Possession is, so we’re told, nine-tenths of the law. Not in the case of Nottingham Forest it isn’t.

When it comes to the Reds, possession is rarely even a 50-50 commodity.

Greater value was placed on it during the reign of Aitor Karanka, but where did that get him?

Pretty passing is all well and good, but end product is the only thing that matters.

And Forest under Martin O’Neill have found a way of navigating around football law.

A sporting loophole, if you will.

They are proof that you do not need to see an awful lot of the ball in order to do something with it.

Since O’Neill returned to the City Ground, 12 games have been taken in.


(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Across those, Forest’s possession figures read as follows:

Bristol City: 50.9

Wigan: 55.4

Birmingham: 52.7

Brentford: 30.4

West Brom: 33.4

Preston: 39.5

Derby: 36.4

Stoke: 50.6

Hull City: 47.2

Aston Villa: 52.3

Ipswich: 50.9

Swansea: 31.4


(Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

That is 18 points from the 36 on offer.


It is, however, interesting to note how Forest have fared in different scenarios.

Their average percentage across 12 games listed above is 44.3.

That drops to 40.2 in the games in which they have emerged victorious.

In the contests in which they have either taken a point or come unstuck, the figure rises to 47.2.

Less of the ball equals more points.

A rather bemusing form of footballing maths!



When breaking the numbers down further to just include those fixtures in which Forest have taken nothing, possession jumps again to an average of 51.6.

While intriguing, this hardly seems like a foolproof plan.

Free-flowing, Barcelona-esque, tiki-taka football would be the preferred option.

As that is wishful thinking to the extreme, we should make peace with what we have got.

And it appears as though O’Neill has got Forest making the most of the intangibles, rather than credentials which can be measured.

Determination, character, spirit, concentration, tactical awareness, fitness etc etc.

All of those qualities can deliver positive results without having to dominate possession.

So, you can keep your nine-tenths.

For now, Forest are doing just fine with four.