Forest have had a mixed season defensively due to tactical issues, but overall the defence has done well; none more so than Karl Darlow. The Forest 'keeper is relatively young and inexperienced - for a promotion-hunting side it was risky to go with Darlow this season, however he has not let us down, and the stats prove, if nothing else, that playing so young a player in this key position has not damaged our goals conceded column - of all the league's goalies, Darlow has let in the fifth least average amount of goals so far. Obviously, since he's played every minute of Forest's season, this primarily reflects the whole team's defending, but he is the biggest brick in the wall, and if he crumbles the whole structure collapses. He has not.
Billy Davies has not been able to name as settled a back four as he would have liked, with injuries to key players handing opportunities to others. Jack Hobbs has been the only ever-present outfield player (it is thus useful to compare his teammates stats with his). Danny Collins has the best defensive statistics - this represents a spell of games where he came into the side and Forest were very solid, winning 3 and drawing 2. Collins has not been the most loved player at The City Ground, but he played very well when called upon and proved he's still a good player at this level - although it must be noted that his stats look so good partly because of the short spell he enjoyed in the team.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the players' defensive stats is the performance of the team with another rookie in central defence; Jamaal Lascelles. Similar to Darlow, there was the potential for disaster in playing the academy product in a team where every mistake is an important one - it's easy to blood youngsters when you're aiming for mid-table, but if they aren't up to scratch it will cost the team goals a promotion-hunting side cannot afford. Lascelles has not weakened The Reds' defence at all, in fact they have conceded goals slower with him in the team, roughly once every 100 minutes on average (see the defensive stats, above, which can be enlarged when clicked).
Also interesting is the fact that performance has barely been effected by the loss of Chris Cohen, as far as results are concerned. Cohen's forward runs were fantastic to watch, and improved Forest's goal-threat (The Garibaldi scored, on average, 13 minutes faster with Cohen on the pitch in the first half of the season), but it left us more vulnerable, which is reflected in the stats.
Andy Reid and Henri Lansbury have been the two bastions of Forest's midfield, and you can see why by studying their statistics; not only are they heavily involved in the goals scored, but the team generally gets better results with them in the side (see stats, right). Reid in particular has been causing our opponents a lot of damage, personally involved in 19 goals so far, which is an impressive 61% of the goals scored when he's been on the pitch. It's fantastic that the Irishman has been so creative, but it does highlight how reliant Forest are on their best player. As further proof of this, the two games Reid missed were the home disappointments against Blackpool and Burnley; Forest struggled to score on both occasions.
We can see that Forest have been at their most creative with Nathan Chalobah and Raddy Majewski on the pitch, both of whom improved our goal threat significantly. This puzzled me with Chalobah, as he is a defensive player, however on further examination we see that the time he has spent on the pitch has been much more open - Forest not only score more, they also let in more - in fact they concede, on average, almost an hour faster with the Chelsea loanee on the pitch (a goal every 62.3 minutes), when compared to when he's not played (a goal every 119.2 minutes).
Majewski's presence in the side has also weakened the team defensively - which is unusual for him. I don't consider either of these players to be poor defensively - these stats probably represent the imbalance of the side at times this season. Unlike Chalobah, Majewski's attacking threat has generally made up for this imbalance though - indeed the amount of goals Forest score with him on the pitch is particularly high; he has been the 8th most beneficial midfielder to his team's goal-threat in The Championship - all the more impressive considering the comparatively low amount of goals Forest have been scoring. (see stats, left. The right hand figure is the team's overall average amount of minutes between goals scored - the bigger the gap between the two figures, the bigger the effect that player has had on his teams goal-threat, statistically).
Perhaps the most topical statistic has been the amount of goals being scored by the strikers, with many fans, and indeed Billy Davies himself, bemoaning the side's lack of clinical finishing. I've written extensively on this subject (here), but at a time where Forest are looking to bring in a striker to tackle this issue, it might be useful to have a look at exactly where Forest's hit-men stand.
With only 12 goals between them, it's easy to see why questions have been asked of the strikers - anybody watching the games will have seen some of the chances that have gone begging; whether it's composure, skill or luck, that little bit more effectiveness in front of goal would have seen Forest challenging for automatic promotion.
It is useful to compare the strikers' rate of scoring goals with their rivals around the division (see left). We see that, perhaps surprisingly, Henderson in particular has a good goalscoring record this season, when you take into account the amount of time he's been on the pitch; he has been the 11th most lethal striker in The Championship so far. This doesn't really count for much, except to highlight that he (and also Simon Cox) is not the goal-shy player that some people make out. Compared to the other 62 strikers who have played enough minutes to be considered, they are both in the top third.
Whether this is enough is open to debate; note Charlie Austin has a worse 'minutes between goals' than Henderson - yet nobody accuses him of a lack of killer instinct.
But Forest could clearly do with a boost in firepower, and have been linked with many players - I have highlighted those players from The Championship in green. Interestingly, possible transfer target Connor Wickham has scored the most regularly on average of any striker, scoring a goal every 122 minutes that he is on the pitch - and for a struggling Sheffield Wednesday side too. It is interesting to see his team-mate Matty Fryatt featuring so highly - he is perhaps not the most sexy transfer target possible, but he's done the job when called upon for The Owls.
Of course, these are all just statistics, and a team's system and style of play will influence all of the above, however the results so far this season are there for all to see, and I believe they betray many of the issues surrounding Forest - the youngsters pulling their weight in defence, the effectiveness of Reid and Lansbury, and the decent but not fantastic goal-scoring ability of our strikers. I don't think any player at Forest has had a particularly bad season so far - let's hope the stats look even better in May.
Thanks for reading, thanks to www.bbc.co.uk and www.espnfc.com for statistical reassurance, feel free to comment here, or at City Ground Faithful forum, here, and COYR!
*note: all statistics are from games in The N-Power Championship only - Forest Boffin has cup games off! Some statistics, particularly the assists and key contributions, appear subjective (in fact nobody seems to agree on assists in particular) - however I'm confident those which appear in this article are the most accurate. If you find any glaring errors please let me know.