Thursday, 19 February 2015

What is the best Championship Forest XI?

Perhaps a leading factor in the disappointment felt by Forest fans this season has not been results alone, but also the feeling that we have the best squad of players in recent times. This got me pondering what the best Forest XI would be, since our promotion to The Championship in 2008 - how many of the current players would be in it?

This is, of course, a subjective issue. As football is a results business, I thought it interesting to look at some win ratios*, and have picked a team based purely on that. How does our team of winners compare to the players we have seen week-in week-out in 2014/15?

We can see straight away there are some surprises in our team of winners (see right, click to enlarge). The defence is almost as expected - I have included Chris Cohen at left-back because I wanted to recreate a balanced team rather than shove the best win ratios onto the pitch haphazardly.

I don't think many would argue about the inclusion of Lee Camp, Jack Hobbs or Chris Gunter in a best XI, but I personally would never have included Elliott Ward. That being said, in his presence Forest were more likely to win - in fact without him in 2012/13 The Reds' win ratio dropped to 31.2%.

My gut instinct would have been to put Kelvin Wilson in my own best XI, but aside from the 2009/10 season, results with Wilson in the team have been dire - we have had some reasonable centre-backs in this period, but how many of them, except Hobbs, could we say are significantly better than Ward, based on results and performance?

The midfield is another area which may cause debate. It is no surprise to see Raddy Majewski, Andy Reid and Paul McKenna firmly established in our win ratio best XI. Majewski's influence has been, in my opinion,  massively underestimated and his exclusion was one of the worst errors made by Stuart Pearce - especially when considering the one thing undermining Psycho's tactics was the lack of anyone able to accept the ball in midfield.

McKenna and Reid would presumably get in most fans teams; they have been the best players to wear the Garibaldi for quite a few years and it always surprises me when I hear them criticised. I have put Paul Anderson in the team ahead of Guy Moussi, who has a better win ratio - purely in order to pick a realistic team.

To me, this midfield looks very balanced and I think our current crop would have real problems if up against them. Even the much derided Anderson has many of the qualities Forest have lacked this season -  chiefly his positioning and willingness to defend and form a partnership with the right-back, his ability to be an outlet for the ball and his work ethic.

Anderson does not have the explosive talent or potential to step up a level, possessed by players like Henri Lansbury and Michail Antonio, but they have not measured up to him in other more mundane areas which are important in The Championship. That is why he is worthy of his place in our win ratio best XI - hopefully in the coming months the supposedly better players we now have will be able to push him out of the team.

Robbie Earnshaw and Dexter Blackstock have the best win ratios of any recent players, and deserve their place leading our attack.

We've not exactly been spoiled when it comes to goal-scoring strikers in recent times, Earnshaw has probably been the most lethal, although there is hope that Britt Assombalonga can eclipse the Welshman.

But the youngster's recent injury has placed more emphasis on Blackstock to step up for the remainder of the season, and it's reassuring to see how well Forest have done historically with him on the pitch. At 28 years old, he is now in his prime and having been a positive influence in the past, there is no reason he can't do well for us this season.

An honourable mention must go to Marcus Tudgay - another player who has missed out on my win ratio best XI because of his position. I'm sure he'll get over it. There has also been the odd player, like Nicky Shorey, omitted because they only played for short periods - I set the qualifying bar at 15 games.

So there it is - the best Forest team of recent times according to win ratio. Personally I would prefer points per game if we were using statistics to pick a 'best team', but this is only meant to provoke thought and create debate. What team would you pick as the best Forest team since promotion back to The Championship?

And since many Forest fans (myself included) have been claiming that the current squad is the best since we've been back in this league, what does it say that so few of our current players feature in the win ratio best XI? True, Jack Hobbs, Chris Cohen, Dexter Blackstock and Andy Reid are all still at Forest, but they have featured relatively rarely in 2014/15.

Looking at some of the teams that have been fielded this season, I can't help reconsider how good I thought the current players are. I know there is some (limited) crossover, but the win ratio best XI is, in my opinion, by far superior. With the removal of Cohen and Reid, I wonder whether the current players have the mental attributes to achieve the same level of results.

Is Lansbury a better player than Majewski, or Burke better than Anderson? Or is Michael Mancienne a better player than the likes of Elliott Ward? If the team as a whole are up to the standard of our win ratio best XI, then it's time to prove it with results.

The players have a fresh start under a new manager, and their recent form will have confidence high - they have every opportunity now to show us whether they are in fact the best bunch of players we've seen at The City Ground in the Championship era.

Thanks for reading, and let me know who you think Forest's best XI have been in The Championship.(since our promotion to this level).

*Some clarification on what I deem as a player's win ratio: it is the percentage of time the team wins when the player has played 45 minutes or more in those games. Obviously not a perfect test, however in my opinion the 45 minute rule is a far better guide than a straight win ratio regardless of time involved.
**All stats are for league games only, correct on 19/02/2015, from the start of the 2008/09 season.
***Only players with 15 qualifying games (played 45 minutes) have been included.

Edit: stats abbreviations as requested: mins -  minutes on pitch; TS - total scored when on pitch; TC - total conceded when on pitch, G - goals; m/ts - minutes between team goals scored; m/sc - minutes between goals conceded; gm (45+) - appearences for 45 plus minutes; WR - win ratio in these games; PPG - points per game in these games.

1 comment:

  1. Aussie Red here: Curious to know what Wes Morgan's win ratio was. I guess anyone who played a lot in the 9/10 and 10/11 teams would have an advantage as we won a lot of games and the championship standard then was lower than it is now. Also curious on your views on dougie Freedman's first 4 games and what was the difference between Blackpool and Bolton (apart from the score of course!!).