Bristol City have been a regular feature in the Championship over the last decade barring a two-year spell in League One and last season under Lee Johnson they managed their best-ever finish of eighth since ending the 2007/08 campaign in fourth place. With the club gradually improving year-on-year and major development to Ashton Gate already completed with further plans in the future, it’s time The Robins firmly became a title-challenging side. The increasing reputation of the club is already having a monumental effect this summer with a number of last season’s loan stars joining permanently – left-back Jay DaSilva has returned on a four-year deal whilst the club have paid a club-record fee to bring Tomas Kalas back. The club have even been linked to another Premier League ace in Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah.
Johnson has shown already this summer that he can shrewdly operate the transfer market – both goalkeepers Frank Fielding and Stefan Marinovic were released and have already been replaced by Brentford’s first-choice regular Daniel Bentley and the experienced 32-year-old Rene Gilmartin. Johnson has also dipped his toes into non-league putting a tremendous amount of faith in youngster Robbie Cundy who impressed for local side Bath City last season. Cundy won multiple awards as he helped contribute to Bath having the best defensive record in the league, conceding just 36 goals in 42 games. The signing in some ways echoes that of Adam Webster who joined from Ipswich last summer after he began his breakthrough at Aldershot Town in non-league’s top-flight. The 24-year-old features in WhoScored’s Championship Best XI after averaging a rating of 7.30 throughout the season which is inside the top seven of all players in the league. Keeping hold of their star defender will be imperative to their title chances and they may well be able to do that after slapping a £30m price tag on him amongst interest from Premier League-bound Aston Villa.
The Robins narrowly missed out on a playoff spot by four points but had the fifth-best defensive record (53 conceded) in the league – their problem seemingly lies in attack where they finished inside the top ten for fewest goals scored (58 scored). Steps to improve that look to be in motion with the Bristol Post revealing back in April that the club will target both Britt Assombalonga and Scott Hogan this summer. Either player would certainly be the sort of target a side competing for the title would need in their ranks – Hogan barely featured for Aston Villa or his loan club Sheffield United as they both won promotion to the Premier League. The 27-year-old showed just two seasons ago that he’s a fantastic option in the Championship after scoring 15 goals in 40 appearances for Brentford which earned him his £12m move to Villa. Whilst Assombalonga has been a regular goalscorer in England’s second-tier managing 59 goals in 155 appearances with last season being as strong showing as ever – scoring 16 goals in 46 appearances for Middlesborough in all competitions. It’s been reported that The Boro could sell the 26-year-old ace this summer if a reasonable offer were to come forward.
If Johnson is able to keep hold of his standout centre-back Webster and add a proven goalscorer, either of the aforementioned names would suffice, then they could mount a serious challenge on the title in what looks to be a mightily strong division next season but the signs so far this summer are positively trending in the right direction.