Nottingham Forest’s experiment with 4-4-2 didn’t go to plan, but should it be shelved?

Martin O’Neill favoured a different approach during his first game at the helm against Bristol City.

And said system was one that many had been crying out for.

Under Aitor Karanka, there were plenty of accusations of defensive football thrown around.

It was suggested that going with two up top would help to solve some of those issues.

Forest tried that on Saturday.

Nothing got solved.

With there still considerably more questions than answers, O’Neill has suggested that he is already about to change tack.

Issue

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

He said in the Nottingham Post after witnessing a 1-0 defeat on home soil: “We played two up top, which I hoped would put us on the front foot; that we would be able to play off [Daryl] Murphy and [Lewis] Grabban. In the second half we got more momentum going.

“They have generally played with one up front, most of the time, so to change that is a difficult thing to do, particularly with only a few training sessions.

“The players have lost a manager and they were trying to adapt to a new system.

“Maybe we will go back; maybe we will change things around again. But I have a little bit of time to work on things like that.”

He does, and he will.

It is, however, not difficult to argue that the formation Forest play is not the issue.

One frontman or two, the Reds have drawn seven blanks in their last nine outings.

Against Bristol City, a distinct lack of creativity contributed to their downfall.

Record signing Joao Carvalho was on the bench and no-one stepped up to fill the void.

So while it was all well and good having two forwards ready to kick the door down, there was nobody to pick the lock.

Answer

 

There are systems which can incorporate a strike partnership and a deep-lying playmaker, but something else would have to give.

For example, you couldn’t fit Grabban, Murphy, Carvalho and Joe Lolley into a 3-5-2 system without playing at least one out of position or leaving yourselves dangerously exposed in the middle of the park.

Adopting a midfield diamond could work, with a £13 million addition at the point and a Claudio Yacob type at the base.

Such a set-up does rather limit width, though, unless the full-backs are able to push on.

And is there much point in having a Murphy-shaped focal point if you aren’t going to deliver from the flanks?

These are the questions facing O’Neill, and ones he has vowed to answer.

He will undoubtedly have a preferred way of playing, but he must play the hand he has been dealt.

And that brings us full circle to whether the issue is the system or those deployed in it.