Bristol City fans will have been hoping their side would return refreshed and refocussed after the international break but yesterday’s defeat only further emphasised the task facing Nigel Pearson.
Stoke City were deserving winners as the Robins’ dismal run at Aston Gate continued.
There were few positives to take from Pearson’s perspective – the performance of Han-Noah Massengo among them – and he was bullish in the post-match press conference, suggesting that changes need to be made in the summer.
It remains to be seen whether he’ll be the man trusted to do it but his focus will be the game against Coventry City on Monday.
With that in mind, we’ve outlined the dilemmas facing Pearson after the defeat to the Potters…
The wait for confirmation on his future
Despite the defeat to Stoke, City know that their Championship future is all-but secure.
One thing that remains unclear, however, is Pearson’s future as he’s yet to be offered a deal beyond the end of the season.
Clearly, that will complicate things – particularly his planning for 2020/21 – while it leaves him having to strike a balance between winning games to get an extended deal and experimenting to see which players he wants to be part of his squad moving forward.
It seems to be on Pearson’s mind as well, as he emphasised the importance of wrapping things up sooner rather than later after the game.
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Continued injury issues
It was a familiar story for City, who saw 18-year-old Sam Bell forced off due to injury after just 16 minutes and Liam Walsh absent because of a hamstring issue.
The fitness problems at the Bs3 club this term will surely be a concern for Pearson and they continue to pose him both short- and long-term dilemmas.
The City boss will have fewer options for the Coventry game and may also be wondering how to stem the flow of injuries at Ashton Gate.
How to line up his side against the Sky Blues
Pearson has cycled through a number of formations since taking charge in February and shifted to a 4-4-2 yesterday.
That allowed Nahki Wells, who has spent long periods on the flanks this term, to play in a forward two with Bell but the teenager’s 16th-minute injury meant he was forced to switch things around as midfielder Tyreeq Bakinson was brought on to replace him.
The City boss didn’t really get a proper chance to see how effective a 4-4-2 is with the players in his current squad, meaning he heads into Monday’s game with another formation dilemma.
Does he test out a 4-4-2 again, this time with Famara Diedhiou up top with Wells, or should he shift things around again?
One thing is for sure, something needs to be done to end their poor recent run.