TALKING TACTICS: Nottingham Forest situation hard to fathom

BLAME: Steve McClaren
BLAME: Steve McClaren

SCOUT Phil Smith looks at tonight’s opponents Nottingham Forest and their current struggles.

The situation at Nottingham Forest is one that I am struggling to comprehend.

How can you go from promotion contenders to a relegation battle in less than a year?

Their squad is excellent, so how do they find themselves in the bottom three?

In September, I drew the conclusion that Steve McClaren was to blame, his tenure as England manager was somewhat unsuccessful, so it wasn’t a leap of faith to suggest that the FC Twente gaffer was at fault. When you consider our failure to reach EURO 2008, he has a knack of failing to harness the ability of those under his care.

However, they have continued to struggle under Steve Cotterill, and it would be a stretch to suggest that both men are squarely to blame for their current predicament. His success rate of 27.28 is only marginally better than that of McClaren at 23.08. Granted, the style of football under our former boss was hardly going to be attractive, but I had no doubts whatsoever that results would begin to improve. Why haven’t they?

Alleged dressing room unrest could be to blame, but whether this can be classed as accurate remains to be seen, rumours of this nature tend to be thrown around when a team goes through a difficult patch.

What we can be absolutely certain of, however, is that Forest are in an absolute mess.

Traditionally, a trip to the City Ground would be classed as a challenge, but, given their form of late, anything less than three points would be a huge disappointment.

4-4-2 was the formation of choice against West Ham United, and I cannot fathom why this was the case, given their chosen starting XI.

They lack shape in midfield and will continue to struggle unless they deploy two wingers, a central creative force and a tough-tackling ball winner.

“It seems pretty obvious what Forest’s problem is” deduced Hammers manager Sam Allardyce after the game, and I fully agree.

Goals win games, and, at the moment, they seem unable to burst the onion bag.

They have netted just four times since November 26th, and that is a recipe for demotion to League One.

Marcus Tudgay squandered two glorious opportunities at the Boleyn Ground, but to lay the blame at the feet of their forward department would be criminally unjust.

To put it bluntly, if him and partner Marlon Harewood receive no service, they cannot put the ball in the net.

“What would you class as Eddie Howe’s biggest tactical victory of the season so far?” (Michael Miller)

I doubt the final 12 minutes at Hull City will be beaten for entertainment in the near future, but ,in terms of greatest tactical performance, I would have to say West Ham United, Michael.

Admittedly, we were helped by Allardyce ignoring his own football principles with the 4-5-1/4-3-3 system.

Offensively, this was designed to combine possession football with an attacking mindset, which has never been his method of choice

Eddie Howe set our stall out to stifle the Hammers on that day.

By having a midfield unit of five, we aimed to limit the chances created by the opposition through the middle of park.

Poor central defenders can eliminate any advantage of a midfield five, as a simple long ball over the top (this is a Big Sam team!), can exploit that particular weakness, whilst bypassing midfield.

Thankfully, both Duff and Edgar were a tower of strength, and that day probably ranks as the Canadian international’s best performance in a Burnley shirt to date.