I'd like to point out, with sincerity, that I am Billy Davies' number one fan. Without him, Forest have been nothing short of mediocre, under the Scot we are a force in this league, entertaining and (when in full flow) genuine promotion candidates - yet in my, albeit amateur, opinion King Billy has gotten things wrong in recent weeks.
Davies welcomed The Tangerines by changing Forest's system. The diamond formation has been relatively successful since Billy's return, and had incurred problems, but over the summer it was clear the midfield had done a lot of organisational work, however since the departure of holding-man Guedioura, there has been a lack of cover in front of the defence. Davies has stated that it was never one man's responsibility to cover this area defensively, however I would suggest that the midfield have lost that organisation and understanding which is necessary if the four midfielders are going to shuffle these responsibilities. The gaping holes in front of the back four recently have cost Forest goals and stability.
Bringing in new signing Vaughan against Blackpool, Billy opted to have two men protecting the back four, rather than one, employing a 4-2-3-1 formation (see diagram, right. All diagrams & graphics on Forest Boffin are enlargeable when clicked). This extra defensive player sacrificed an attacker, meaning Henderson was up front alone, in front of Lansbury, and Abdoun & Mackie who would be making inroads up either wing. I can understand the inclusion of players you would recognise as proper, mobile, wingers in Abdoun and Mackie - they were a threat going forward with the ball. Also, the inclusion of Lansbury was a no-brainer, as he's been one of our better players this season and is a constant threat. However these changes meant there was no place for Andy Reid or Raddy Majewski - both of whom were missed. As things turned out, Forest also missed the dogged niggling of Simon Cox, as Henderson struggled to keep the ball on his own.
Playing one up front at home is a bold move; home teams should be pushing forward, on the attack, but against Blackpool it severely hindered Forest's threat going forward. Henderson, at a time when many fans are questioning The Reds' strikers, was asked to do the impossible. Even with 11 men Forest expected him to hold up the ball - often from direct balls, and then teleport himself instantly to the middle ready to knock in a cross. With only himself up front, he was forced to look for space away from the central danger-area (where there were two central defenders and a midfielder marking him), either off to the sides, or deeper, meaning that when he did win the ball, and Forest were looking to play in or cross to their striker - he wasn't there.
We also missed the linking midfield talents of Raddy Majewski. Forest were having to play longer balls up to Henderson, or play balls into the wingers Mackie and Abdoun - however they are quite decisive players and not the men to keep possession. The Blackpool defence were back in numbers, meaning that our wingers and solitary striker could not hold onto the ball for any length of time in the Blackpool half. We desperately needed someone like Majewski, or even Cox or Reid, to hold onto the ball in advanced areas in order for the rest of the team to push up the pitch and help.
However, despite my moan, Forest were creating a few chances because of the endeavour of the front four players, forcing the issue - especially Henri Lansbury who was having an exceptionally effective battle with Blackpool's seven defensive players. We had what appeared to be a good shout for a penalty turned down, as Henderson looked to get a shot in - Billy Davies has argued we "had one or two good chances" and this may be the case, but in my opinion Forest could not keep the ball in the Blackpool half well enough because our our system and I couldn't see us winning the game.
This was before we even went down to ten men.
At the time I didn't catch why Djamel Abdoun was in the left-back position (at a guess I'd say he was covering Cohen, who was pushing forward, as he does, and as I like him to do so I've no complaints), but it looked a definite penalty and sending off from where I was sitting in The Trent End - I'm open for correction though? After Darlow's heroic saves Forest were forced to change their set-up, with Billy Davies saying afterwards that "our tactics and shape after Abdoun's red card went out the window". I think he was being harsh defensively, but attacking we were utterly misshapen, with Henderson becoming more and more withdrawn into central-midfield, and Lansbury going out wide to where Abdoun was.
This was a conservative approach from Forest in my opinion. Blackpool seemed more than happy with a point, indeed only Tom Ince seemed intent on creating anything out of the ordinary. Forest stuck with the two defensive midfielders, which continued to restrict the opposition's attacking players space, but our constricted formation meant that whenever we won the ball, there was nobody to play the ball to - no outlet whatsoever. We would play the ball out to Henderson, who had retreated back to his own half, and he would be over-powered by two or three Blackpool players. The only joy we had was the occasional burst down a wing, when the likes of Mackie managed to beat a player - but even then the Forest player still had to beat the rest of the Blackpool team, because there were never any Forest players in front of him.
At this stage Henderson was reduced to a shambling mess - the effort was there but, seemingly personally responsible for at least half of the pitch, he simply couldn't cope, or outfight the multitude of Blackpool players that smothered his every move - I felt sorry for him to be honest as I listened to the unfounded negative comments in the stand. Any world-class player would have struggled in his position - his was an impossible task. A fresh and lively Greg Halford fared no better when he came on.
The first objective in changing Forest's system was a success; Vaughan and Jara protected the Forest defence adequately, therefor we were not subjected to a Yeovilesque barrage of long range shots, nor did players run through into our soft-spot like Bournemouth's Tokelo Rantie did so often, but this change came at a price - the extra player in our half made it harder to keep the ball in their half.
I've not seen Blackpool's winning goal since the game; it's been said to be offside - this may well be the case. However, the ball had been loose in the Forest area once or twice before that incident, and the failure to keep the ball, resulting in cautious Blackpool having many opportunities to try their luck, probably deserved misfortune. Forest perhaps didn't have the run of the green, however teams in this division are going to make things difficult at best, and even before Abdoun's sending off Forest were not keeping possession in the opposition half. We have good players and a good manager, but so do other teams, and if we don't get things right tactically, we won't win.
Back to your diamond formation please Mr Davies!
Thanks for reading, & thanks to the BBC website for the quick stats. I'd love to hear if you disagree with my opinion, here or on City Ground Faithful forum (link to thread). I believe in our manager, and our players, we win more than we lose, and I think we'll do the business this season and go up - I don't mean this to be a lambasting, more a critique. If things had gone differently we could have won today, my criticism is based on the perfection Forest achieve in my over-active, Kronenbourg befuddled imagination - no big downer intended. COYR!