Martin O’Neill arrived at Nottingham Forest in January to take over a side that had lost just five Championship games all season.
The defeat at Sheffield Wednesday was Forest’s sixth in O’Neill’s 14 matches in charge.
It was perhaps the manner of the defeat that rankles the most. Comfortable in the first half and then collapsed like a cheap deckchair in the second. A 3-0 defeat in South Yorkshire leaving far more questions than answers.
The disappointing aspect is that the answers to O’Neill’s questions are sat alongside him in the dugout.
Claudio Yacob boasts 160 Premier League appearances to his name. The Forest incumbent has let him feature for 101 minutes during his tenure.
The Argentinean midfielder missed out on pre-season but looked mightily impressive under Aitor Karanka.
Another of Karanka’s signings, Joao Carvalho, is another who has clearly done something to upset the Northern Irishman. The 22-year-old has started just one game, the defeat against Aston Villa, which considering the lack of creativity is baffling.
Joe Lolley looks as though the shackles come off when the ex-Benfica man is on the pitch. He knows for certain that three players won’t be around him every time he gets the ball for a start. Doubling and trebling up becomes impossible for opponents when Carvalho needs looking after too.
Lewis Grabban is another who clearly looks to enjoy his football more with Carvalho just behind him. It’s no surprise given that a large chunk of his six assists were for the 17-goal forward earlier in the campaign.
Five changes were made to the side at Hillsborough. Experimental changes at that. The first league starts of the season for Luke Steele and Arvin Appiah for example. Carvalho and Yacob still couldn’t get a sniff of a start.
With the Reds chasing the game, surely the creative spark of Carvalho will get a look in now? Sadly not, Pele, a defensive midfielder, subbed on instead.
Nobody is telling O’Neill how to manage a football team. The fans understand that he is in charge and that he has been in management for an awfully long time.
Okay, Carvalho is raw and he isn’t the finished article. Occasionally, he is wasteful, lightweight and shows his inexperience. Not too many young Championship footballers are complete players at 22 though, are they?
Earlier in the season Forest scored goals for fun with an attacking four of Carvalho just behind Grabban, Lolley and either Matty Cash or Ben Osborn on the wings. All of those players are still within O’Neill’s ranks so why not use them to their strengths?
O’Neill can help Forest finish the season with a flourish by helping himself. When games are won, questions don’t really need to be asked. One point from games with Ipswich Town, Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday is simply not good enough.
On that basis, discontent will creep in and queries will be marked for the attention of the manager. Right now, team selection is right at the top of the agenda. O’Neill has the players, but now is the time to start using the right ones.