Friday evening’s defeat to Swansea City was a frustrating one for Bristol City supporters but there were certainly positives to take from it for the Ashton Gate faithful.
The Robins dominated for long periods and created more than enough chances to win the game, with Joel Piroe’s decisive goal against the run of play and benefiting from more than a little fortune.
With Andy King still carrying a knock from midweek, Han-Noah Massengo was handed his first start of the 2021/22 Championship campaign and was certainly keen to make the most of his opportunity.
City have now confirmed that Adam Nagy will be joining Serie B side Pisa, should he pass his medical, so Massengo could be an important player for the South West club this season.
We put a spotlight on the 20-year-old’s performance against the Swans to assess how he got on…
One thing was clear from the off on Friday evening, Massengo was keen to grab his opportunity with both hands at Ashton Gate.
The 20-year-old was full of energy throughout against the Swans, while there was plenty of the quick feet and agile moves that had supporters so excited in his debut season at the club.
It’s not been all plain sailing since the 2019/20 campaign for Massengo but if he can build on last night’s performance, it would be a surprise not to see him involved a lot this term.
Physically, the midfielder looks a lot stronger than when he first arrived in Bs3 and that was reflected in how effective he was out of possession.
It wasn’t a perfect display but he broke up play well at times and was part of the reason City were able to pin the visitors back for long periods – making three interceptions and winning 78% of his defensive duels (Wyscout).
For the most part, Massengo read the play well and flew into tackles with real conviction but it may have been his hunger, reflected by the three loose ball duels he won, that impressed Pearson the most.
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The thing that may well have excited the home fans the most, however, was how he looked in possession.
It’s hard to think of anyone else in the Robins squad that’s able to negotiate tight situations as well as Massengo, who is capable of dancing past opposition players with a Paul Pogba-esque ease when he’s on song.
In total, the central midfielder completed four of his five dribbles against the Swans, often creating space for his side by floating past the Welsh club’s midfielders.
He’s not yet the finished product, however, and while he was tidy in possession for the most part, finishing with 83% pass success, his distribution into attacking areas needs work.
Just 60% of his forward passes and 60% of his passes into the final third were on target on Friday evening, which often meant City attacks broke down.
This looks set to be a big season for the young Frenchman, who repaid Pearson’s faith in him against the Swans.
He looks to be well on the way to cementing his place behind King and Matty James in the pecking order.