Nahki Wells gives Bristol City manager Nigel Pearson a selection dilemma
Despite scoring a sensational last-gasp winner against his former club Queens Park Rangers last weekend, Nahki Wells is not guaranteed a starting place in Bristol City’s team for today’s home game against promotion-chasing Fulham.
City have three players, Wells, Chris Martin and Andi Weimann, all pushing for a place in the attack after making significant contributions last weekend when Martin scored the opening goal, Wells netted the stoppage-time winner after coming on as a replacement for Martin, and Weimann had a hand in both goals.
Nigel Pearson, the City manager, admits it’s a nice problem to have ahead of today’s game, where all three players can stake a good claim for selection.
“I understand players’ frustration when they can’t break into the side and we have got some good players who are finding it difficult to break into the starting XI,” Pearson told the Bristol Post.
“My conversations with them are always along the line of, you are going to have to continue to work hard, so when you get your chance you are able to take it.
“It is really good to have healthy competition. For someone like Nahki, it will be a big debate this week in whether he gets a start. It is a great problem to have.”
Pearson added: “I like having quality players who can’t get in the side because the players in there are doing everything they can to keep them out.
“We always consider our options going into games and I think it is important we stimulate the players enough to keep their belief in their own opportunities at a realistic level.”
Despite the selection headache, the manager’s previous reluctance to change too much from game to game if performance levels remain high, suggests Martin and Weimann will be the preferred pair up front. They have already accounted for seven of City’s ten Championship goals this season.
The Bermuda captain may therefore have to settle for a spot on the substitutes bench for the ninth time this season, despite being the team’s top scorer last term with ten goals. He started in six of the first eight games last season.
Pearson has openly stated he won’t change systems to accommodate players, but equally will play in a way that gets the most out of each individual.
Unfortunately for Wells, with Martin as the lone senior target man in the squad and Pearson’s preference so far for a physical presence through the middle, that appears to mean either replacing the reliable Weimann in the starting side or switching to a 4-3-3 formation to accommodate Wells.
The other option is to pair Weimann and Wells as the front pair, which is how City ended the game against QPR, when Weimann fed Wells who finished with a perfectly placed shot into the far bottom corner.
Wells’s preference has always been playing through the middle, as that is where he feels most effective. It was the role he occupied for much of last season.
“I don’t think we’re going to change our formation just to fit them all in,” Pearson warned. “To play 4-3-3 you need players to play 4-3-3.
“Antoine [Semenyo] in particular has got potential as a wide striker. Andi Weimann can play that but I think our strikers are benefiting from playing as a pair, and it allows us to get a more effective press from the front.
“I really like 4-3-3 but, to be honest with you, people ask me what my preference is and it’s really what suits the players you have. I said I wasn’t going to play with a three [at the back] but we’ve done it a couple of times because we feel the need to.”