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.
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