Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Heroes & Villains: Goals conceded (4-11)

My second look at how Forest are conceding their goals. This edition neatly takes stock of Forest without Guedioura - the loss of whom, in my opinion, has caused defensive confusion in front of our back four as Billy was forced back to the drawing board. Before Gueddy's departure we conceded 0.6 goals per game on average, since, we have conceded 1.3 GPG. Will the manner of those goals shed any light on why Forest have conceded more?

These posts are, it must be pointed out, my opinion unless otherwise stated - if I've missed something, or got something wrong, or you just disagree or have something to add, feel free to let me know - it will help build a better picture.

4. Barnsley 1-1 (Chris O'Grady) (penalty).

I'll stick to the short version because there's so much going on in the build up to this goal - which is basically caused by Barnsley's positivity and endeavour exploiting confusion in the Forest midfield. At the game I thought it a clumsy piece of poor positioning from Moussi - I was wrong. During the build up, Barnsley have Forest outnumbered down our left - be it good movement or poor defending, they have a spare player - this causes confusion as to who our midfielders should be picking up (see diagram, right, which is enlargeable when clicked and shows different stages to the attack). Chris Cohen - possibly because he can see how outnumbered we are - darts out of the defence to help Andy Reid, leaving a gap into which Perkins runs. Moussi then spots the danger but can only clatter into Perkins (giving away the penalty) because he had to leave his own man at the very last second. In my opinion The Moose got caught out trying to compensate for his team-mates confusion in marking Perkins - it is difficult to say which of Lansbury & Majewski should have picked him up - Majewski had him last but he was at least doing something - it's difficult to see what Lansbury was contributing defensively. Perhaps this is best put down to good work from Barnsley. If you get a chance, have a closer look at their movement for this goal, it's excellent.

Chris O'Grady slotted away the penalty giving Darlow little chance - no 'keeper error here. The goal should have been disallowed though as at least one Barnsley player was in the box when the penalty was struck.

Players out of position: Difficult. Should Cohen have come out of the defence? Will give him the benefit of the doubt. Majewski or Lansbury should have followed Perkins.
Players beaten for skill: Moussi (mitigating circumstances).
Goalkeeper error? No.

5. Barnsley (2-2) Tomasz Cywyka

Long range free-kick reminiscent of the one scored by Lewis McGugan not long ago. The foul was by Moussi as Forest were being hit on the break - but it looked soft. There was no need to give the referee a decision though, as the Barnsley player was not threatening goal. Darlow had no chance.

Players out of position: None
Players beaten for skill: Moussi
Goalkeeping error? No.

6. Middlesbrough (0-1) Kei Kamara

A recurring theme over the next few games begins here - Forest are hit on the break as teams exploit our tendency to push forward the full-backs. Here, centre-back Greg Halford becomes isolated out in the left-back position (Cohen is up the pitch). He is beaten for skill by Albert Adomah, who has plenty of time to run into the area and play an accurate cross for Kamara to slot in from close range. Being ultra-critical you could say Halford should have tried to hold up Adomah instead of getting too tight and attempting the tackle - but if you're a skilful winger this is exactly the situation you are paid for - Adomah comes up with the goods, 'Boro go 1-0 up.

Forest play exciting, attacking football which means taking risks at the back. We do this by pushing forward Cohen & Lichaj - you won't hear any complaints from me - as you don't when we score because of their extra pressure - but it means we will inevitably concede goals like this one. I personally put this goal down to a vulnerability in our tactics - all teams have them.

Players out of position: You can't blame Cohen for not being there considering our tactics. None.
Players beaten for skill: Halford.
Goalkeeping error? No.

7. Middlesbrough (0-2) George Friend

Forest are hit on the counter-attack and outnumbered at the back while pressing for an equaliser - the midfield simply don't get back. Lichaj does well to hold up a Middlesbrough player, but in doing so is dragged out of position, and Friend launches an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

I can remember at the time watching the space develop, but I couldn't say which midfielders were to blame for not getting back - it would depend what positions they were playing in at that moment too. Abdoun was on the left wing, Reid was playing in the defensive role (and was actually back defending) - should Majewski or Lansbury have been back quicker? I'll need suggestions on this one, otherwise I'll just put this goal down to being caught on the counter-attack.

Players out of position: Difficult to say - considering we were chasing the game, none?
Players beaten for skill: None.
Goalkeeping error? No.

8. Doncaster (0-1) Federico Macheda

Both goals scored by Doncaster were due to our final two defenders becoming isolated at the back. Macheda's first was created by Theo Robinson running at the Forest defence and keeping the two defenders occupied while the second wave of attack ran into a flanking position. Only Jack Hobbs and Eric Lichaj bothered doing any defending here whatsoever - Halford switching off completely, and the defensive midfielder Nathan Chalobah not tracking Macheda's run.

This is a difficult goal to accept because it should not have occurred; at no stage has a Forest player been beaten for skill, nor are we outnumbered, some of our players have decided not to track back. You could suggest our attacking ethos comes into this, but there has to be some balance - the players have to be interested in defending as well.

Players out of position: Halford & Chalobah.
Players beaten for skill: None.
Goalkeeping error? No.

9. Doncaster (1-2) Federico Macheda

Macheda's second goal was as bad as the first. Forest have advanced their full-backs as is their style - this is not something to complain about because it results in attacking excitement (and in fact, goals) but when they go forwards the midfield must be aware of the gaps it leaves - in this case there were midfielders in a position to help out but the didn't.

Forest lose the ball on the half-way line, and Robinson again has a run at the two defenders, this time Hobbs & Halford. They do a good job in holding him up, but Doncaster players make runs to either side of them, and are able to receive the ball in time and space because no Forest players are quick enough back to intervene, or even put thm under pressure.

The most disappointing part of this goal is the role of Richie Wellens. Never known for his pace, he is now 33 years old, yet he was still able to outsprint the Forest midfield and ease himself into a dangerous, unmarked position, where he was able to play an accurate pass for Macheda to score. The closest player to him was Chalobah - 15 years his junior. Billy Davies has stated on several occasions the Chelsea loanee is not fit - hopefully this explains his lack of urgency during this game. I see it as another example of how the loss of Adlene Guedioura has effected the team defensively.

On the positive side, these goals are all symptoms of Forest's attacking intent, something Davies should be praised for, but this is a critique pointing out why we're conceding goals so it needs pointing out that it is costing us goals - in fact Doncaster's second goal was the 5th is a row where Forest were caught out when pushing forward.

Players out of position: Lansbury & Chalobah were definitely in a position to track back quicker and help the defence, Lichaj was too although his instructions to push forward mitigate this.
Players beaten for skill: None.
Goalkeeping error? No.

10. Charlton (1-1) Marvin Sordell

The build up to Charlton's goal is both interesting from a tactical point of view, and gives a broad hint at what has been Forest's weakness in front of the defence. As Charlton attack down Forest's right, Lichaj comes out of the defence to press the ball - not ideal but the Forest defence adjust well. Hobbs pushes out to the right back position as Chalobah slots back into the back four. They do this smoothly - it was nicely organised, but it just goes to prove that even when a team has shuffled successfully and are covering everything they should, if you have different personnel in critical positions you are weaker; in this case Chalobah isn't quite savvy enough as a central defender and strays out of the back four - leading directly to Charlton's first (deflected) shot on goal, and indirectly to the goal because The Reds don't recover and concede from he resultant melee.

This goal is interesting because it's another example, like the Barnsley penalty incident discussed above, of a Forest defender abandoning his position in the back four to press an area in front of him. Is this a regular occurrence? I've a theory it's happening more because the midfield aren't as organised defensively, forcing the defenders to take matters into their own hands - something for us to look out for.

During the melee Forest's defenders don't pick up Sordell, and he has plenty of space to knock in a low cross - Darlow once again has no chance. The closest player to him was Danny Collins who does not react well enough to pick him up - however it all happens very quickly. Charlton were all over Forest at times during this game; there was always going to be a time when the defenders didn't quite react quickly enough considering the pressure.

Players out of position: Chalobah strays out of the back four leading to the initial gap, Collins - Sordell was in acres of space in his area.
Players beaten for skill: None.
Goalkeeping error? No.

11. Brighton (0-1) Andrew Crofts

Brighton's goal results from a deep cross, knocked down and finished from close range. At first I thought Chalobah was a little lax in allowing the cross so easily - but since the Brighton winger was clever in his movement away from Chally, and acted quickly, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I thought the problem was that it was not dealt with as well as it could have been. Chris Cohen wasn't at all convincing in defending the aerial threat, and I think the other players were surprised that the Brighton player was able to have a swipe at the ball - Crofts reacted first and stooped to head in.

Players out of position: None.
Players beaten for skill: Cohen in defending the cross. Crofts beats two defenders to the ball, but I can' definitely say they were at fault.
Goalkeeping error? No.

Thanks for reading if you've survived this far - I'll try to keep these shorter in future. I think it's been a useful exercise even this early because it's providing hints that are starting to confirm our theories that the loss of Adlene Guedioura, and more importantly the subsequent necessity to change the game plan and organisation that Billy has been working on over the summer, has left Forest weaker in front of the back four, effectively sending Billy back to the drawing board. For example, in our first 5 games (before Guedioura's departure) none of our goals were due (even partially) to players out of position (the midfield were working as a unit and had an understanding) whereas this has risen to 50% in the last 6 games. Forest's midfield organisation has been lost in the reshuffle, and we're seeing gaps in front of the defence - I've a further theory that this (relative, I must stress) lack of organisation is leading to the players more comfortable with their responsibilities, trying to make up for our weakness and themselves being tempted out of position (see goals 4 and 10, above).

Also, the less diligent defending of space has meant that, where before our opponents had to beat us with skill - this has not been the case since the shake-up in our midfield (see graphic, above).

At risk of sending you to sleep, I'll look at this in more detail later. Thanks for reading. As a disclaimer, this is not meant to be a dig at (4th in the league) Forest, more an examination of how we're conceding goals, something that every team will do. Personally I think the loss of a key player has given The Garibaldi a serious knock, and it's a testament that they are still one of the best sides in the league. They are doing brilliantly to be getting these results considering they are not at their best.

I'd appreciate help in refining this series - I'll definitely have missed things or made errors, the more people help the more vivid picture we'll have of how Forest are conceding (and scoring) their goals. You can comment below, or preferably here on citygroundfaithful. Thanks for any help.
Read the last article on goals conceded here.

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