Forest Squad Assessment Mid Term Report
I write this with 2 days to go in the transfer window and partly in a state of desperation for the team I have supported since my first match aged 5 in 1967.
If I put it down on paper (laptop) maybe it will make me feel better and I can move on to more important matters of life and death.
When the takeover belatedly arrived in the summer I had a sense of hope like most other fans, believing we had a fresh start, new investment - although no one was clear exactly how much investment - and a real chance to build a squad capable of promotion over 2 -3 seasons. Yes every wants success now but sometimes you have to accept the reality and start from there. The reality was we had no defenders left at the club and had some overpaid players on the books that should never have been signed (mainly by McClaren).
After the iconic manager never materialised I again like many felt SO`D was a good fit and could turn us into a Swansea, Norwich, etc He did not have much time to build a squad and therefore I don`t blame him too much for the players he brought in, maybe that was all were available to him and maybe money was tighter than we thought. However the events of the past few months - the lack of consistency, the abrupt change of manager and the unspoken dismissals of Arthur, Burt & Clark - need analysis. I don`t want to and frankly can`t explain the off field side of things as I don`t know enough about the new owners to work them out yet. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt but only time will tell whether they have the real interests of the club at heart or if it is a smash and grab on the finance front.
My analysis is on the squad and their performances based on home game attendances and 3 away matches at Palace, Barnsley and Derby. Here is my take on what we have.
Darlow - I want him to succeed, not seen enough yet to know if he will but fairly clear it was not the manager`s idea to make him no 1. I agree Camp had to go having not signed a new contract and basically trying to see his contract out to get himself a free transfer. But AMc was so clear about wanting an 'experienced keeper` to come in that you can only conclude that the owners blocked it - possibly on the grounds that the new Kuwaiti keeper had just been accepted for a work permit that week. The fact that Burt was fired the day after the work permit hearing makes 2+2 = 4 in my book.
Defenders: - this is clearly the biggest problem area. Frankly none of them have really impressed me yet. Occasionally one or more of them have had a good game but overall too many mistakes, not enough pace and the full backs in particular have been poor. We have not seen a settled back 4 (or 3! Although the 2 times we flirted with a 3 it was horrible). Hutton looked good until he went back. Hutchinson looked good for a couple of games before getting injured. Halford is the new James Perch and can`t work out what his best position is - possibly centre back? Collins is too slow I believe and being captain makes him hard to drop. However I would try to buy yet another CB and play Halford alongside him and also buy another Left Back as Harding is not good enough for us and clearly its not Halford`s best position. Jara looks OK going
forward but he gives the ball away a lot. If Hutchinson was fit I would play him there. In reality we have a lot of names but no stand out players.
Midfield: - This is where we should be playing teams off the park but again it`s a case of occasional good games (Leeds second half) but a whole host of shockers. SO`D did not know his best midfield and it appears neither does AMc.
For me only Cohen stands out as the first name on the team sheet sort of player. Commitment is always 100%. Covers a lot of ground. Gives the ball away less than others - only drawback is lack of goals but personally he would be in my team - and captain - every game.
Reid has been second best midfield player but lack of pace shows and also feels the need to dominate the game himself but for what we have again deserves a starting place.
Lansbury has been the most disappointing. I had high hopes when he signed but he has been inconsistent but it could be said he has not had a long run in the side. Maybe one for next season? Majewski is another inconsistent player - loads of talent but we only see it occasionally. His finishing is poor - if this improved it would help!
Gillett was great at the start of the season but has gone off the boil a bit and started to make mistakes - eg Derby. Not sure if he has been effected by SO`D departure. Maybe when Adlene Guedioura gets back he could play that role as he has more power to his game. He is another than looks brilliant on occasions but again is inconsistent. Lewis had a run in the team at the start of the season but again is down the pecking order in terms of the first 11.
Of the names mentioned to come in - Boyd and Burke - not particularly convinced either will add to the mix, lack of pace still a big issue and width too.
Strikers: - I think we all yelled out a big YES when Sharp signed. He is quality and gives a lot but I thought he might have scored a few more by now. Maybe he is not getting enough service but still for me should start ahead of the other 3 strikers.
Cox looked good at the start of the season but gone off the boil a bit, Blackstock is a bit of cult hero at forest and one of the few to stick around for a bit but dreadful misses against Derby and Watford sums up his form at present. Henderson? Who knows - looks the sort you play a long ball to - hope there is more to him than that - maybe him and Sharp for a bit?
So in conclusion I feel we are few players short of a decent side but more importantly need consistency from the ones we have. The jury is out on how AMc will fare and the tactics he will adopt but calling the players brain dead in public may appease some fans but could give him grief in the dressing room. I think in all honesty we can write off the play offs this season, much that I want it. Cardiff, Watford, Hull & Leicester all look strong, Palace, Middlesbrough & Brighton all look better than us at present. Yes it can turn round with a run of 4 or 5 wins but we have not mustered more than 2 all season on the bounce and our goal difference is worse than the 9 teams above us.
When we look back on this season of change at the City Ground despite all the off field nonsense it will be the players on the pitch who have not been good enough. Go on prove me wrong over the next 17 games.
Best team from what we have :-
Jara (Hutchinson if fit) - Halford - Collins - Harding
Cohen ( C ) - Guedioura - Majewski - Reid
Sharp - Henderson
Subs - GK, Lansbury, Gillett, Cox, Blackstock, McGugan, Ward
Priority new Centre Back for Collins and new Left Back for Harding.
Thanks to Steve for an excellent appraisal on the season so far. You can follow Steve on twitter at @1962sb. If you would like to write an article for the front page of Vital Forest, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.