Nottingham Forest have lost a certain creative spark since seeing Martin O’Neill inherit the managerial reins from Aitor Karanka.

A common accusation levelled at the Reds over recent weeks.

And one not without substance.

It was difficult to watch the 3-0 reversal at Sheffield Wednesday and not be left with a sense that something was missing.

Things are, however, not as clear cut as they may appear.

For all the wishful thinking of what Karanka could have achieved, a sense of perspective is required.

When the Spaniard walked away in January, were things all that different?

To listen to some would have you believe that the Spaniard was Pep Guardiola in disguise.

That Forest were playing ‘tiki-taka’ football and Joao Carvalho was Lionel Messi-esque in the No. 10 role.

That wasn’t the case.

When another change was made in the dugout, Karanka had as many critics as supporters.

As O’Neill appears to have now.


(Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

Karanka’s final Championship fixture may have delivered a 4-2 victory over Leeds, but that was a first success in six.

The Reds had drawn a blank in four of their previous five outings and would see out another three through to O’Neill’s first game at the helm.

So, rather than the present being a step back from the past, it is more a case of same old story.

Forest are, when breaking it down, no less creative than they were under a previous regime.

They are just different.

Statistics can, of course, be used to paint just about any picture you want.

They are, however, useful tools when looking at a bigger one.

During Karanka’s 26 Championship games this season, the Reds scored 39 goals and created 227 chances.

That equates to 1.5 goals per game and 8.7 chances.

Under O’Neill, across 14 fixtures, the target has been found 16 times from 123 openings.

So, 1.1 goals per game and… 8.7 chances.

No difference when he comes to prising opponents open.

Being a little more prolific would be welcome, but the main change here is the manner in which chances are created.

Not the number of them.



Forest have, on the whole, been seeing less of the ball than when Karanka was barking out instructions.

They have, rather bizarrely, actually fared better when not dictating proceedings.

To look at more figures, the Reds are averaging 80 fewer passes per game than they were through to mid-January (347 down from 427).

Across O’Neill’s 14 fixtures, only Wigan, Bolton, Millwall, Birmingham and Rotherham have spent less time trying to pick out team-mates.

Passing accuracy has also dipped from 75.11 per cent to 68.86.

Forest have become more direct.

No debate to be found there.

Whether that is the right approach is a different argument entirely.

It is, however, clear that the answer to supposed struggles is not as obvious as it may seem.

More creative types – Carvalho et al – would be expected to aid the collective cause.

They were, however, hardly pulling up trees before and the Nottingham Forest remains as dense as it was when the latest trade on the touchline was made.