Bristol City are in 6th place in the Sky Bet Championship table as it stands after just eight games. Even so, despite being in the early throes of this 2020/21 campaign, the Robins are feeling the injury pinch with six players out through a number of injuries. It has led to boss Dean Holden admitting that the club are looking at the free agent market.

According to website Bristol Live (link above), Holden addressed the injury issues at the club saying that the aforementioned six injuries mean that the free agent market is being explored. On this he said:

“We have to look at that, we’ve been looking at that for a couple of days already so we’re ahead of the game with that. We need to see what’s out there.”

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With the domestic window closing a fortnight ago, the free agent market is all that is available for clubs to reinforce before the winter market opens on January 1, 2021.

Two of the injuries that the Robins will have to contend with are those of key central defenders Alfie Mawson and Nathan Baker. Neither player is said to be close to a return; that might guide their thinking when it does come to dipping into the free agent market.

With that line of thinking in mind, here are five free agent centre-backs that Dean Holden could consider who’ve been free agents since 2020.

The one who could return: Ashley Willams (last club – Bristol City): Willams was picked up by the Robins in late August last year after his release by Premier League side Everton. Once a £12.6m buy by the Merseyside outfit, Wales international Williams made 33 appearances for the Robins last season, scoring 2 goals and providing 1 assist.

The one who could defy no-return sources: Ryan Shotton (last club – Middlesbrough): Shotton was let go by Neil Warnock’s Boro outfit at the end of July this year. In the three years since arriving on Teesside for a near-£3m fee from Birmingham, Shotton made 84 appearances for Boro, scoring 1 goal and providing 3 assists. This included 21 appearances in last season’s Championship competition.

The one with Premier League pedigree: Adrian Mariappa (last club – Watford): Mariappa was released by the Hornets at the start of August, 15 years after coming though the youth ranks at the club. Over that time, he made 340 appearances for the London side in two spells, returning to Vicarage Road at the end of August 2016 after a three-year spell at Crystal Palace. Has 197 games of experience at Championship level alongside 168 in the Premier League.

The one from League One: Joel Lynch (last club – Sunderland): Lynch started out at Brighton, leaving in 2008 for Nottingham Forest. First made his name at Huddersfield Town before a £1.3m move to QPR in 2016 before landing at Sunderland three years later. Made 22 appearances for the BLack Cats last season but does have 308 games of experience at Championship level to call on.

The one who’s a big outlier: Ezequiel Garay (last club – Valencia): it would be a huge, huge ask to get Garay interested enough to drop into the second tier of English football after all that he has accomplished. He has 32 international caps for Argentina and only four years ago Valencia paid Zenit St-Petersburg  £21.6m for his signature. He would come with a wealth of experience: 201 La Liga appearances, 78 Liga NOS appearances, 43 Champions League appearances, 26 Europa League appearances  and 20 games in Spain’s Copa del Rey. All that is understandable with him playing for the likes of Real Madrid, Benfica and Valencia during his time in Europe.

Will injuries force Dean Holden's hand in the free agent market?

Yes.

Simply has to.

No.

Will ride it out.