After a disappointing result at The City Ground on Tuesday night, I thought it would be best to let the dust settle and steer away from a knee jerk reaction to the evening’s frustrations.
I’d read a fair bit of comments on social media that Forest are this and that when I finally got home to Lincolnshire and if I’m honest, I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, it was a disappointing result but to resort to criticism and risk self-implosion, I’m going to try and offer a more balanced view.
The first half was definitely one of the better showings of the season at home. I thought we started brightly with both wingers and full backs getting into the action. Our biggest downfall in the majority of those good passages of play was the final ball into the box. Whether it’s due to a lack of men advancing into forward areas or generally hit and hope crosses, the bottom line is: it’s not good enough to be cementing a place in the play offs.
That’s not to say that there isn’t enough effort. Some managers talk about bravery on the ball, and on a few occasions in the first half both Thiago Silva and Ben Watson opted for more riskier central passes to find gaps in the Boro’ armory. It was good to see. A great move saw a one touch lay off from Ryan Yates put Joe Lolley in on goal; for him to only opt for the square pass across goal rather than put his foot through the ball. If the pass was better and Grabban scores, it goes down as a great goal. Unfortunately for Joe, it just isn’t going his way right now and a confident player is no way passing up that responsibility to score. In recent games, Joe has wriggled himself into ‘Joe Lolley territory’ for him to guide a precise shot into the keepers arms. You can almost seeing him concentrating on trying to hit the target rather than go full pelt and unleash his tried and trusted left foot (that has brought him so much joy in a red shirt). Confidence. You can be paid all the money in the world but it can’t buy that on a football pitch. Joe just has to keep going, he’s too good to leave out. Perhaps he needs a change of flank or even in the 10 slot that suited him so well at QPR. His return to form must be in lost in the post somewhere….
It is such a huge shame for Forest that both Joe and Joao Carvalho look like a fraction of the players they were at this point last year. It feels as though Sabri won’t take us much further up the league unless a) he can get those 2 firing or b) we significantly invest in January. At the 20 game mark in the season, a big decision is awaiting the Forest board on their next move.
Whilst there have been inevitable comparisons with Aitor Karanka’s Forest side from last season, Sabri doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere and in that sense, the disharmony around the club that caused last season’s derailment isn’t on the menu. It’s all very much to play for. We are still very well placed.
Forest’s lack of firepower at home is of course a concern. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Aitor if I’m honest and felt his biggest problem was that he concentrated on the opposition too much, particularly at home. In comparison, I like Sabri’s current set up. Yes Ben Watson sits deep but what that provides is almost two wingers on either flank to get at the opposition. It’s not a surprise that Matty Cash is flourishing in that role. He’s not quite made it as a winger but he offers a cracking threat backing up Joe Lolley on the right. If Joe could hit another gear; I’d be saying that this was the best partnership we’ve had on the right for a number of years. On the opposite flank, Sammi Ameobi has been the best value signing of the season and under Sabri’s set up, Ribeiro has really emerged as the first choice left wing back. Perhaps that more advanced position is causing Jack Robinson issues as he doesn’t look completely comfortable. However, he whipped in a couple of excellent crosses on Tuesday that really should have brought more. Anyhow, I don’t see the set up as the issue.
I thought Forest scored a great goal when we finally broke the deadlock and it had been coming for a good 10 minutes beforehand. There is no doubt that when it clicks, it’s very good. A clever one touch layback from Ben Watson on the right allowed Matty Cash a bit of time to pick out Ryan Yates with a great ball into the box. If Roy Keane scores that header; people are raving about it. Take nothing away from Ryan, that was a top quality header. Textbook! It just goes to show that when Forest find a bit of courage in the final third to make something happen (Watson out wide, Yates in the box) good things will come. It’s a team game and there has to be a degree of risk taking when the opposition are coming to park the bus. We can do this…
Inexplicably, we decided to stop playing after the goal. Just when I thought we’d enjoy the final 25 minutes of the match, we fell into a world of complacency. Looking across the pitch, I could see the manager screaming at the players to push up as we retreated deeper and deeper. Brice Samba was the most culpable in terms of slowing the tempo down and being almost arrogant with his gamesmanship. There is a time and a place for Shithousing and Tuesday night wasn’t one of them. Having barely had a thing to do all night, Brice was unnecessarily showboating (Harlem Globetrotter style with his control of the ball in one hand?). Ben Watson and Michael Dawson both dished out a bollocking for him to release the ball quicker and from that moment, it didn’t feel like it was going to end well. It’s the first time this season I’ve seen that from the Forest players. The bollocking was justifiable however.
We simply caused our own problems and whilst the players should take the lion’s share of the responsibility, the subs of Carvalho and Semedo left us looking really flat. Boro got a sniff and credit to them;they got themselves back into the game when a cracking threaded pass from McNair caught Robinson on the wrong side of the advancing winger to concede a penalty. Subsequent photos have shown that the contact was outside of the box but that referee couldn’t wait to point to the spot! The equalizer was inevitable and it’s a good job I’ve no hair left because it would have been pulled out in those last 25 minutes. This really was supporting Nottingham Forest in a nutshell. Vintage Reds.
From my perspective, our biggest threat this season doesn’t come from any other of the 23 Championship sides; it comes from within. Our greatest nemesis is ourselves.
The current predicament is hinging on both belief and quality. We are missing Samba Sow bossing the midfield; there is absolutely no doubt about that. But in terms of belief, I can’t see that the players truly feel that they’re up there on merit and neither do the supporters. There is a massive complacency in the stands with the expectation that Forest should turn up and win. We have a great away following but do the same people not go to the home games? An injury hit Boro team were a prime example of the home expectation. Teams are going to put men behind the ball no matter how bad they might look on paper. This is sport!
I read a Nottingham Post article at the weekend discussing the atmosphere and if the club are looking at it, there isn’t a better time to start gee-ing the crowd up as we hit the Christmas period. I know that the author of that particular Post article would be just the man for the job (Yes you Tom!).
So the next point comes onto quality. Having spent relatively little during the summer, it feels as though Sabri cannot truly take us much further forward without an injection of dynamism and proven quality. In my book, we are over achieving and looking at my post match ratings for the season so far, we are very much a 6/10 side. What do we need to take us to a 7 or 8? Joe Lolley and Carvalho can certainly take us to that level but can we afford to wait? Lewis Grabban certainly won’t be looking over his shoulder if he has a below par game and similarly, Joe Lolley won’t be either. Albert Adomah hasn’t provided the push in recent games when we needed him to give us something off the bench. Living in Lincolnshire, I’ve spoken to a few Imps fans about Tyler Walker and disappointingly, he’s far from the set the world alight at Sincil Bank.
It’s another striker we need that isn’t going to blow the wage bill and cost the earth. Whilst the decision lies with the board, FFP has to be respected. With Lyle Taylor’s contract up in the summer at Charlton, he’d be an astute signing. I didn’t realise he was 29 but that certainly helps Forest in terms of pricing and obtainability. Since watching in him the play off semi’s last season, I like the look of him, he is strong, can play and importantly, can score goals! There is an arrogance about him that we could well do with at this time . A winger also has to be on the list with potentially an attacking midfielder that can complement the midfield. Sabri seems to like his traditional Steve Hodge types that get a goal from midfield rather than a Number 10 so we’ll have to wait and see. Speaking of Number 10’s..
Unpopular opinion; Joao Carvalho, for a number of reasons, just hasn’t hit the heights of a £13m signing. It pains me to say that as the most naturally talented player I’ve seen at Forest since Andy Reid. But there has to be a reason why three managers have not got him playing to those expected levels. Whilst Joao has shown great potential in matches with touches, assists and a couple of goals, the only real stand out game he has had was funnily enough against Boro last season. Coming on in the unfamiliar left hand side role didn’t particularly help him on Tuesday one bit. We have to either find a way of bringing the best out of Joao’s talents or accept that he’ll be a bit part player for the season. A record signing should not be a bit-part player in my book. The only quick fire solution is to give him a run of games to find his feet and take games by the scruff of the neck. He’s had opportunities this season after injury and he hasn’t grasped them. Belief Joao, belief. It’s time for Carvalho to show us what he is made of….
TEAM PERFORMANCE: 5 – Much better first half but completely tore that up after the opener.
SAMBA: 6 – Little to do. Silly with gamesmanship.
CASH: 7 – Played well.
ROBINSON: 6 – Scapegoat for the dropped points. It had been coming long before.
WORRALL: 7 – Solid
DAWSON: 7 – Much improved from Friday.
SILVA: 7 – He’s one of the first names on the team sheet.
WATSON: 7 – Steady as per.
YATES: 7 – Good goal. Improved performance from Ryan.
LOLLEY: 5 – Things just not going his way. Somebody needs to find the Kryptonite, quickly!
AMEOBI: 7 – MAN OF THE MATCH. He is simply our biggest threat. Needs others to help him out.
GRABBAN: 6 – Couldn’t get into it. No real service.
CARVALHO: 5 – brought on to steady the ship but the team’s descent into our own shell really didn’t help.
SEMEDO: 5 – Didn’t give us what we needed but again the rot had already set in.
ADOMAH: 5- For some reason, he doesn’t look as sprightly off the bench as he did earlier on in the season.