Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Preview: Sheffield Wednesday v Forest

Billy Davies takes his revitalised Forest side to Hillsborough on Saturday with the fans in buoyant mood for an absolutely vital clash with Sheffield Wednesday. Recent events have caused confidence to once again rear it's ugly head around the Garibaldi, however on closer inspection The Owls may not be the pushover that could be imagined from their league position of 19th.

On paper we could have been forgiven for thinking this was - if there is such a thing in The Championship - one of the easier away games. Wednesday have been floundering in the depths all season, sinking into relative obscurity for a club of their size.
A glance at the form guide should dissolve any feelings of overconfidence. Wednesday have collected 25 points from the last 12 games, outshining Forest's 15, indeed only Watford and Cardiff can match The Owls form. For a team fighting relegation this is outstanding. Dave Jones was frustrated earlier in the season with his team's defending, since then he's sculpted a finely oiled machine that stops the opposition playing.

Owls fans seem quietly confident in their team' ability to smother and fight their way through games, claiming their side to be solid, without playing too much constructive football. At home they appear happy to concede possession and stifle, soaking up pressure and punishing the opposition when they overstretch. During the last 12 games their home possession has been only 47%, which seems very low for the third best performing team in the league. When you discount their unusual game against Brighton, a 3-1 victory in which the Seagulls were down to ten men for a full hour, their possession statistics for this period drop to 44.6%! They manage a respectable 49.6% when away from home - clearly Dave Jones has his team deliberately concede possession at Hillsborough.
Should The Owls, true to form, cede possession to Forest, we're in for an interesting and illuminating game. Wednesday are very good at what they do - they have proven so during the last few months. Ignoring table positions, you would have to make them strong favourites for this game. According to the form guide, their home form is far superior to our away form. They are unbeaten in 7 games - their results are more suited to a team fighting for automatic promotion. If Forest can win on Saturday we'll know their recent sparkling form was no honeymoon period. 
The change under Billy Davies has been remarkable. He's not yet been able to make our defence look sturdy, however coming forward the Garibaldi are unrecognisable. Billy's diamond formation has brought the best out of Raddy Majewski and allows our full backs to get forward. With the Andy Reid and Adlene Guedioura directing offensive proceedings, Forest will have no shortage of attacking options. A tough defensive team such as Sheffield Wednesday will provide the acid test we've all been waiting for. On Sunday morning, we'll know whether Forest have a chance of promotion this season.
A glance at the fixtures of Forest's closest rivals for the last playoff place leaves little room for points to be dropped at Hillsborough. With the exception of Middlesbrough, all of our rivals have a good chance to win. Brighton play Huddersfield (we all saw how The Terriers cope with passing, attacking football), Leeds are at home against a Millwall side still relatively toothless after losing Henderson & Wood, Bolton travel to Barnsley, and Blackburn are at home to bottom side Peterborough. It's not inconceivable that all of those results will go against us. Even 'boro have a chance now that they have top boy Scott McDonald back from injury. If Blackburn win heavily we could possibly drop to a depressing 11th - such is the nature of The Championship.
So Forest have a massive game this weekend, probably the biggest game of the season - but arguably every game will be bigger than the last while we still have promotion hopes. The trip to Sheffield will be no easy affair however, against a team geared to repress attacking flair - Forest's strength. Their side includes ex-Forest man David Prutton, who Wednesday fans seem impressed with - Prutts is said to be a major player in their defensive gameplan, hopefully this former Tricky won't come back to haunt us. Our opponents are not just a defensive obstacle - they have a sting in their tale in the form of Leroy Lita, of whom their fans appear quietly confident. This all adds up to a difficult task but one Forest should not be daunted with considering the magic Billy Davies has worked so far - if we're good enough for promotion we'll come out with a necessary three points.
Cheers to the Sheffield Wednesday fans I queried on Owlsonline, and genuine thanks for reading. Feel free to leave me a note to say whether you enjoyed this article, or even whether you found it boring, annoying or poorly written, and follow me on Twitter for notification of new articles.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Diamonds are a goal's best friend


Welcome to the first ever article from Forest Boffin, where we'll be explaining why we think all Forest fans are in for a feast of goals for the rest of the season. Anybody witnessing the entertaining and revealing game against Huddersfield recently would have been thrilled by the attacking flair Forest utilised, however the Garibaldi were not exactly defending like AC Milan! It made for a very lively game, certainly one for the neutrals - but why was it such an open game, and can we expect more of the same?
A diamond formation is a very fragile affair - without the correct players there are glaring defensive deficiencies that will be exposed by good players. The gleam on the gem is that it is a very useful tactic if you have creative players - Forest are spoilt in this department. It is the theory of Forest Boffin that Billy has shrewdly decided to play to the strengths of our current playing staff. So what's the problem?
 What we may see (definitely will see) is our beautiful shiny diamond occasionally shatter from time to time because Forest don't have the players to cope with this formation when the opposition have the ball. The situation in figure 2 is familiar from Billy's last spell as manager. At no stage did Forest have a consistent partnership on the left side of the defence between left back and left winger/midfielder - subsequently as our defence moves to face a thrust towards our right back, huge spaces appeared in front of the left back. This was occurring anew against Huddersfield.
Forest under Billy used to get away with this mainly because of the experience, organisation and vision of Paul McKenna. Guedioura does not possess these skills yet and was being repeatedly sucked out of position against Bolton & Huddersfield leaving even more space. To make things even more precarious, our left sided midfielders (Reid & McGugan will be deployed here) aren't the best motivated defensively.
This lack of a partnership between left back and left midfielder has already cost Billy a goal as Huddersfield outnumbered Cohen, catching the defence by surprise with a good cross and great finish to put them 1-0 up, similar to the recurring scenario in fig. 3. This seems an incurable illness at Forest as no-matter who is in charge we are constantly over-run here - the only time we've looked stable has been when we loaned a truly class left back able to deal with a very difficult task.
These are only a couple of illustrations of how the diamond formation exacerbates the problems of unsupported full-backs. There are some excellent attacking players in the Championship who will find too much space down our left flank. It won't be as much of a problem in front of Jara - he is an accomplished, diligent defender supported by the hard-working Henri Lansbury. Our opponents will choose the easier route.
This is, however, not a negative article lambasting Billy's continued reliance on 'square pegs'. Indeed, the way Davies has set out his teams so far, together with the way he appears happy to use the players he already has, has made me look forward to the rest of this season more than any other - because I think we're going to see goals goals and more goals. I think Billy, securely basking in the adoration of the masses, is going to take the risks that can only bring carnage between both sets of goalposts.
Deploying Guedioura in the Gillett role may be a stroke of  genius - he is energetic and motivated, but more importantly the Algerian is decisive with the ball at his feet. Gueddy will make mistakes and get caught and dragged out of position, but he will also become the fulcrum of our attacking threat. He'll gather the ball from our defenders and create from our own half. He'll play concise and cogent balls up-field where they will hurt.
Which brings me to the jewel in King Billy's diamond encrusted crown: Raddy Majewski. I was surprised at how the pole executed Huddersfield so clinically - he does it now and again but not too often. I was not surprised at the havoc he was causing when collecting forward passes as he flitted around the Terriers' defence. Majewski is too technical for this level of football, he is able to receive and shift the ball in tight spots whilst hurting his opponents. At the head of the diamond though, he is in an unusually dangerous and advanced position. To make things even more interesting, with Raddy up there laying the ball off our defensively deficient left wing turns into the advantage of an extremely attacking left-midfielder (Reid), being supported by a rampaging, energetic left back/midfielder (Cohen).
Add to this a glut of hungry strikers proven to be able to score goals at this level - many are of the opinion that the likes of Cox and Sharp have not received enough service this season. They will surely have ample opportunity to add to their tallies in the remaining games, starting with Charlton this afternoon. If not today, I've a feeling we are going to see alot more goals as Billy goes for broke as we try and score our way into the playoffs.
I have not been as optimistic or excited about a Forest side in many years - am I caught up in the aftermath of an unusually splendid victory? Am I drunk on the memory of Billy's big-screen message? Am I getting carried away?
Who cares - COYR!
Genuine thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Coming Soon - Forest Boffin

Welcome to Forest Boffin - a new blog discussing Nottingham Forest and their return to the Premier League... hopefully.

If they carry on like last night it will be sooner th we think - COYR!

Please check back for our first article coming soon.