Thursday, 27 March 2014

Forest 0 Charlton 1

Forest entered a new era of uncertainty on Tuesday night as they lost to a very poor Charlton side. After the removal of Billy Davies, The Reds were led by academy Director Gary Brazil, but anyone hoping for an improvement from the 5-0 defeat against Derby was sadly disappointed.

We saw a return to tradition as Forest were set up in a cautious 4-4-2 - possibly because Brazil wanted to keep things as simple as possible considering the short amount of time to make plans. Notably Gonzalo Jara and Jonathan Greening were the two central figures - a pair of defensive minded players in the middle of the pitch, which would prove pivotal. Clearly the team were instructed to play more direct football, through to the two strikers. We got a rare chance to see a duo up front - the last manager had gone off this idea; as the team was released I was left wondering whether Brazil's tactics would show up Davies' one up front preference...

Charlton played a conservative 4-5-1. The Valiants' game-plan was to sit back and absorb pressure, ready to spring forward and pinch a goal on the counter-attack, with Cousins, Ajdarevic, and Ghoochanneijhad (that's the last time I'll be typing that out) willing to get forward. I have to say, our opponents were particularly bereft of ideas, and were there for the taking.

Indeed, while they were actually getting enough men back to defend, Charlton looked particularly porous when Forest tried to play the ball through the middle. This was not due to a lack of organisation in my opinion, more that their players were unable to track the runs of the Forest forwards, Cox and Henderson - both of whom were put through on goal in the first half, only to miss the target.

This was an opposition team ripe to be cut apart by the passing, concise football that we have become used to seeing Forest play over the past year - but it just wasn't there. Whenever The Garibaldi got players on the ball deep in the Charlton half, they looked dangerous and capable of finding the runs of attackers.

However, this was not happening enough, instead the attack and defence seemed to be playing as two different entities. Too often, there was a long way between the defensive six (including the two central midfielders) and the strikers and wingers, who at times seemed to be playing as four forwards. Crucial in this tactical problem was that there was a huge swathe of space between the defensive midfield and strikers - there was no attacking midfielder to bridge the gap between attack and defence. Instead, Forest relied more than usual on direct balls from Greening and Jara.

To highlight how much more direct Forest were, they played 99 long balls in total (22 more than Charlton). The defensive midfielders, who were kick-starting Forest's attack, played a total of 42 long balls between them - far more than usual (when Forest have played two defensive midfielders this season, they have played an average of 12.44 long balls between them).

This obvious and unimaginative tactic played into Charlton's hands. We've seen a lot of good football at The City Ground under Billy Davies - key to which was his gradual build up of possession in the opposition half, but on Tuesday this was gone, instead, most of our possession was in deeper areas.

Post-match, BBC Radio Nottingham's Colin Fray stated that the first half was an improvement from the Derby game; make no mistake, this was not the case. At least against Derby Forest were trying to come forward with passing football, playing with guile but coming up against a very good, promotion hunting side, and being caught out by some clever movement.

He said Forest looked more stable at the back - they should have, against a Charlton team, reluctant to come forward, who had up until then won only one game away from home. The truth was Forest were as big a mess at the back as they were disjointed going forward, and a very ordinary Charlton side were able to create chances - one in particular where Marvin Sordell found himself in space, with the freedom of Nottingham, only to shoot against the post.

The Forest defence looked shaky for the whole game - partly due to the separation between attackers and defenders. The 4-4-2 formation should give the wingers ample opportunity to help and support their full-back, but because they were so far forward, Abdoun and Mackie were not doing this. Fox and Halford were thus left isolated at times

The second half was even worse. Brazil recognised that the gap between defence and attack needed to be bridged and brought on Jamie Paterson to play in attacking midfield, but sacrificed a striker to do so, in effect playing a 4-5-1 at home against the worst team we've seen at The City Ground this season. Pato did his best, but he's not the kind of player to hold onto the ball in the opposition half, he's a direct threat - Forest needed to put Charlton under some sustained pressure, because whacking it up to the attackers, who were not holding onto it, was playing into the hands of their counter-attacking style. The game was crying out for Raddy Majewski to help us keep some possession higher up the pitch, to apply some pressure, because with it coming back so frequently, Charlton were having too many rolls of the dice.

The Addicks were bound to get lucky eventually, and they scored after 81 minutes. As Forest ran out of ideas coming forward, they lingered on the ball and gave it away - springing another Charlton counter-attack. Once more, the post was struck, but it was not mere fortune that led to it falling at the feet of an opposition player - they had broke in numbers, their players wanted to get there more than the Forest players did, and outnumbered the defenders.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing of all is that, after going behind, there was little noticeable comeback, no besieging of the opponents, forcing them to defend desperately, like we have seen in other losses this season. The Forest performance lacked tactical workability, passion, leadership and guile.

This was the worst performance of the season - and it is a worse result than the loss against Derby - it may not feel it, but considering the opposition, it was. It was also a chance to climb back into the play-offs; Reading, Brighton and Wigan all lost!

On a more positive note, Forest are still in the promotion hunt, and cannot possibly get any worse. Players will return,  and this is a juicy opportunity for whoever takes over as manager, who will build on the work already done, and have players returning to fitness who have been unavailable for the past few weeks.

I know I'm in a minority - and will not mention it again once the new manager is in place - I'll get behind him 100%, but I can't help wondering what the result would have been were the old regime still in place. Would we have played such direct football - effectively playing into the hands of a deep-lying counter-attacking side? Would the players have been so obviously unmotivated? We'd be back in the play-offs today, still licking our wounds from the Derby game, but we wouldn't have thrown away three points against dreadful Charlton. How they won their only other away game is beyond me.

It was nice to hear the post match comments of manager and players - Davies was a fool to allow himself to be upset by the press and his reaction was childish - but I don't pay over £500 a season to listen to the manager and players on the radio, or  read pleasant interviews in a friendly local newspaper, I pay that money (and more) to watch an attractive footballing side which makes me optimistic of the near future. Forest under Davies was exactly that - now, there's nothing but uncertainty and we're back to square 1.

Thanks for reading, thanks to for statistical help, and COYR


  1. I know you have to fill your blog with something insightful but if you'd have just posted a picture of a steaming turd as a report for this game, it would have adequately served & we'd have all understood.

    1. I understand your sentiment, but find your comment incredibly disrespectful to The Boff & the admirable effort he goes into to analyse Forest's play.
      Keep up the good work Boff. I too was very disappointed not to see majewski at least cone off the bench. Once we'd conceded, the obvious change would have been Raddy for the yellow carded (& unusually hapless) Jara. This game showed how much Gary Brazil is out of his depth as a Championship Manager. Thanks goodness he has ruled himself out of the running for the job long term!!

    2. Hahaha no I thought it was quite funny Tim, made me smile and I know where Pete was coming from.

      Raddy is clearly Billy's golden boy - I think he suits Davies' style of build-up play and I think there is the chance we'll not see him again. Certainly he doesn't suit the style Brazil asked them to do against Charlton - I'm not saying GB is wrong in that, possession doesn't win games, being decisive does, and I can see the argument that Raddy isn't decisive enough. But yes, I was disappointed not to see him, and (from my layman's point of view) I'm convinced he's exactly what was needed in this game - with the two lads in front of him, and such poor opposition he'd have been quite dominant IMO.

      I tend to agree regarding Brazil, but don't forget he only had a day or so - I'll judge him at Ipswich on Saturday - a tough game and if he gets anything he'll have a lot of credit from me, because the team look like they're in shock at the moment.

      Thanks for the comments guys, and I can take a bit of sarcasm as well as praise. Hope we beat Ipswich, we're due some luck.