Not sure what to think about this season? Here’s our 10-point guide to help you decide whether you’re a happy-clapper or a doom-monger…
1. What do you think of the performances this season?
a) Performances have been disappointing — apart from the odd game, or even moment, we haven’t even looked like we have a Plan A let alone a Plan B. We get bullied by more physical teams and it’s too defensive.
b) Performances have been disappointing but we’ve only lost four games and there have been glimpses of some very exciting, passing football. This is a long-term project though, introducing a philosophy that requires the players to question their decision-making and develop an understanding on the pitch.
2. Are you happy with our position in the table?
a) We should be higher in the table — games have been drawn when we should’ve lost and lost when we should’ve drawn. We’ve only beaten Cardiff from the top-half of the table and a place in the play-offs should be ours.
b) Yes — we’re only four points off the play-off places and only Crystal Palace have lost fewer games than us. If we manage to hit a consistent run of form who knows what could happen — there’s still 26 games to go.
3. Any deficiencies in the squad?
a) We need pace and width. We’re not stretching defences, we’re not getting crosses in and our pattern of play is becoming predictable. How can we offer service to the strikers if we don’t have wingers?
b) We need pace and width. But the squad’s still being rebuilt — O’Driscoll didn’t exactly have a lot of time to scout and recruit players. We can’t really berate a manager for not playing wingers when he doesn’t have any. And who knows what might happen in the January transfer window?
4. What about the defence?
a) The defence isn’t simply isn’t good enough. We can’t defend crosses, our centre-backs are getting caught out and Camp doesn’t look confident behind them.
b) We haven’t had a settled defence all season — Hutchinson’s been injured since September, Collins hasn’t had a regular partner at centre-back and Ayala, Harding, Halford and Lascalles have all been out at some point. Only seven teams have conceded fewer goals than we have and once the midfield and strikers develop an understanding we should start scoring more.
5. Do we have the right manager?
a) Sean O’Driscoll isn’t the right manager — he doesn’t seem to know which team or tactics work best, he doesn’t have a Plan B and the results are beginning to speak for themselves.
b) Sean O’Driscoll is exactly the right manager — he’s thinking long-term, not short-term, and taking Nottingham Forest as a whole in the right direction. He’s committed to playing progressive football which, integrated across the whole club, will bear dividends down the line. We need continuity, we need patience, we need to give a new manager at least a season.
6. How do we compare to last season?
a) We’re better than last season but it’s more realistic to compare the two seasons before that and that’s no comparison.
b) We’re better than last season but this is a season of consolidation and transition — we could make the play-offs but a mid-table finish with the club heading in the right direction isn’t a terrible thing.
7. Is the football up to scratch?
a) We haven’t seen the passing football we were promised — passes go astray, mistakes are made and we’re not scoring enough goals.
b) On occasion we’ve seen some spectacular football — against Bolton, Charlton and Cardiff — but this isn’t going to happen overnight; the manager and the players deserve some patience. Anyone can beat anyone in this division and it’s the little things that make the difference — O’Driscoll understands that.
8. What about squad selection?
a) O’Driscoll doesn’t know his first XI and many of the players he’s signed just aren’t up to it.
b) O’Driscoll doesn’t know his first XI but he’s not exactly had a full squad available — injuries and suspensions have limited his choice. He’s doing his best with the players available; it’s only natural that he experiments with formations and line-ups.
9. How long do the squad need to gel?
a) There’s been plenty of time to gel — we should be getting results by now.
b) The squad’s beginning to gel but it’s not going to happen overnight. With a few additions in January and the makings of a balanced squad we should begin to see some real progress.
10. Should we expect promotion this season?
a) Of course we should, we’ve brought in 15 players and spent millions — we have one of the best squads in the division and we can’t even beat Ipswich.
b) Of course we shouldn’t, we’ve brought in 15 players and O’Driscoll’s implementing a footballing philosophy that isn’t going to bed in overnight. We might have spent millions but it’s only brought us level with the competition. Promotion could happen but next season is when we should be making a real push.
Mostly As: You are a doom-monger. Have you no shame?
Mostly Bs: You are a happy-clapper. Have you no shame?
A mixture of As and Bs: You are a realist. Have you no shame?
Image: By Evan-Amos (Own work) (CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)