there isn't much of a case of Bristol City 'spending well'. Is it the recruitment? Or is it Johnson?

Well it's easy to make a case for both, but certain recruitment should fall into that category. Other than Adam Webster, it's hard to make a case for any of the signings over the last four seasons being 'good value'. They've so far failed to get Bristol City into the play-offs when teams spending less, a considerable amount less since 2016, have finished in the play-offs.

For the 18/19 season, Bristol City posted a pre-tax profit of £10.9m, but profit was offset by selling their five best players. Flint, Bryan, Reid, Kelly and Kodjia. Whilst this profit was posted, it wouldn't have been achieved without weakening themselves. At the moment, how many players at Bristol City could fetch the fees the likes of Webster, Brownhill and Lloyd Kelly were purchased for. They're already feeling the effects of losing Brownhill this season for example.

2) Lee Johnson

I feel bad for including Lee Johnson because he comes across as likeable chap. And even with the underachievement at Bristol City, he's a good coach. He saved The Robins from being relegated when he came in and turned them into a competitive Championship side.

But since those improvements, they've got worse. They finished the 18/19 season in 8th, with a talented, expensive squad, you could argue they should have done better.

This season, it seems to have dramatically worsened. Losing Adam Webster was a blow, but they received a sizeable fee for him. A smart signing in Massengo and Jay Dasilva and it looked like things were looking up. With Kasey Palmer coming, it looked like Bristol City might be cooking on gas (no Bristol Rovers pun intended). But alas, that is not the case.

Make no mistake, this squad is ready for a promotion challenge. It's well balanced, albeit with some injury problems this season. But that shouldn't be an excuse with a team as talented and expensive as Bristol City's.

For example, tactically, I have no idea what style of play Bristol City identify with. Forest are structured, Leeds press, Brentford and Swansea are passing and Cardiff are direct. Just to name a few. But what are Bristol City?

Counter attacking at the start of 19/20 season with a 3-4-3, to 4-3-3 to 4-4-2. Far too many systems have been used to get results and that's a sign of a manager not knowing his best squad (See Woodgate at Boro as an example).

Now he's been sacked, bringing in a manager who can identify a style of play and go with it is essential to this Bristol City sustain promotion challenges and maybe more.

3) Lack of trust

Now i'm not a Bristol City fan, but it seems from the outside that Lee Johnson isn't trusting of the more creative players in his side. Kasey Palmer for example. He's an outstanding playmaker, genuinely one of the better number 10's in the league but he's only started eleven games this season. Now, injury may play a part in that but he's featured off the bench twelve times and that is telling in itself.

Eliasson is another example. The most obvious example in fact. Twelve assists. TWELVE ASSISTS. And he's only started eighteen times and featured off the bench seventeen. Why shackle your most creative player? The player who's most likely to create something for your side? Granted, creative players can ghost in and out of games, but those numbers tell of a lack of trust for both of those players.

A new manager coming in may unlock the scandalous amounts of creativity this Bristol City side possesses.

4) Ah, that 'streakiness'

Streaky Johnson. The much fabled streaky Lee Johnson.

Winning streaks, unbeaten streaks and losing streaks. No balance. Just consistent runs of inconsistency. That is currently costing Bristol City a place in the play-offs. It cost them a place in the 18/19 season and cost them a chance to compete in the 17/18 season. It's something that has never been addressed, never been balanced out and is therefore still affecting The Robins to this very day.

So the question before the weekend was, is it time for Lee Johnson to move on? He made Bristol City into a competitive Championship side, he's made them sustainable-ish and has achieved something that hasn't been done since Bristol City were playing under Senior Johnson, Gary.

A fresh pair of eyes and philosophy will take this side forward, as the potential and quality is there for plenty to see.

But make no mistake, this is a side that should be competing for the play-offs at the very least, not suffering the from mid-table obscurity.


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