Saturday, 2 November 2013

Report: Forest 0 Blackpool 1

Forest made it three disappointing results in a row as visiting Blackpool snatched three points from a game where Billy Davies' tactical recalculations failed to pay off. The Garibaldi are having serious problems adjusting their midfield since losing the key figure of Adlene Guedioura - once more that played it's role in their misfortune as Davies abandoned his workable diamond formation in an attempt to plug the gap in front of the defence.

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.

With only Henderson in an advanced position we lost that ball-winning, possession clinging presence that Forest have based their game on - this was a good example of the merits of Simon Cox, who would have acted as an outlet for Forest, would have kept the ball in wide areas until the cavalry arrived. With Henderson the only man up front (unless Lansbury made an overlapping run), when he deviated to help fight for the ball, it left not one in a dangerous position.

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!


  1. I agreed with pretty much all of that, up until you said we'll go up?. We wont. We've thrown away so many points lately against rubbish teams. Teams around us are beating the likes of yeovil and charlton and yet we struggle. BD doesn't know his best team yet and constantly swapping and changing isn't doing us any favours. We have a cracking squad of individuals but they aren't playing like a team atm. We're Creating chances but cant finish. We need someone who can find the net regularly. Take away reidy and lansburys goals and we'd be even further out the running. I cant personally see us picking a point up in november?. A tad negative? Possibly but I've seen enough this year to suggest we dont have the mettle for promotion. Use this season as a transitional one to experiment and tinker and next season buy a quality striker for god sake. Get some pace in the team and start getting behind teams down the flank. Its all too narrow and too direct atm. We're a lot better than that imo

  2. You've got to have hope and ambition though? I base this on what you're saying - we do have a cracking squad, we are creating chances, and we are better than this - and we're in 6th place. We've a lot of improvement in us, and as it stands we're playoff material. Things are far from perfect, but other teams have problems too - I wouldn't swap places with too many other teams in this league - we're up there with the best.

    Thanks for reading pal

  3. I think the formation was too defensive for a home match although having said, that it could have worked with 11 man on the pitch.
    Both Mackie and Abdoun had made some good progress down the wings and they showed up Blackpool weakness. Unfortunately we didn’t appear to get any support to Henderson in the box because we simply didn’t make the runs required. Really there was only Lansbury who was “in this Mould”. What was clear was then both Blackpool fullbacks were marker very wide (too wide in my opinion) probably in an effort to get to the ball first, before Mackie and Abdoun or at least be able to get in the tackle on our winger’s half turn. The result of their full back’s “too wide” positions was a channel either side of their centre backs which we failed to exploit fully. I saw Lansbury make a couple of runs into this channel and Hobbs? And really this is where we should be able to penetrate the Blackpool back 4 especially down our right channel through Mackie. So I thought up to this point BD idea was quite good, but perhaps flawed in assigning Lansbury an attacking midfield role and if he plays this formation again, and I hope he does it needs to think again about who it is who going to make the run from midfield into the channels. Certainly when we have the ball say Lansbury + 1 normally defensive midfielder should push on; Guedioura was capable of doing that and I suspect Vaughan is as well although not on a first appearance and down to 10 men?
    After Abdoun’s departure things got worse not really because Blackpool put is under much more pressure. They were still playing with a back 4 until what's his name came on err –think it begins with a T? now does is end in one as well …..or was it a “n”. Anyway, they actually retained the same shape and the result of this was them playing possession around their back 4 whilst the Forest team played 10 men in front of them marking their 6 players and the spaces they could run into. I though defensively we looked quite sound with players taking good marking and supporting positions off the Blackpool attacking team. I think this would have worked and a draw appeared/should have been to the likely outcome.
    The problem at this stage was that unless Mackie got free and boy did he try,we were never going to score and this is my biggest criticism of this game. Pulling Lansbury back into the left midfield just didn’t work. He looked lost at times and appear to lose position. I don’t think he can play in the position. Some players can become disorientated when playing on the other side of the pitch and I suspect Lansbury is one. (A good player usually). At this stage we really needed to reshape the side and bring on Reid onto the left. He would have given us better balance and certainly can create more then Lansbury and I feel would have got forward. I would have brought Reid on for either of the two defensive midfielder at half time. This would have left Lansbury right centre, Vaughan or Jara in the middle, with Mackie wide right and Reid on the left. This would have given better balance. After 70 mins, bring on Raddy for Lansbury. Why wasn’t his lad not on the bench?
    Incidentally I couldn’t pick a squad without Raddy in it and I would pick my best squad all the time. If they playing well and results go for them you just don’t get tired legs.
    Will we go up? I can’t see it. We have to be more adventurous at home and go for a result. I though from the way we were playing early season that this is what we were going to do and I would pay to watch it. After Saturday against Blackpool, it’s just not good enough to play like that at home, even with 10 men. Not stuff premiership teams are made of. COYR get stuck in lads. I want to see more of that Mackie adrenaline.
    We really just needed a point Saturday and leaned a lesson and move on. Let hope we at least learned a lesson. We shall see.

  4. Thanks for taking the effort to make that eloquent and astute contribution.

    I didn't pick up on the space in-between their full-backs and centre-backs, but now you mention it, I can see it. We were very wide - I'd not caught onto this at the time but as you say it was a potentially useful tactic by Forest if we'd have been able to exploit it. I can remember Henderson coming into the inside left on one occasion where a lot of space had suddenly appeared - this was probably the reason. Great spot thanks for pointing it out.

    Yes you're right about the midfield options we could have tried. I think the problem they were considering was how porous the midfield has been - any meddling with the two DCMs would have made us more vulnerable in this respect - personally I still think we should have done this, but I can see why they didn't. I'd have removed Vaughan probably. We desperately needed more of a presence to help Henderson and help us keep the ball - again, we weren't able to do so the time Majewski isn't on the pitch - it's not a co-incidence. It was the same against Bournemouth when he went off.

    In the right circumstances we've got a squad and manager capable of going up. I think they'll get it right sooner or later - will it be in time?

    Thanks again for the contribution, would be interested to hear your assessments more often.