Does the diamond still sparkle? Bradford City go to Bristol City

Picture by Thomas Gadd (

Picture by Thomas Gadd (

Bristol City vs Bradford City preview

@Ashton Gate on Tuesday 21 October, 2014

By Andrew Baxter

Of all the reaction on Twitter following Saturday’s home defeat to Sheffield United, it appeared that the diamond formation, introduced by Phil Parkinson this year, seemed to spark the most debate.

Whilst the diamond formation means that City are rarely overrun in midfield this year, as was the case on several occasions last season, there is a noticeable lack of width, as evident on Saturday. Both Stephen Darby and Alan Sheehan were exposed to the pace of the Sheffield United wingers, due to a lack of width in the City side, and as a result Jamie Murphy and Jamal Campbell-Ryce had the opportunity to run at the Bradford defence, causing havoc.

It is worth noting that after Darby’s red card, City changed to a 4-4-1 formation, and the opposition wingers had less of an impact. Maybe the diamond formation will be dropped, cover in the centre of midfield sacrificed for increased width.

It seems a logical step to take. With the addition of Jon Stead, who has signed a short-term loan deal, and the height and aerial ability of James Hanson, increasing the width, and increasing the opportunity to cross the ball into the box utilises the strength of Hanson and Stead in the air. The loan signing of winger Andy Halliday points to a change in tactics, reverting back to last season’s more traditional 4-4-2.

With Stephen Darby suspended for Tuesday’s game, Christopher Routis will deputise at right back. Routis’ performance was certainly one of the positives from Saturday, with the Frenchman putting in a composed dispaly, after a slow start. Routis showed a good range of passing, some solid tackling, and some very nice touches, with flicks and back-heels more suited to a pacy winger than a centre back.

Another positive to take was the return of Hanson. City’s top scorer missed the previous six games through injury, but his work rate on Saturday was fantastic. It appears that whenever Hanson plays, the team has a focal point, with the Rory McArdle-Hanson diagonal ball causing problems for the opposition defence, despite being very predictable.

In terms of the line-up for the trip to Ashton Gate, Jordan Pickford will continue in goal, on the back of a couple of very good performances, with a back four of Routis, McArdle, Andrew Davies and Sheehan. If the diamond midfield is scrapped, then the midfield will be a flat four, possibly with Filipe Morais and Mark Yeates on either wing, with a central midfield pairing consisting of any two of Jason Kennedy, Gary Liddle and Billy Knott.

Up front, Hanson is guaranteed to start if fit, with Stead alongside him, unless Phil Parkinson persists with Aaron Mclean, who is rapidly increasing his number of critics, with a poor goalscoring record and several very average performances.

Bristol City, on the other hand, have had an incredible start to the season. nine wins and four draws from their opening 13 games has seen them open up a five-point lead at the top of League One, and are the only unbeaten team in the Football League this season. In addition, the Robins have taken 16 points from a possible 18 at home this season, so Tuesday night will not be an easy game at all.

Bristol City have plenty of attacking weapons at their disposal. Ex-City loanee (albeit briefly) Aaron Wilbraham, who was playing Premier League football last season, has scored eight goals so far this campaign, with former Rotherham striker Kieran Agard close behind him with six. Those two, as an attacking pair, form the perfect combination and pace and power, with Wilbraham’s aerial presence and strength a perfect foil for Agard’s blistering pace.

The Robins also have Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, a powerful athlete, and Luke Freeman, who was outstanding for Stevenage last season, at their disposal, and thus provide a serious threat to the City defence. However, Bristol City have conceded in their last five games, including shipping three at Fleetwood Town, so are not impenetrable at the back.

Bristol City will line up in a 3-5-2 formation, with Frank Fielding in net. In front of him will be a back three of Luke Ayling, Aden Flint and Derrick Williams. Mark Little and Joe Bryan will act as wing-backs, or wingers, depending on the game situation, and the midfield three will be the experienced Wade Elliot, Freeman, and former Cheltenham playmaker Marlon Pack. Upfront will be Wilbraham and Agard, barring injury, although manager Steve Cotterill may opt to fit Emmanuel-Thomas somewhere into the side, as he adds height and pace.

After back-to-back defeats, a trip to the runaway league leaders is not the fixture Parkinson would have wanted. However, with a tweak to the formation, Tuesday night gives the Bantams a chance to put things right from Saturday.


logo1If you like what Width of a Post do, please vote for us in the Football Blogging Awards.

We have been shortlisted for ‘Best Established Blog‘ and ‘Best Football Club Blog’. WOAP Deputy editor Katie Whyatt has also been shortlisted for ‘Best Female Blog’.

Categories: Previews

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. I’m not sure what Aaron McLean was supposed to do on Saturday – what are we expecting of him? He isn’t 6 foot 5 so isn’t going to outjump the defenders to the long balls lumped up from the back and he didn’t really get a sniff of goal. We created nothing all game and he chased lost causes pretty well I’d say. Obviously I don’t see him every week living away but he seems to be getting criticised for not being Nahki Wells. I’d like to see him given 90mins and not substituted for McBurnie who has never looked like scoring.

    • I think part of the problem Rob is that Hanson did win a lot of flick ons on Saturday but despite McLean having been here since January, he still doesn’t look likely to get on the end of one. McLean is stocky but short (shorter than Michael Owen according to Wikipedia) and he doesn’t seem to make the runs that stretch or worry the opposing defenders. As a result if he is in range when Hanson flicks the ball on, he is relatively stationary with at least 1 very large defender waiting to take it off his toe. Given his close control is poor and he doesn’t look to do a trick – then he is down to running after lost causes because he is, on the face of it, easy to play against.

      On the flip side, I listened to his recent interview on Bantams Player which he gave ahead of the Barnsley game, where he said;

      “I am more or less fully fit now and my last few performances have shown that. I’ve got a lot more energy in the tank now and I’m able to do a lot more than I was at the beginning of the season. There’s things in games and runs that you make and sharp movements that – after having the summer off and then missing all of pre-season – it’s impossible to have that sharpness needed for a game. I’ve missed 6 weeks of pre-season and trying to play catch up during the season is not ideal at all, going into a game when you are barely 50% , it’s not ideal at all”

      When asked about the sharpness that he did show to score against Crewe he said;

      “that’s where I prefer to be, in the box, making little runs across defenders or on the back of defenders and getting shots on goal, that’s how I’ve always played.” He goes on to say that the absence of midweek games has given the players an opportunity to work on how to play with a fully fit McLean, saying of some of this newer team mates “I think it’s important for them to also know exactly how I play because we didn’t get to do it pre season. We are doing it now and it’s working for us”

      When told his last 2 performances (Port Vale and Crewe at the time of the interview) were good ones he said;

      “yeah I have felt strong. Before the Port Vale game I had a chat with the manager, we talked a little bit about my game and about what he expects from me and what I expect from the team. We had a good chat about it, we’ve worked on a lot of things in training and it’s coming together now. It’s just a few good performances but It’s something to build on and for me, I just need to make sure that I keep putting in them performances now and stay consistent and as long as I do that, then I’ve no doubt I’ll score plenty of goals.”

      So I think if you add these factors into the mix, then that balances the disappointment the fans feel in him because ultimately he sounded disappointed himself. He is perhaps making more of the fitness issue than all fans would accept, but the player himself has only just declared himself “more or less fully fit” 2 weeks ago, so that is at the very least his own mitigation for the lack of goals and stand out performances.

      It’s a bit of the shame that following this interview we then went to Barnsley (after all this good work in training and positive chats) and launched the ball up to him for the whole game – because that will have been a bit of a set back for him if he had started to get his mojo back. I thought he did just ok against Sheffield Utd but to be fair they were a good side and I’m sure McLean would argue that traditional long ball football is not what he is teaching the other players in training, about his game.

      I just hope that it works out for the best and that he gets it right, before he starts to lose his willingness to prove doubters wrong. I saw on his twitter that he said something like “getting really sick of you now” to a Bradford City fan who seemingly regularly berates him after matches for his performances. It would be a shocking waste of money if, for whatever extenuating circumstances, we will not get any more than we already have had out of his move to the club.

      • Far play to you nick for a fair and thorough post. Like you say, maybe there are a few too many excuses floating around but fitness is an important issue. I agree that slagging people off in social media won’t help anyone. Fingers crossed McLean can turn it around.

%d bloggers like this: