One win in five league games mean Nottingham Forest’s strong start to the season seems a distant memory. But although Mark Warburton has work to do, the club is still coming out of ‘intensive care’
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It was bound to happen. At some point we’d lose a few games this season, an injury or three would keep at least one key player out of the side and performances would suffer for one reason or another.
We’ve been here before; the cyclical nature of the Fawaz years — hit refresh and hope it all works out better next time. Except we’ve seen what happens. And we’ve seen the downward spiral of that approach.
We’re practically where we were five years ago when Sean O’Driscoll was trying something similar — a new owner, a new manager trying to instil new methods whilst trying to assess the strengths and weaknesses in the squad.
Now this doesn’t mean that O’Driscoll then, or Warburton now, are beyond reproach. It doesn’t mean anyone is beyond criticism. It doesn’t mean we meekly stand by and watch a side give away soft goals week in, week out.
But it does mean we’re in a process of renewal. It does mean that we trust the owner and the manager to have a plan and to stick to it. It does mean that there will be ups and downs.
We were almost relegated to League One less than five months ago. Chairman Nicholas Randall QC described the club as ‘not fit for purpose’ less than four months ago. It’s going to be a long way back — but a way back with a robust plan for the future.
It’s clear to see what Warburton’s trying to do — the focus on passing and possession is surely what many Forest fans have longed for. But this doesn’t come easily — he’s working with a budget and a nucleus of players from last season, getting buy-in to his philosophy and methods will take months.
There’s a lot to already be positive about. But yes, if we’re slipping down the league and our position looks perilous then maybe we should be expecting a shift in dynamics. However, as it stands we’re comfortably mid-table and three points off the play-off places. Will we make the top six? You might want to consider sport.netbet.co.uk, but it’s most likely something to aspire to next season.
The tinkering with formation (3-4-2-1, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3) reflects a tactical nous and demonstrates there is not just a Plan A — indeed it also reflects an eye on the long term. You might argue a straight 4-4-2 could get us promoted, but take a look at what’s happening in the Premier League. The standard 4-2-3-1 is shifting to a 3-4-2-1 at many clubs. Leicester City might have won the title with a less orthodox 4-4-2 but without Kante that lack of protection to the back four is exposed.
Dougie Freedman, rightly or wrongly, was castigated for his defensive dour — but with a back four protected by two holding midfielders and Dorus de Vries in goal we conceded a mere 47 goals in 2015-16 with defenders including Mills, Mancienne, Hobbs, Lichaj, Fox et al. Compare that to the 72 goals conceded last season and it’s clearly a question of finding a balance
Similarly, it’s frustrating to see Ben Brereton not playing as an out-and-out striker; but have trust in the manager if doesn’t believe he’s equipped to lead the line yet. He’s getting regular football, rather than coming on as an impact sub — isn’t that what we want? Our young Academy players to start games? No, he’s not a winger but he’s not expected to be — it’s a wide forward position in any of our formations. And he’ll learn a lot from Daryl Murphy.
Losing games like Saturday is frustrating. But it’s no time to panic. We’re at the beginning of a process and while we all dream of promotion we’re clearly some way off — let’s not run before we can walk.
Let’s not forget the words of the chairman back in June: ‘To use the medical analogy the club is in intensive care. It is our job to ensure that we nurse the club back to health. It is rare in life for anything of value to come easily… Furthermore, as with any journey in life, there will be mistakes made and some setbacks are also inevitable. We will no doubt stumble and occasionally fall, but we promise you that we will keep getting up again until the job is done.’