Nigel Pearson pictured on the sidelines at a recent Bristol City game. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
Bristol City will look to buy a full-back in the summer with defensive problems arising from the team’s wide areas all season.
The loss on Saturday to Birmingham City once again highlighted that the Robins are too porous in defence - now 65 goals conceded, with only two Championship sides shipping more - and the South West club must improve at the back to progress.
Though manager Nigel Pearson defended wing-back Sam Bell’s performance out wide on the opposite flank to which his father Micky played, the Robins boss also explained that he knows all too well where he wants to strengthen in the summer.
“Look I know where we need to strengthen moving forward,” said Pearson in the post-match press conference when asked about constant problems coming from the full-back areas, with the suggestion that he needs to recruit there.
“One of the problems is that everyone always thinks that the players who aren’t playing are the solution. And I hear a lot about, say, George Tanner.
“George is still learning the game. There’d be a lot for him to come in and deal with that situation, as well. I know where we need to strengthen, absolutely.
“But the problem is that we have too many players who can’t put in back to back performances together and that’s a big problem for us,” said the former Leicester City manager.
After a fourth win in a row at Ashton Gate for Birmingham City, the Robins manager knows what’s needed for sustained longer-term improvement.
With 10 games to go, Bristol City still need a few more wins to secure their second tier status, before they can focus on building for the next campaign however.
“There needs to be changes [in the summer], there’s no doubt about that,” Pearson added.
“But some [transfers] will be around necessity and some will be whether we can or can’t do them. I can’t give you a definitive answer on that.
“I’ll make changes if they’ll significantly improve on what we’ve got. But if I can’t do that then I won’t make changes. It’s clear that we need to. Whether we’re able to is another thing,” confirmed the manager.
Bristol World questioned Pearson about Danny Simpson, who has been one of the 10 players to have played down the right for the club this campaign.
Zak Vyner, Alex Scott, Sam Bell, Jay Dasilva, Tomas Kalas and George Tanner have all played at right-back or right wing-back for the Robins, as well as the veteran Simpson in 2021/22.
And Han-Noah Massengo, Andi Weimann and Joe Williams have even been shunted out wide when needed to do a job for the team during matches, in what has consistently been a problem position for the Robins this season.
Onel Hernandez was outstanding for the visitors on Saturday, as he caused mayhem down City’s right flank. And every single one of Birmingham’s 13 shots came from City’s right side of the pitch too.
The West Country outfit need to find a way to stem the attacks from that flank.
“I’m not considering him at the moment,” said Pearson on Simpson’s absence. “I’m looking at who’s going to be here next year.
“I don’t intend to start making short-term decisions for us at the moment. I’ll make decisions that I think are right for the team. As simple as that. Players are either included or not included in the match-day squad. Whether they start or don’t start,” he added.
The writing is on the wall and when Simpson leaves at the end of the season there will be scope for a new right-back to come into the club.
A defensive midfielder is also wanted by the club, with Pearson explaining that the Robins lack a destructive player in the middle currently. “We don’t have any,” said the manager, reflecting on how City can shield their defence better.
And those additions, if they happen, might help improve a dismal defensive record that sees Bristol City having conceded the joint most goals from open play in the Championship (46; with Peterborough United), according to Opta match statistics.