Monday, November 29, 2021

Is Dean Holden the right man for Bristol City?

With what would seem like a bright, yet perhaps inconsistent start to life as a championship manager, is Dean Holden the right man for the Bristol City job?

Bristol City currently sit 7th in the championship after matchday 18; only one point shy of the playoffs and a mere 4 points off of the automatic promotion places, in which Norwich and Bournemouth currently reside.

The main front runners for promotion this season have begun to really establish themselves now, with the likes of Norwich and potential underdogs Brentford now putting impressive runs of form together, Dean will want to be staying with the pack.

Dean is joined by head coach duo Keith Downing and Paul Simpson, the experienced pair have spent time working with the England national side’s academy. Surely if promotion was meant to be this year, it would be achievable with a coaching line up as bright as this.

On the face of it, this may appear to be a relatively good start for a novice manager, but delve deeper and you’ll see that Bristol City have managed a mere 59 shots on target in the league so far, that’s an average of 3.3 shots per game, not so impressive, right? This paired with many lackluster displays against the likes of Rotherham and Birmingham in recent weeks leaves a lot to be desired. Particularly for a side that has Premier League aspirations.

WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT DEAN HOLDEN’S JOB?

Perhaps it’s harsh to critique a manager who is only 18 games into their tenure as head coach. However, fans are starting to question his and the backroom staff’s tactical approaches. 

Dean Holden during his time as Assistant Manager to ex-Bristol City boss Lee Johnson
Dean Holden during his time as Assistant Manager to ex-Bristol City boss Lee Johnson

There are plentiful remnants of Lee Johnson’s style of play that appear to have stuck with Dean Holden, this is to be expected due to the pair working closely for multiple years when Lee was the head coach at Bristol City. However fans aren’t especially overjoyed with this as it wasn’t hard to see that by the time Lee Johnson had left the club in July earlier this year, the tactics had become stagnated and predictable. 

Dean Holden has yet to really find a starting eleven that he can rely on, this hasn’t been helped by a constant change in formations, already, he’s tried three, four, and five at the back in games. Perhaps a lack of real quality in wide players, both attacking and defensive minded hasn’t helped this dilemma.

On the other side, however, Dean has shown a multitude of potential, including standout performances against Cardiff City – in a well contested and hard-fought 0-1 win in the Severnside Derbyas well as their impressive 0-2 away display against Stoke back in September. 

The main reason for the change in tactics and formation perhaps is the ever-increasing injury list that the club has had to deal with. As it stands 7 of his first-team squad members are sidelined through injury, at least 4 of which would most likely be making the starting eleven, included in that list is bright spark Andreas Weimann, who is likely to be out for the remainder of the season after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in late October.

City have, what many fans might view as a favourable run of games in the run up to 2021, with Millwall, Preston, Wycombe and Luton still to face before the turn of the year. Dean and his staff will absolutely be looking to impress, and looking to get firmly into promotion contention.

So overall, it would be slightly harsh to be overly concerned or critical of Dean Holden after his first 18 games in the league, and it’s certainly too early to be coming to any conclusions. The club are sitting pretty in 7th after all. But only time will tell if he will really be the right man to take Bristol City to where they want to be.

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