Bristol Rovers have endured a very challenging start to the season and it has not been easy for them to adapt to life back in League Two following their relegation last term.
Joey Barton’s side have been impacted by a host of injury issues throughout the first few months of the season.
However, Bristol Rovers should have picked up a lot more points than they have been able to do at this stage given the quality that they have within their squad.
A 3-1 defeat against Swindon Town at the weekend was another setback for Barton’s side after they hoped they had turned a corner with a much-needed 2-1 win at Walsall in their previous league fixture.
That result has left Bristol Rovers in a disappointing 20th place in the table with them having collected ten points from a possible 30 so far.
Goals have been an issue for Bristol Rovers so far this term with them only managing to find the net nine times in their opening ten fixtures.
While they have also shipped the joint-most amount of goals in the division with 17 conceded so far.
That is a recipe for disaster if it is allowed to continue, but there have been some signs including the win at Walsall more recently to suggest that if they get a few more injured players back then they could move up the table a little.
With all that in mind, we have had a go at selecting Bristol Rovers’ strongest possible XI available to them based on their opening ten league games…
It has not been easy to select this starting line-up given the amount of changes that Barton has been making to his starting XI so far this term.
However, one thing that has been clear is Barton’s preference for a three-man defence and he has often set Rovers up in more of a 3-4-2-1 formation.
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An injury setback for goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola has offered the chance for James Belshaw to establish himself as Bristol Rovers’ first choice keeper so far this season in League Two. The former Harrogate Town stopper has so far averaged 3.4 saves per game.
In the back three, Barton has recently settled on a trio of Cian Harries, Connor Taylor and Alfie Kilgour. There are other options available to Bristol Rovers that some might feel deserve a spot here, but the need for some stability in that area of the field suggests that these three could be worth sticking with for now to see if they can form a partnership.
Bristol Rovers have made a lot of changes in terms of who has been starting in the wing-back positions for them so far this term.
However, Alex Rodman should be their main option at right-wing-back when he returns to full fitness. While Harry Anderson can do a job in a left-wing-back role.
At the base of midfield, Barton has gone with the experienced pairing of Glenn Whelan and Paul Coutts recently. However, that partnership lacks a little bit of legs and makes it harder for Bristol Rovers to push on and press opponents. That is why we have suggested pairing Whelan with Sam Finlay.
In the two players playing off the lone forward, Aaron Collins has not made as good a start to life at Bristol Rovers as he would have liked, but his form for Forest Green Rovers last term showed his potential and he offers legs in the attacking third.
While Harvey Saunders is another player that could be considered to start ahead of the likes of Antony Evans.
Upfront, the experienced Brett Pitman appears to be Barton’s go-to player with Leon Clarke out injured.