Credit to Ipswich, They Are Almost Dead and Buried But Still Fighting - Notes for Nottingham Forest
Friday, 15th Mar 2019 10:45 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“Does anyone honestly think that our side has enough quality in it to get to the play-offs?”, “We are nowhere near promotion. Other teams have given us false hope but our current level is mid-table”, “Villa showed us what we are today, mid-table fodder”, “We’re down to 10th, this bloody league.”
Forest arrive in Suffolk three points off the top six with winnable games at home to Swansea and at Rotherham following directly after the coming international break.
For many fans, the result and the limp display they witnessed in Wednesday’s 3-1 home loss to Villa have curtailed their expectations.
“The next three games make us believe we still have a real chance of making the play-offs. It’s what would happen if we actually got to them that worries me, and, God forbid, if we win them”, “We’re still in the play-off race but if we don’t learn from the Villa game then something is seriously wrong.”
“It was a golden chance tonight but deep down I knew that we weren’t good enough”, “This result hasn’t altered things radically, but it was a game which highlighted the difference between play-off contenders and play-off wannabes”, “It shows that we’re really not cut out for promotion this year.”
“Why can’t we ever ride a wave for a while?”, “We’re just not good enough to put a run of results together”, “Points-wise we’re still in it, but our inability to string wins together makes a play-off place unlikely. I simply can’t see us turning into a side that wins three on the bounce to get there.”
“Did anyone think we would make the play-offs after Aitor Karanka left? It’s the same every year, we don’t benefit from manager changes.” For many, the change of manager in January has not helped the club’s progress. “The season died on Boxing Day. All we are doing is watching the death-throes.”
“O’Neill may be wrong for the squad we have, but if he’s given time to shape his own squad, history suggests that success will follow”, “He needs time, but the way we are playing in the short term won’t be good enough going forward. We don’t create enough, he is playing a striker who doesn’t score.”
The 67-year-old took charge on 15th January having played for Forest in their golden era under Brian Clough between 1971 and 1981. Fans have welcomed his arrival and they trust his wide managerial experience, as well as his tactical knowledge and judgement as he goes about reshaping his squad.
“O’Neill seems to select his teams on a specific game-by-game basis”, “His substitutions and changes are perfectly timed. He reads the game and assesses situations before taking the necessary action”, “He is a decent manager who deals with each player individually to try to get the best out of them.”
“Creativity has been desperately lacking since O’Neill took over”, “With the brand of football which we play under O’Neill, I can’t see us winning when we go one goal down. We trade on clean sheets and lack creativity”, “It’s all about grinding out results now and he’s doing his best to accrue points.”
“O’Neill has been brought in to work with a squad shaped to play one way, so he evidently needs a longer stretch of time to get it to be effective in his own approach. Next season I expect much bigger things”, “He doesn’t have his personnel yet, but I have been very impressed with his initial signings.”
Changing Style with an Inherited Squad
“Why can’t we pass the ball on the ground any more? This was my fear when O’Neill came in. The squad was geared to play between the lines but I don’t get the change in direction. The players we have to try to play his style are awful”, “I wish he would change his direct style every now and then.”
“We are set up to defend with three holding midfielders and one creative player. If we nick a goal, it is game on, but we are in trouble if we go behind early”, “We don’t have any attacking patterns and the players seem to spend most of the time hoofing it long”, “We often rely on opponents’ errors.”
O’Neill has introduced a brand of more direct football, relying on defensive solidity and winning set pieces. Fans have welcomed the more open style after watching Karanka’s “cautious, cagey football” but they would welcome more of the technical passing game he has occasionally used as a variation.
“Our Plan A is to play defensively and give the ball to Joe Lolley”, “I’m sulking that we have started to play it long, collecting the second ball and hoping Lolley does something. We struggle more when we don’t keep the ball on the deck”, “We rely on whoever is up front to win a set piece to score from.”
O’Neill has played with a back four and a variety of midfield combinations in recent games, and his starting XI for the Villa game (above) saw Joe Lolley and Joao Carvalho operating as playmakers off striker Karim Ansarifard. This trio struggled to get into the game with Villa controlling the midfield.
Keeper Costel Pantilimon unnerves fans with his hesitancy, but he has improved under O’Neill. New centre-halves Alexander Milosevic and Yohan Benalouane have quickly formed a solid unit. Left-back Jack Robinson’s discipline and right-back Tendayi Darikwa’s judgement in possession annoy fans.
“O’Neill wants midfielders who can be present defensively and who are solid on the ball.” Forest are well stocked with central midfield options. Ben Watson is seen as the most trusted by O’Neill in the holding role, although Adlene Guedioura is a more adventurous and energetic alternative in the role.
Judilson Mamadou Tuncara Gomes, mercifully nicknamed Pele, impressed fans with his calmness as a sitting midfielder against Hull, but he struggled on Wednesday against Villa, while many Reds have been perplexed by the absence of the experienced Claudio Yacob, who has become a fringe player.
Ryan Yates is seen as a good midfield terrier on the right of central midfield although his work with the ball needs improvement, while Jack Colback to his left is praised for his consistency if criticised at times for his cautious passing. Joao Carvalho is the one technically-gifted natural central playmaker.
“The midfield had no out-ball and were easily pressed.” Villa’s victory on Wednesday was achieved by stifling Forest’s midfield. “Too many players didn’t do the basics right, giving the ball away under pressure, no movement off the ball, not winning second balls and not putting in decent crosses.”
With his pace, dribbling and close control, winger Joe Lolley has often been Forest’s only threat but teams have regularly doubled up on him. Ben Osborn is a useful left-sided player who covered for left-back Robinson’s recent suspension but he has also linked play and covered well further upfield.
With leading striker Lewis Grabban nursing an Achilles injury, Daryl Murphy’s lack of mobility and poor touch have been criticised as he has filled in. Karim Ansarifard’s movement creates space, but he lacks physicality to lead the line in O’Neill system while Leo Bonatini has struggled for fitness.
Nottingham Forest 1 – 3 Aston Villa
“That was tragic stuff. We looked so slow on the ball and passing it to nobody. We bottled it big time”, “We ended up playing direct long balls and not keeping possession at all”, “How they have spent so much time below us in the table is beyond me”, “We have been outplayed to be fair.”
Forest went ahead on three minutes when Jack Colback’s shot from out wide looped into the net, but the visitors struck back twice with goals from John McGinn on seven and 15 minutes. Kortney Hause added Villa’s third with his first goal for the club on 61 to seal what was a merited victory.
“Villa’s performance level was one above ours, and it’s what we need to reach is we want to get out of this league”, “The midfield is where the game was won and lost. They overwhelmed us there and forced us to go long to an attacking trio who were far more comfortable with the ball on the deck.”
Nottingham Forest 3 – 0 Hull
“A good day at the office”, “A fantastic result, the play-offs are a real possibility if it’s not just a one-off”, “The first half as a spectacle was two poor mid-table sides who couldn’t wait for the season to end, but then we woke up”, “The game was dull for the most part but we were the better side.”
Forest dominated this game but it needed their replacements to find a breakthrough when Carvalho hit a brilliant long-range opener on 72. Ansarifard reacted quickly to score when Joe Lolley strike hit the post. Lolley added a third on 82 with a penalty after Colback was fouled by Markus Henriksen.
“The key today was O’Neill and his timing.” The starting XI (above) contained Hull comfortably, but it lacked a cutting edge in the final third with the front three led by Daryl Murphy “playing with little quality or creativity”, “We were very good in the second half when we finally shifted things around.”
“The game was changed by our substitutions [above]”, “The introduction of Carvalho and Ansarifard took the focus off Lolley as Hull had to mark them as well. We looked a threat where beforehand we have no quality or creativity on the pitch”, “We made Hull look like a pub team in the second half.”
Stoke 2 - 0 Nottingham Forest
“That was grim viewing”, “Stoke have been terrible but we weren’t much better. The goals were too easy”, “The season might not be over yet, but if we play like we have done today, it certainly will be soon enough”, “We have been absolute garbage and this really was a horrendous game of football.”
Stoke went ahead on 15 when Peter Etebo finished off a counter-attack with a shot on the edge of the area, and they added a second on 74 after the visitors switched off with Carvalho dispossessed. Tom Ince was able to pick out the run of Benik Afobe who rifled home his ninth goal of the season.
“Game over. If there was ever any evidence that our season is over, it’s today. Stoke were in a dire run of form yet we permitted them all the time in the world and the chance to build confidence”, “They didn’t even have to try”, “Not really causing Stoke any problems was the frustrating part.”
“Unchanged, happy with that.” The manager kept faith with the line-up (above) which won the East Midlands derby six days earlier, but both the performance and result typified the lack of consistency which has haunted Forest this season. “We haven’t won consecutive games in the last five months.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Costel Pantilimon looks a different keeper under O’Neill. He’s spending a lot of time now collecting balls nearer to the edge of the box.” The 32-year-old former Watford man “is clearly coming out to claim more balls. His actions are more positive and decisive, although he was lethargic against Villa.”
Bradley Johnson (Derby County) v Costel Pantilimon
“Pantilimon is such a big man that one would think he could boss his box, but I feel anxious any time the ball goes anywhere near the penalty area”, “His lack of confidence seems to infect the rest of the defence at times”, “His left peg is non-existent and he has struggled with low shots given his height.”
“Tendayi Darikwa has improved recently. He is stronger defensively and less of a liability.” The 27-year-old ex-Burnley right-back “puts in good tackles and runs his legs off, but his end product isn’t always great”, “The hit-and-hope merchant is physically gifted but he lacks footballing intelligence.”
“My biggest criticism of Darikwa is how he stops in the middle of the opposition half and attempts to launch the ball into the box only to hit the first defender with no pressure on him, nobody in the box to aim at and plenty of options around him. He lacks the instinct to bully his way past defenders.”
Tendayi Darikwa (Burnley)
“We struggle when Jack Robinson isn’t at left-back and lose all our defensive balance.” The 25-year-old ex-QPR left-back “is a proper defender who sees and covers attacking runs brilliantly. He has a bit of a competitive edge that you can’t take away, but he really isn’t the brightest spark, is he?”
“Robinson is a strange one, He can get wound up too easily and has got some silly bookings, but he gets targeted with some malicious challenges”, “He keeps getting booked for kicking the ball away, diving and mouthing off at referees. At least get a yellow card for a safe reducer on a lively winger.”
“Saidy Janko can trap a ball further than most can kick it, but he’s aware of his limitations so keeps it simple.” The 23-year-old right-back and January loan arrival from Porto “will work hard to get in the way when defending, but gives us no overlapping threat despite looking solid enough defensively.”
“Yohan Benalouane is a big guy who can do the simple things of football well, like head the ball and get in the way of the opposition.” The 31-year-old January acquisition from Leicester “is a more all-action centre-back than Milosevic. He smashes everything away and marauds forward with the ball.”
“Yohan isn’t really a footballer but is definitely a defender. Anything that needs heading or clearing and he is there”, “He’s brilliant at cutting out passes and loose balls”, “His anticipation is excellent. How often do we see him come across to intercept breakaways?”, “Nobody dares mess with him.”
“Milosevic looks every bit the type of centre-half you need to be successful at this level.” The 27-year-old January purchase from Swedish side AIK “is calm, but tough and hard without being dirty. He’s never out of position and rarely loses a challenge. His reading of the game is really excellent.”
Alexander Milosevic (Sweden)
“Milosevic is the more footballing of the two new centre-halves, but he isn’t afraid to launch it when needed”, “He wins his headers and moves the ball simply, he makes important interceptions and can clears his lines when needed”, “We have a real centre-half in this fellow, he’s a proper defender.”
“Adlene Guedioura is an all-action, combative midfielder who is always available, looking to make things happen.” The 33-year-old one-time Watford man “has the energy, power and drive that no other central midfield at the club has, but his control and distribution simply aren’t what they were.”
Adlène Guedioura (Middlesbrough)
“Guedioura is the driving force and always demands the ball or looking for it. He tries to make things happen, but isn’t a play-it-safe player. He takes more risks and loses possession more often than the sideways pass brigade”, “He plays well but if things don’t click, literally everything can go wrong.”
“We won’t get near the play-offs with Ben Watson in the team. He offers little going forward.” The 33-year-old former Wigan and Watford man “is an expert in positioning himself to intercept the ball, but it seems like a hot potato when he is in possession and he can’t get rid of it quickly enough.”
“Watson is a tidy player but he only duplicates what Colback does, only not as well”, “O’Neill likes a midfielder solidly in front of his back four, this is why he plays a lot”, “He is a useful supply line going forward as he has a better forward pass in him, particularly the longer ones”, “O’Neill trusts him.”
“Ryan Yates has been superb winning challenges and headers in and outside the box.” The 21-year-old youth product “wins balls, competes in challenges, passes and gets into the box”, “He struggled to compete with Villa’s midfield, leaving Darikwa overloaded”, “His diving is absolutely shameful.”
“Yates certainly isn’t a connoisseur of the passing game. His main strengths are without the ball. His technique isn’t great and he’s not a passer, but running, determination and hassling his opponents are what he does best. He will drift wide and also has a knack of timing his runs into the box well.”
“Pele was absolute class against Hull, he was so calm and did the simple stuff well.” The 27-year-old January loan signing from Monaco “is not the box-to-box midfielder we were told he was but he was calm, agile and strong, winning the ball, bossing the midfield and he was capable in interceptions”.
“Pele looks the part, he’s strong, he spreads the play well and doesn’t panic”, “Against Villa, he was too slow at reading balls. He looked scared and stood doing nothing. He looked way off the pace and kept turning into Villa players”, “He didn’t have the time or space to dominate that Hull gave him.”
“We have done the Joao Carvalho debate to death but the fact remains that we need creativity and this lad has it in spades.” The 22-year-old summer signing from Benfica “is one of our best creators and is inconsistent but that’s to be expected from young lad”, “He isn’t suited to O’Neill’s football.”
“Carvalho is the only player we have with any real skill. Players of his ability make a difference often in 50/50 games”, “He glides around the pitch with inconspicuous malice”, “Work-rate gets you so far but you need quality at the end of it”, “He is exactly the type of player we should enjoy watching.”
“Colback is our best player in terms of consistency.” The 29-year-old Newcastle loan signing and one-time Town loanee “He quietly goes about his business, making the easy pass and moving into space to get it back”, “His break-up play is top drawer and he makes a ton of important tackles.”
“Colback is a superb midfielder, but he needs dynamism and athleticism around him”, “You cannot fault his work-rate, desire, tackling or reading of the game, but I would like him to play more positive passes. Too often in attacking moves he plays sideways or backwards when it’s not the right option.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Ben Osborn defends and gets forward well. He’s always an out-ball, and he bites into tackles.” The 23-year-old youth product “suffers from being versatile and able to play anywhere on the left”, “He makes lots of effective one-twos down the left flank and will close down space quickly off the ball.”
“Osborn is targeted in a defensive role because of his height, but to his credit he carries on wanting the ball and never shirking a challenge”, “He was in space all game against Hull and dealt well with Jarred Bowen”, “He went missing for Villa’s first goal and passed to their players under no pressure.”
“Diogo Goncalves is direct, quick and got good technique.” The 22-year-old Benfica loanee “likes to run with the ball and he likes to run in behind players off the ball too. Something definitely is there”, “He clearly is happy to run at people, but the issue is his ability to get knocked off the ball so easily.”
“Joe Lolley has two good feet, bags of pace and the confidence to take anybody on.” The 26-year-old ex-Huddersfield man “is the best dribbler in the division, he goes past people like I go past the salad at a buffet”, “I can’t recall a player at this level with such good close control, he’s a constant threat.”
Skuse v Lolley
“Lolley is simple yet clever with the ball, using small body movements just to shift inside and out and then race away”, “He relieves pressure through his direct running but we are often far too reliant on him coming up with a bit of magic. “He’s often our only goal threat and teams double up on him.”
“Leo Bonatini is a strange one, he has shown flashes of brilliance but it hasn’t fallen right for him.” The 24-year-old January loan addition from Wolves “looks like he wants to break in behind centre-backs rather than compete with them”, “He has blown hot and cold but he has also worked hard.”
“Bonatini has shown a lot of nice touches but only in glimpses. He needs to be part of a front two or have more willing runners”, “He doesn’t seem comfortable closing down defenders when they have possession and his decision-making lets him down”, He’s not fit enough, and he not a lone striker.”
“It has taken Karim Ansarifard time to get up to the pace of the English game.” The 28-year-old Iran international and November signing from Olympiakos “has good movement and ball control. He can win headers too but needs support to help create space. He gives us mobility and running up front.”
“Karim wasn’t able to get anything out of Tyrone Mings against Villa, but hoofing the ball up to him for 60 minutes didn’t help. High balls played up to him area total waste”, “He’s neat and tidy in parts but seems more intent on hitting the floor than battling it out”, “He is not helping with those dives.”
“O’Neill has a soft spot for Murphy. I don’t really get why he is on.” The 35-year-old ex-Newcastle and one-time Town striker “seems way off the pace these days but he wears defenders down”, “He was best used against Hull to soften them up for an hour before the creative players appeared.”
“Murphy was quality in the East Midlands derby three weeks ago and pivotal in our win”, “He gets involved but we lack constant movement and pace up front when he plays”, “He’s very slow and he can’t control the ball”, If your striker is walking for 90 per cent of the game, you struggle to create.”
Forest Fans’ Views on Roy Keane
“If we want a quick lift in standards at the club, Roy Keane is as good as anyone. He knows how to make a point quickly and memorably.” The 46-year-old one-time Town boss and Forest player was appointed assistant manager at the end of January. He is seen as a good partner for Martin O’Neill.
“Keane is honest, transparent, direct and consistent with players, all positive qualities you want in a leader”, “He has played under two of Britain’s best managers and will demand 100 per cent and the highest professional standards”, “He will bring a mentality that has been missing for far too long.”
“Cue the half-time Keane hairdryer.” Many see him as a person who will take their annoyance out on the squad. “I hope he is getting stuck into them now about switching off at key moments and wakes them up”, “It’s a shame Henri Lansbury isn’t here. I would have walked to the ground to see that.”
Forest Fans’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Having collected five points from their last six games, the Tractor Boys have earned three points fewer than Forest did over the same period. They have lost just once in six previous head-to-heads here, and they will be hopeful that Paul Lambert can get one over his Old Firm boss Martin O'Neill.”
“Ipswich have only taken the scalp of Wigan and Rotherham at home all season. We clearly don't belong in that company so a loss here is inconceivable”, “In all seriousness, this is about as close as a game can get to a ‘routine win’ at this level. Not getting three points is completely unthinkable.”
“Everything boils down to the Ipswich game.” Most Forest fans see victory as essential to reignite their play-off chase and there have been the now-familiar comments about beating “the likes of Ipswich”, but many have also noted our recent improvement and are taking nothing for granted.
“This won't be easy. I watched them drag Bristol City all over the pitch the other night. I can't believe this team is bottom on that performance”, “They have started taking the odd point from games now so I would not be surprised to see them beat us at the weekend”, “I can see this being a draw.”
“I don't think we've won an away game under O’Neill and Ipswich are showing signs of not wanting to completely chuck the towel in, so this falls into the category of games we usually crumble in”, “No away wins in 10 dilutes the enthusiasm but they're doomed. We will have the upper hand mentally.”
“A late survival challenge looks unlikely, but Ipswich have earned a league-high nine draws at home this season, including seven 1-1 stalemates, four of which came against the current top six”, “Ipswich have drawn five of their last six games. They are going down, but are not just giving away games.”
“As we saw at the weekend, they went to West Brom and got a draw”, “I think Paul Lambert will shake them about and get them right again like he did Norwich”, “They have been much better over the past month, but still haven’t converted their good football into starting to win some games.”
Some Forest fans have become quite fatalistic. “We're going to find a way to balls this one up, aren't we?”, “I don’t think we are winning this one. Sorry, but I think the wind has been knocked out of us”, “We'll probably win this one just to prolong our own agony.”
The busiest Forest message board is the friendly and well-informed LTLF Forest Forum. Nottingham Forest highlights are available on the Multimedia menu as well as Ipswich Town and for the whole of the Championship and other EFL leagues.
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