One Step Forward, One Step Back - Notes for Nottingham Forest
Friday, 1st Dec 2017 10:20 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“We are heading in the right direction as a club”, “I am enjoying the fact that we are looking up the table rather than down”, “We are not a play-off level side yet but we are a vast improvement on last season”, “Just enjoy the ride this year. We won’t go down and we may have a sniff of the play-offs.”
“We don’t do draws.” Forest arrive in Suffolk one place and two points behind Town with a record of nine wins and 10 losses this season. A run of alternating victories and defeats has seen them lose at Birmingham, win at home to Norwich and lose to visiting Cardiff since the last international break.
“Does win 23, lose 23 get you near the top six? It probably does”, “We are a mid-table team. We win some, we lose some”, “Such a strange season. The improvement is clear but we have been nowhere near consistent enough”, “Expectations are well and truly diluted. I would take mid-table now.”
“This season is one step forward, one step back as we find our feet and adapt to Mark Warburton’s style of play”, “This is a massive improvement on last season when we stayed up only because we scored two more goals than Blackburn. I would confidently say Warburton knows what he’s doing.”
“There is a real sense of our club returning to a bit of sanity, building a solid organisation from top to bottom, rather than the chaotic messes of previous owners”, “Keep it up lads. On the whole it has been a real pleasure. I had forgotten how enjoyable watching Forest and football could be at times.”
“We have a real team developing here. Hopefully Mark Warburton can be its father figure for years to come”, “We have quality and Warburton is gelling it nicely but he can’t work miracles”, “No one can wave a magic wand and turn a young side with a soft belly into a brave and savvy outfit.”
“I just want to have pride in the club and Warburton is doing this for me.” The 55-year-old former Brentford and Rangers boss took over last March, steering the relegation-threatened club to safety on goal difference only on the last day of the campaign with the help of a vital 3-0 win over Town.
“Warburton is doing an amazing job and is still only putting in the foundation for how he wants the team to play.” Reds can see the beginnings of a longer-term project taking shape with Warburton moulding a squad to play the attacking brand of football which won many admirers at Brentford.
“I’m happy with the attractive football route we are taking”, “Warburton is essentially an attacking manager. He has got us to within touching distance of the play-offs while bringing through so many young players. This is why he is the right man for the club and why we should back him to the hilt.”
A Possession-Based Passing Game
“We prefer to have the ball”, “Our style of play requires 11 genuine footballers. We prefer to have players who are comfortable on the ball and able to move it around”, “If you can’t handle the ball to feet and shift it as quickly as it comes, you will stand out and effectively are no use to the team.”
“All the players Warburton has signed can do one-touch passing at pace”, “The style we are working on is good enough to impose on certain teams but not against others”, “This possession-based passing game Warburton plays will only work in the long term if we stick with it in the short term.”
The starting XI (above) for Saturday’s 2-0 home loss to Cardiff was set out in Warburton’s preferred shape with one striker and a three-man central midfield. Holding midfielder Liam Bridcutt missed the Bluebirds’ game due to suspension and is expected to return for Saturday’s Portman Road fixture.
“Our defending can be fragile.” Keeper Jordan Smith is highly regarded but Reds worry about a lack of pace with Joe Worrall and Michael Mancienne at the heart of the defence. Full-back Eric Lichaj is solid defensively but Tendayi Darikwa and Armand Traore can be caught upfield and out of position.
“Liam Bridcutt sits deeper and Ben Osborn is slightly ahead of him but more up and down. Kieran Dowell is our most creative player but he drops into the middle to defend. Out wide Barrie McKay likes to sit deeper while Tyler Walker presses high, with Bridcutt covering for him when needed.”
“Cardiff bullied us off the ball at will in midfield.” Forest’s quick-passing game is built around the engine room of their midfield but their lack of physicality and experience can be exploited. Veteran David Vaughan lacks mobility but many Reds like the way he can regulate the tempo of a game.
“’Press us hard and we’re screwed’, sums up where we have fallen down a few times this season, especially early on in games”, “Cardiff man-marked every one of our midfield players touch tight for 90 minutes. It stopped us playing from midfield, forcing us to play it long and play their game.”
“We need to ensure players are closer to Daryl Murphy when we attack. He is often isolated and crowded out of possession.” The one-time Town striker has been pivotal in Forest’s resurgence this season, but he cut a solitary figure when the East Midlanders’ midfield was stifled by the Bluebirds.
“We are a fragile team. Score first and we turn into a free-flowing joy to watch. Concede first and we turn into the Forest of last season”, “Any side that sets up to cancel us out will more than likely beat us”, “We are a very young team that is up and down, because players are still gaining experience.”
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the quality at the moment and it’s going to take a couple of transfer windows. It’s great to have improved from last year and we are building a foundation for us to kick on”, “We veer between fast, neat interplay on good days and lethargic sideways stuff on others.”
There is ample evidence of a young team cutting their collective teeth in this division. Reds note how confidence can often positively or negative impact a game. Individual mistakes have also cost them points and they have struggled at times with the physicality of streetwise Championship opponents.
“Warburton is doing the job of getting us to play possession football but we are too nice, too small and we lack bite and aggression”, “We are too lightweight against well-drilled physical teams who are able to absorb pressure”, “Switching off at crucial moments can be disastrous in this division.”
“Many of our players don’t have the know-how and that really apparent in the bullying encounters we have with more direct teams. We have a lot of young players and the experience of knowing how to deal with the ugly side of the game will come in time. We are being punished for standard errors.”
Forest 0 – 2 Cardiff
“A game where one team didn’t take their half-chances against another who made theirs count”, “Cardiff cancelled out what we do and we were screwed. You could see it coming a mile away at times”, “It was frustrating but it was always going to be, Neil Warnock knows our soft underbelly.”
Cardiff secured a comfortable win last Saturday by taking their chances and frustrating their hosts. Junior Hoilett headed the Bluebirds ahead from close in on 24 minutes and Danny Ward added a second with “a screamer” into the top corner to double their lead seven minutes before the break.
“Cardiff didn’t allow us to play the ball and when we had it our passing was aimless and we gave it away too cheaply”, “We were lumping it to Murphy to lose it to one of the huge City centre-halves”, “Forget the time-wasting and the spoiling. Cardiff were a very decent side from top to bottom.”
Forest 1 – 0 Norwich
“Got back from the game and it was pig-ugly at times, but how many nights have we been on the losing end of games like these?”, “The whole thing was pretty turgid viewing if I’m honest. It was all very mid-table”, “Norwich were decent enough but as a side they totally lacked any cutting edge.”
“A great result, a frustrating game.” Daryl Murphy struck the winning goal for Forest on 77 minutes when he turned in Mustapha Carayol’s cross. “We carved out more chances late on when we upped the tempo. It was obvious we had to go more direct because our intricate play was being nullified.”
The starting line-up (above) saw Lichaj switch to left-back for the injured Traore. Many Forest fans believe that Bridcutt and Vaughan give the midfield the best defensive balance. The team switched to playing more direct football when impact substitute Carayol replaced McKay on 69 minutes.
“When did Norwich become a hoof-ball team that played for freekicks? They used to play some decent stuff”, “Norwich fans afterwards said they felt toothless and were sinking fast. They wanted Martin O’Neill or Paul Lambert back”, “An ugly win against an ugly team, we normally lose these.”
Birmingham 1 – 0 Forest
“An utterly forgettable afternoon”, “Another drab loss against Brum, it confirms that we really are a mid-table side”, “If you concede an early goal, you hand all the advantage to the opposition. They sit and defend”, “Birmingham were there for the taking, but we weren’t capable of doing any taking.”
“We can’t get to 15 minutes without conceding.” Reds were critical of their team’s defending for City’s winning goal, which was scored by Che Adams after five minutes. The fact that Birmingham were managed by former Forest boss Steve Cotterill rubbed salt into the East Midlanders’ wounds.
“No Daryl Murphy and a team of midgets.” Warburton rested the striker from the starting XI (above) after he had the intensity of two World Cup play-offs for the Republic of Ireland against Denmark. Reds felt that they lacked both penetration and balance without him operating as a focal point.
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Jordan Smith’s save in the final game last season against Ipswich was the turning point of the game and the catalyst to keep us up.” The 22-year-old youth product “is dominant in the air and his shot-stopping is phenomenal. His instincts on coming off his line or staying put on one-on-ones are good”.
Jordan Smith saves from Town's loan striker Samuel
“The maturity Smith showed in desperate times last season was remarkable”, “He throws himself at everything but his kicking has improved rapidly. He doesn’t need to always look for a short pass every time he has the ball. He seems to have been given the option to kick it long under pressure.”
“Tendayi Darikwa has the physical tools but mentally needs to step up.” The 25-year-old July signing from Burnley “has speed and physical strength, but persists in going backwards with space to attack. He refuses to take players on and attack them. He always steps on the ball and pulls it back.”
“Darikwa is either going through a crisis of confidence or he isn’t very good”, “He isn’t a bad player, but makes poor decisions where a confident one would make more positive choices”, “He can’t defend to save his life”, “My annoyance is over his reluctance to run into space and use his pace.”
“Eric Lichaj brings a determination and doggedness to the defence that isn’t always there at times.” The 29-year-old ex-Aston Villa right-back “is not an attacking full-back but he makes crucial tackles and we look more solid defensively with him playing. He’s a player who never lets the side down.”
Eric Lichaj and Clayton Donaldson
“Lichaj add bite and tenacity”, “He doesn’t have the ability to make a quick pass out of defence or spot a one-two which might allow us to break quickly”, “He hasn’t been able to offer a threat going forward in the past, but under Warburton he can attack and he is more selective about doing this.”
“Armand Traore’s physicality is certainly useful in our lightweight squad.” The 28-year-old former QPR left-back or winger “is the type of wide player that suits Warburton’s style of play”, “He has one hell of a touch and can bring a ball down that others couldn’t”, “He’s a good player, but never fit.”
“Traore went missing for Cardiff’s second goal”, “I was surprised he stayed on. He had a nightmare and was on a yellow-plus-a-talking-to. He wasn’t match sharp”, “He can be a drama queen but adds to our mobility up front. He’s capable of the neat one-twos that are a feature of the new regime.”
Armand Traore v Millwall's Jed Wallace
“It’s nice to see Joe Worrall adapting to Warburton’s style. His confidence bringing the ball out from the defence was increased substantially.” The 20-year-old youth product “is a neat and tidy centre-half. He has slowly ironed out his mistakes and his distribution has come on in leaps and bounds”.
“Worrall had a passive performance against Norwich’s tricky forwards”, “He still has a way to go, in particular in the air with one-on-one battles and where his headers go, but this will come with more games”, “He used to charge out and leave massive gaps but has improved bar the occasional game.”
“Mancienne is an absolute rock whose performances have been going under the radar lately.” The 29-year-old ex-SV Hamburg centre-half “is in the form of his Forest career. He seems to have a much more positive approach to things these days. He is attacking the ball a lot more and it’s paying off.”
“When Mancienne attacks balls and gets stuck in he’s one of the best defenders in the league”, “He is comfortable at the back when he has time. Under pressure he isn’t so strong and ends up turning back to the keeper”, “He is good in the air, reads the game well and he seldom puts a foot wrong.”
“I see David Vaughan as someone who dictates play from a deep-lying base within a 15-yard playing circle, making simple passes for team-mates to invent with.” The 34-year-old ex-Sunderland man “is not spectacular and won’t run at the opposition, but he can collect and redistribute the ball well”.
“Vaughan’s ability on the ball is without question but his legs need a split-second longer on the ball and he’s less effective defensively running back towards our goal”, “He does the simple stuff well. We control possession when he plays with his range of passing and orchestration of the midfield.”
“Andreas Bouchalakis has very good technique but he’s still coming to terms with the sheer intensity of the Championship, hence Warburton’s careful use of him.” The 24-year-old former Olympiakos man has appeared regularly from the bench in recent games. “A Rolls-Royce of a deep playmaker.”
“The vision and distribution of Bouchalakis are a level above. Some of his touches are sublime, cross-field passes delivered to wingers on a plate”, “He needs legs around him. At times it looks like he is running in sand. He gets away with only because of his incisive passing, his anticipation and vision.”
“Kieran Dowell is a real talent. His all-round play is a joy to watch.” The 20-year-old is on a season-long loan from Everton. “He seems to be one of those players who makes the right decisions when he has less time to make it”, “One clever touch can be enough to rip an opposition defence apart.”
“Dowell’s awareness of the movement around him and his willingness to play the unpredictable pass is sublime”, “He needs to add physicality or nimbleness to his game to fully step up”, “He must cut out losing the ball on the halfway line so often. It leaves the defence open to quick counter-attacks.”
“We missed Bridcutt’s organisation against Cardiff. Nobody else wanted to impose themselves on the midfield.” The 28-year-old ex-Brighton and Leeds man “is a bossy player who gives us a bit more bite in the middle of the park. He spreads the ball well, breaks things up and likes to push forward”.
Leeds' Liam Bridcutt
“We don’t give away as many clear-cut chances when Bridcutt plays. He never hides and shows for the ball constantly”, “His metronomic performances keep us ticking over”, “His attacking abilities are not a strength, but he is full of zip careering around the pitch. Some size alongside him would help.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Love him or loathe him, Jamie Ward offers something we haven’t got elsewhere. There are times when a niggly, frustrating player is needed who can occasionally hit the back of the net.” The 31-year-old former Ram has been used as a substitute. “An annoying terrier who chips in with goals.”
Wards, Elliott and Jamie
Warburton’s alternative wide bench option is former Boro man Mustapha Carayol. “If Carayol could be relied upon for more than 20 minutes he would be the best winger in the league.” The 29-year-old “has a specific set of skills, ones that make him a complete nightmare for opposition full-backs”.
“Carayol versus Norwich was like throwing a lit firework into a chicken coop when he came on”, “He has all the subtlety of a bulldozer. He’s an impact substitute with an injection of pace and power but is not the required standard for a pass-and-move team based around technically intricate football.”
“Ben Osborn is the squad utility man. He brings versatility and energy and plays and fills in wherever he is needed, but I would prefer if he was a master of one position and wasn’t shifted around.” The 23-year-old youth product “acts like a metronome taking the ball and moving it quickly to others.”
“I swear I will write an angrily-worded letter if Osborn gives the ball away one more time”, “He has been poor in the last few games. He looks fatigued, making wrong decisions and giving the ball away cheaply”, “He was too lightweight and was marked out of the game in a central role against Cardiff.”
“Sometimes you get a player who perfectly fits a team and a system. Young McKay is that player for us.” The 22-year-old summer addition from Rangers “is a Rolls-Royce on his day. He ambles towards his man and then skins him with a mixture of skill and pace. He’s one of our best attacking outlets.”
“McKay reminds me so much of the wing-wizard John Robertson. He’s a proper chalk-dust winger who has a natural knack of shuffling past players without resorting to elaborate tricks”, “He’s one of those maverick players, definitely a throwback and someone who wants to have a run with the ball.”
“Zach Clough lacks the physicality to hold the ball when challenged. He gets dispossessed too often.” The 22-year-old January arrival from Bolton has been a peripheral player. “He was successful from running at players with space in front of him. Now he’s getting the ball faced with a wall of players.”
Zach Clough at Bolton
“Tyler Walker looks a bit stronger these days but is still maybe a touch lightweight.” The 21-year-old youth product “gets into good positions. He offers increasing strength and also a goal threat we have lacked. His speed over short distances is impressive”, “A player who can nick a goal on the break.”
“Walker’s strength is his finishing, but he was immense on the right wing in our 4-0 win against QPR. I know he is seen as a striker at this level but he can be devastating down the right wing”, “He’s an excellent prospect but he looked weak against Cardiff. He was lost and got bullied out of the game.”
“I like Jason Cummings. He’s got fire in his belly and his shoot-on-sight policy will be an asset.” The 22-year-old summer signing from Hibernian “looks a better counter-attacking option. He’s not the biggest forward and would probably thrive running into spaces against teams that come for us.”
“Ben Brereton is talented but not capable of leading the line yet.” The 18-year-old youth product “has more natural talent and dynamism than Daryl Murphy but needs to get better at playing as a focal point. It’s his hold-up play which needs work. He has strength, pace and is good on the ball.”
“Daryl Murphy has been a fabulous signing. I scratched my head when I found out he was coming but he’s a solid pro who takes his job seriously and has scored some big goals already this season”, “People don’t realise how crucial he is to us leading the line. He’s the spearhead in our system.”
Daryl Murphy scores againt Town for Newcastle
“Murphy has been the signing of the season for me.” The 34-year-old arrived in July from Newcastle on a three-year-deal. “I like what he brings to the team in terms of professionalism, work-rate and scoring. He’s a proper, proper centre-forward and his fitness is just fantastic for a player of his age.”
“One of the reasons we destroyed QPR 4-0 was because he spent the entire game being a pain in the backside for their defenders and keeping them occupied”, “He does a lot for the team, adding some variety to our play. He takes the pressure off us and gives us an option when we do have to clear it.”
“It’s Murphy over Britt Assombalonga all day long for me”, “He is not a fancy Dan but he does what it says on the tin. He reminds me of Peter Withe”, “An aerial presence, primarily left-footed with an eye for goal as well as being an effective target man”, “Underestimate Daryl Murphy at your peril.”
Forest Fans’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Great news with the Sheep [Derby] getting beaten at home, but unfortunately it sets Ipswich up for our game on Saturday”, “I went tonight. Derby were boring and predictable. Ipswich were a typical Mick McCarthy team, hardworking, strong in the tackle and took their only real chance very well.”
“Tough game this”, “I fear another defeat against a stubborn physical side”, “If you are as good as your last game, then we are up against it here big time. Ipswich are on decent run. Our last display does not inspire much confidence against a side that will likely bring similar challenges to Cardiff.”
“A really tough game to predict. The bookies have an Ipswich win a clear favourite though”, “It could be another losing game for us.” Reds are worried about their erratic form and fear that we will play like Cardiff. “Ipswich are the type of team we need to show more fighting spirit and resolve against.”
“Whoever scores first wins”, “I don't think anyone can predict the result of this one by using logic. It is a complete coin flip and more than likely the first goal scorers win”, “Having watched them do a smash and grab on Derby last night, my head says a steady 2-0 home win to Ipswich.”
There was some discussion recently about our manager. “A friend of mine is an Ipswich fan and he was desperate for McCarthy to go in the summer”, “Ipswich are bonkers if they get rid of McCarthy. I don't particularly like the guy but he's had them punching above their weight for a few years now.”
“They are doing relatively well compared to their budget”, “Mick is good at what he does, put it that way. He has definitely had no money but Ipswich have a fantastic academy themselves and one or two are coming through for them. Would I want his mind-set at Forest? No thanks.”
“Chambers is suspended for the game. Ipswich fans concerned about who will replace him”, “I can see a couple of traffic cones outside my office window, if that works?”, “A shame that he won't be able to make his annual canter applauding the away fans and receive their hearty catcalls and jeers.”
“Ipswich are very similar to us in the fact that they are absolutely awful some weeks and very good others. They are a poor footballing version of us”, “It's time we worked out a way of countering the more agricultural teams in the league. And it doesn’t get much more agricultural than Suffolk.”
The busiest Forest message-board is the knowledgeable and friendly LTLF Forest Forum.
Photo: Action Images
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