Hal Robson-Kanu and Courtney Sweetman-Kirk believe that Bristol City’s poor record of conceding from set-pieces is down to poor concentration and a lack of leaders in defence.
The Robins have the worst record in the EFL Championship from defending set pieces, and of their 27 goals conceded this season, 11 have been from dead-ball situations.
Talking on Sky Sports, Sweetman-Kirk gave her view on their defensive frailties: “Look, you’ve got to take the injuries into account, I think it’s four centre-halves now that are injured so that’s always going to affect your squad and I always feel like your defence is the place that you don’t want to move. You want to keep that consistent.”
The Robins have been without several defenders in recent weeks, including; Tomas Kalas, Kal Naismith, Timm Klose and Rob Atkinson.
She continued: “But I feel especially from set pieces they’ve been really poor, looking back on the last six games only one of the goals they’ve conceded has been from open play, the rest have been from set pieces.”
One stat that emphasizes their weakness is that eight of the last nine goals they’ve conceded have been from set-piece situations; four from free kicks and four from corner kicks.
Presenter David Prutton then asked the Sheffield United player whether their record was down to a lack of concentration, to which she replied:
“It is concentration, it’s relationships but you see there they’ve stepped out at the wrong time so they're not in line together (while analysing Tom Bradshaw’s goal for Milwall against the Robins last month.)
Robson-Kanu then gave his take: “It’s organisation as well, at the back when you're conceding goals in that manner it tends to be because there isn’t a real leader back there, you need a leader to organise as Courts is saying. You know, they're mismatched in that set-up, whether it’s from set pieces or from crosses coming into the box.
“I think Nigel Pearson will be drilling them very hard on their organisation but ultimately he can't control the players out on the pitch and you need leaders there and that’s what they're missing at this moment in time.”
The Robins sit 21st in the league in terms of expected goals conceded, and have also conceded more goals in the last 15 minutes of games than any other team in England’s second division.
Zak Vyner has shown signs of stepping up to that leadership role at the heart of the defence, but Pearson will be eager to get his most experienced defenders back as soon as possible.