Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Heroes & Villains: Goals scored (8-19)

Another look at how Forest are scoring their goals, always useful when we're arguing about team selection. Over the season I'll try to build a picture of not only who is contributing, but how they are, and ultimately how the team tend to create. This is subjective stuff an thus my opinion.

All diagrams can be enlarged when clicked.

8. Barnsley (1-0) Simon Cox

This is the kind of goal Forest specialise in and, in my opinion, makes us something special in this division, because we do this kind of flowing move so consistently. Barnsley are defending in their own half, presenting The Reds with a packed and organised defence willing to press the ball, but Forest simply pass their way through it. The reason they're able to do this is not only the control and passing, but it's the subtle movement of the players in not only finding the space, but creating it. I want to highlight the awkward movement of Simon Cox in creating this opening - as Forest come over the half-way line he is being marked by Barnsley player Mvoto - he makes a diversionary run towards the ball away from the back four, dragging Mvoto with him until the defender gives up - he is now out of position. Cox appearing among the Barnsley midfielders distracts them - they now have an extra man to think about. As Forest pass the ball forward, from Cohen to Reid to Lansbury, all suddenly finding room (partly because Cox's presence has added an extra man in midfield), the Forest striker runs back towars the defenders, who don't close him down because there is confusion as to whether a mifielder should be marking him. Cox then finds the space in front of the back four to play in Mackie. Typically for Forest Mackie's shot is saved, but Cox is still the man with the initiative and swoops in for the rebound. Great movement from Cox, he deserved the goal.

Goal: Cox
Assist: Mackie
Key contributions: Cohen, Reid & Lansbury (passing move).

9. Barnsley (2-1) Own Goal

Andy Reid's free-kick from the right wing causes this own goal. Simon Cox draws the foul, the Barnsley defender roughing him off the ball. Reid's in-swinging free-kick is a great delivery into a dangerous area.

Goal: O.G.
Assist: Reid
Key contribution: Cox

10. Barnsley (3-2) Darius Henderson

Henderson, always dangerous in the air, meets a perfectly placed corner from Andy Reid. He's just too strong for the Barnsley defender (Wiseman - he got a lot of stick post match from the Barnsley fans, but I have sympathy for him, Henderson was too strong). The corner is resultant from a good piece of work and a cross from Djamel Abdoun.

Goal: Henderson.
Assist: Reid.
Key contribution: Abdoun.

11. Middlesbrough (1-2) Matt Derbyshire

As Forest pile on the pressure Middlesbrough finally crack - Reid (again) with a pinpoint cross straight onto the head of well positioned Matt Derbyshire. Nothing complicated in this goal, just Forest besieging and breaching a determined defence, who fall apart under the constant pressure.

Goal: Derbyshire.
Assist: Reid.
Key contribution: Abdoun.

12. Middlesbrough (2-2) Darius Henderson

Forest are still squeezing their opponents, putting in cross after cross and they eventually gets the equaliser as The Smoggies crumble under the cumulative attacks. Similar to the goal Forest conceded against Charlton recently, when you put a team under pressure after pressure, they will get loose - it's just a case of not being to instantly re-organise and pick up every threat time after time after time. After another cross from Cohen, the ball falls to Lichaj in the area, his low cross finds Henderson who stabs in. By now 'Boro are no longer marking - they have stopped organising momentarily - Forest have other players in the box also unmarked, notably Jamie Mackie stood lonely near the penalty spot.

I've not noted this in the credits below, but this is really a team goal, since the whole team were responsible for the continual pressure, which in my opinion caused Middlesbrough's organisation to collapse.

Goal: Henderson.
Assist: Lichaj.
Key contribution: Cohen.

13. Doncaster (1-1) Chris Cohen

In my article on goals conceded, I point out that we're vulnerable because our full-backs push forward so much - a tactical feature of Forest since the return of Billy Davies. This goal is an example of why we do this, and why it's more beneficial than harmful. Left-back Chris Cohen pushed further more often than most in his position - his being a midfielder helps in this respect, I think it makes him more confident to enter uncharted territory. Against Doncaster he does this again, making himself available in the box and with just one thing on his mind, he receives the ball from Andy Reid and knocks in a pearler.

Goal: Cohen
Assist: Reid
Minor contribution: Lichaj - only a minor contribution because his cross was over-hit and collected by Reid, who teed up Cohen

14. Doncaster (2-2) Andy Reid

A gap in the Rovers midfield allowed Reidy to smash home from range. Doncaster had been leaving space in front of their defence quite a lot throughout the game, and Reid had picked up on this, often making himself available here. We've seen before how lethal he can be if allowed space to look up - here is another example. It's an interesting goals from a tactical point of view because Donny were winning at the time - why weren't they defending this space more vigilantly? A costly error.

It's a decisive piece of play with Forest playing a ball into one of the forwards who lays it off well to Reid, the goal only worked because we used the ball very efficiently.

Goal: Reid
Assist: Henderson with the lay off. I'm only 80% sure it was Henderson, and the footage isn't conclusive either but it looks like him - shout up if this is wrong.

15. Derby (1-0) Jack Hobbs

The Goal of the Season so far (until the next time we play Derby) was scored from another Andy Reid corner following good work and a deflected shot from Eric Lichaj. Hobbs runs onto Reid's perfect cross at the near post.

At first glance this appears simple, but under further study it appears to be a well orchestrated, very deliberate training ground routine. Hobbs runs around the melee occurring in front of goal, into space and scores, but he is being marked. However, Lansbury is acting as a blocker, allowing Hobbs to run into this pre-determined spot to which Reid is aiming for (see diagram). Lansbury is not interested in the ball, he's interested in stopping defenders bothering Hobbs. Mackie is also probably just acting as a diversion, and he's also there to make it more difficult for Derby players to get out to where the cross 'lands'. It's a better goal than it looks first off - made even better by the fact it's Derby.

Goal: Hobbs
Assist: Reid
Key contribution: Lansbury (block)
Minor contribution: Mackie (positional)

16. Charlton (1-0) Andy Reid

It's Reidy again making a nuisance of himself. As I've talked about in a recent article - this one for Seat Pitch, here if you've not read it, Forest this season are more concerned with getting crosses into the box, and they do this by wrestling for possession in the wide areas. Here Reid is just battling for the ball with the Charlton left-back, and draws a foul. You will see Forest doing this a lot, because if they manage to get a free-kick in these areas they can fulfil their objective; get a cross in. This is exactly what happens here, and Reid takes the free-kick himself, the cross going straight in. You would have to say it's a fortunate goal, however the cross is perfect - it deserved something. The Andy Reid Goal Factory goes from strength to strength.

Goal: Reid.

17. Brighton (1-1) Henri Lansbury

Another goal from a corner, with Henri Lansbury making a similar run to the one Hobbs scored with against Derby. We're now getting some real evidence of Forest working successfully on their corner routines, as this one is also a pre-planned manoeuvre. The three attackers (Hobbs, Lansbury and Henderson) form three prongs of attack, with Lansbury heading for the near post, and scoring with a great header. Forest seem usually to go for these near post corners (how many times have you been sat there chuntering to yourself about it not beating the first man? I know I have. It seems on reflection that they are aiming for the first man's area, at the near post - so the defender will win a lot of these).

Goal: Lansbury
Assist: Majewski (corner taker).
Key contribution: Cohen (created the corner).
Minor contribution: Henderson (possible block, certainly a distraction).

18. Brighton (2-1) Darius Henderson

Forest's second goal against Brighton is a contender for Goal of the Season, because of the difficulty in stopping this very decisive piece of play. A direct ball is played in to Henderson, who lays it off to Cohen on the left-wing. Cohen crosses to Cox, who produces a brilliant piece of technique to lay the ball into Henderson's path. The big man knocks it in on the half volley. Forest touch the ball only 5 times in the Brighton half.

I can't produce a diagram able to do this goal justice, watch it if you've not seen.

This goal highlights a couple of issues, firstly the benefit of having a (in my opinion) a midfielder playing at left-back - Cohen is able to over-lap the Forest midfield and get in the cross - and also the creativity of Simon Cox, whose contribution to the team has been under question recently.

Goal: Henderson
Assist: Cox
Key contribution: Cohen

19. Brighton (3-1) Henri Lansbury

Henri Lansbury's penalty finished off Brighton after some good work by himself and Simon Cox in the lead-up. Cox makes a run as the Brighton defence is totally out of shape, and is brought down in the area.

There has been hot debate as to the worth of Cox - this is another instance that hints at his true role, because of his behaviour in gaining the penalty. As with the second goal against Brighton, Cox does not try to get an attempt on goal himself - when receiving the pass, with one man to beat, he pivots his body to turn away from goal in an effort to consolidate possession in this dangerous position. Once again his remit is to work with his back to goal to help Forest keep possession high up the pitch, in my opinion this is what he's attempting here, presumably he was about to lay the ball off to Henderson, who would have been baring down on goal with an easy chance.

This is a good example of poor defending - see the diagram to see the skewwhiff shape of the Brighton back four. The player marking Cox is totally out of position, which makes the ball played by Lansbury ridiculously easy, both to spot, and to play.

In light of recent misses, it's interesting that Lansbury took, and scored the spot-kick. It wasn't the best penalty, but he sent the keeper the wrong way and scored. We've missed the odd penalty this season, and it seems undecided who is to take them, which is odd from a layman's point of view - I'd have thought your best penalty taker would take all of them, but in the ego-driven world of professional football, who that is that may be debatable issue.

Goal: Lansbury
Assist: Cox

This edition on Heroes & Villains (goals scored) is long in coming - I've not had time due to work commitments so am a little behind as I like to be as detailed as I reasonably can. I thought it would be better to break it off here, before the Bournemouth & Yeovil games.

It does show that before the international break, we were scoring more than our fair share of goals. Since then we've been punished a couple of times for not being clinical - but the examples above prove that we can finish. It also shows the high amount of crosses that are leading to goals, as talked about in the Seat Pitch article, linked above.

Thanks for reading. There will be a detailed analysis of who is making what contribution in the next edition of Heroes & Villains, so look out for that as it shows the actual contribution that some of the less regarded players are making. Any suggestions or alterations would be warmly received here.

Heroes & Villains: Goals 1-7

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Preview: Yeovil v Forest

After a draw against “minnows” Bournemouth, Forest travel down to Somerset to face bottom of the table Yeovil this weekend. Our opponents are struggling badly, and are a much smaller team with far inferior resources, so this should be an easy day out? Or is it that simple?

This is The Championship, and thus there are no easy games of course – as proven recently (but we’ll get to that later). However, the merest peek at Yeovil’s record this season should give Forest confidence; our opponents have not won at home this season – indeed they have only scored one goal. Overall, they have gone 11 league games without winning, and their manager is already chopping and changing the team, dropping fans favourites and publicly stating his players are not good enough to stay in the division. On paper, I have never seen such an easy place for Forest to go and collect three points.

It is interesting to draw a comparison between the goal-scoring exploits of Forest, and Yeovil, who are yet to score a goal from open play at home this season. Questions have been asked of The Garibaldi in front of goal, but at least they are scoring – it is when you look at Yeovil’s success, particularly at home, that you see a side really struggling to hit the net, despite creating chances (see stats, left, which are enlargeable if clicked). Yeovil have had 80 attempts on goal at home so far - more than their opponents, who have had 66 attempts, yet they have still floundered.

It is this lack of goals that has cost The Glovers, who have otherwise been doing well. Luck has played a big role in their league position – they have actually outplayed many of the teams that have beaten them, coming up against some great goalkeeping displays and some terrible luck at both ends of the pitch. There are definite flaws in Yeovil’s game, but for some reason the majority of opponents were unable to exploit their weaknesses, instead relying on good fortune. I don’t remember watching such an unlucky team, away or home, where they have won just 1 point out of 18 despite only Derby really deserving to beat them.

Yeovil are a brave team who work very hard, and can pass the ball around surprisingly, but Forest won’t have to rely on being as lucky as the likes of QPR and Reading, because there are gaping holes in the Town's defence waiting to be exploited. It is difficult to explain why the above, former Premiership teams, struggled against The Glovers – perhaps they underestimated them? Forest must not.

The obvious problem for Yeovil is that they leave a lot of space in wide areas, particularly in their own half. They play with a standard back four but often the wide defenders, particularly the left back, gets dragged out of position, or is just absent in the first place. Their regular left-back is club captain Jamie McAllister and has just returned from a lay-off. He is coming to the end of his career and has looked off the pace so far this season.

Yeovil’s defensive priorities don’t help this problem; they saturate the middle of the pitch with players when defending, apparently happy to ignore space on their flanks unless there is an imminent threat. Their players instinctively clog up the centre as if traumatised by past events in what is clearly a deliberate tactic.

I believe I have found the source of this trauma in the earlier home game against Derby. The Rams gave Yeovil an absolute mauling in the centre of the pitch, passing their way through at will as the Yeovil defenders, although reasonably positioned, struggled to anticipate and zero in on the clever movement and technique of the Derby players. There were similar problems against Birmingham in the cup.

The exposal of his defenders’ shortcomings probably prompted Gary Johnson to condense their defensive shape to allow less space in this crucial central area – since then, Yeovil have played very narrow, their defenders reluctant to press into wide areas until they absolutely have to. Their safety in numbers has worked to a certain extent so far, in that it has not been exploited fully, however both goals conceded at Ipswich were direct results of leaving space in deep wide positions (see diagrams, above).

When the full-backs are forced to defend in wide positions, the rest of the team often remain in their central fortress. This is catastrophic as it leaves a big gap in the defensive line ideal for attackers to run into, a gap which wouldn’t be there if the defence shuffled across to meet the danger as they should when the ball is threatening them from a wide area of the pitch. A good example of this hurting them was the goal conceded against Reading (see diagram, left).

Forest’s usual game-plan seems custom fit to exploit the space our opponents leave in these wide positions. Yeovil have struggled to get tackles in as their opponents have come forward with the ball, instead retreating, and concentrating on clogging up the central area around the penalty box. Forest’s technical players might find success in holding onto the ball, and playing in the full-backs as they advance into this wide space (see diagram, right).

Yeovil seem adequately geared up to defend against teams trying to pass their way through them, but struggle when the ball is played into wide areas and crossed, or when the ball is in one wide area, and is switched forcing a transition to defending against the opposite wing – they are slow to respond to this manoeuvring, I can see Forest causing havoc when crossing the ball, both by the full-backs, and the wide midfielders making secondary runs into these areas.

This might also be a good game for Billy’s much lamented use of the strikers. As the likes of Simon Cox drift wide to keep possession in the wide areas, if Yeovil fail to shuffle across the space in their back line will be exploited by the likes of Raddy Majewski (see diagram, left) – his love of drifting into this very area has already been documented in previous articles..

Billy’s team selection will be interesting. In defence, Kelvin Wilson will return, but more revealing will be the choice of right-back, with Eric Lichaj available again. I have a gut feeling Billy will give Gonzalo Jara another game – this selection may well indicate whether Davies sees Jara as a squad player, or as back-up for Lichaj – if the latter is the case I expect to see Jara push for a move (which would be a shame) to boost his claim in the Chilean World Cup squad.

Nathan Chalobah should return in midfield, but the suspension of Henri Lansbury gives Billy the chance to try another combination ahead of him. Having scouted Yeovil, we will surely stick with our diamond system with overlapping full-backs. I would like to see Majewski retain his place at it’s tip, because this area of the pitch will be congested by the Yeovil players, we need someone playing here who can move the ball on efficiently, and also he may find success in any space around Yeovil's back four. I’d like to see Djamel Abdoun in place of Lansbury, with the extra space out wide he might have room to produce something spectacular.

Forest’s forwards took a lot of stick after they failed to put away Bournemouth – I cannot see Billy dropping them after their particularly poor performance, primarily because of the effect this might have on their morale. Davies has publicly backed them this week, and on paper this appears to be the ideal game for them to pick up some confidence

A trip to the smallest club in the league cannot, in light of recent events, be allowed to pass without mentioning the expectations, sometimes verging on arrogance, of a section of Forest fans. It is important for modern Tricky Trees not to live in the past and think we’re automatically better than any of our opponents – we are all in this league on merit. It was with shock and, perhaps even a sense of shame, that I read last week’s article in the Nottingham Post – admittedly scribed by a fan but prima facie representational of us all as a club. This episode should serve as an example that, even forgetting the vulgarity of belittling the traditionally less successful, such haughtiness is highly counter-productive. The article was mentioned by Bournemouth staff, before and after the game, cited as a motivating factor for their players. Despite the possibility of it being somewhat tongue-in-cheek, goal-scorer Marc Pugh took it seriously and rammed it down our collective throats, and the over-reaction to not beating Bournemouth perhaps suggests that some fans agreed with the article's general sentiment.


 Over expectation is a two edged sword; it spurs on our opponents and weighs down our own players. I try not to get involved in political debate, however I see this as such a big factor for Forest that it becomes almost tangible and detrimental to the performance of the team, and thus I deem it a tactical issue – one which we can affect from the stands. We have no divine right to beat Bournemouth, or Yeovil for that matter, and no right to look down on them until we have earned it with points at the end of the season. The team, and the fans, need to respect other teams or it will come back to bite us.

But I digress. Despite this being The Championship, a league where anything can happen, this certainly is a game there for the taking, but Forest have to merit their victory by playing better than the majority of teams who have gotten lucky against Yeovil, because The Glovers are due some fortune. Forest are good enough to remove luck from the equation, especially against a team with weaknesses that seem (to me) tailored to suit Forest’s strengths. Yeovil will have scouted Forest and should be wary of allowing space in wide areas, because of Forest’s tactic of pushing forward the full-backs, and also their focus on getting in more crosses, but if Gary Johnson’s side play as they have been doing, I can see Forest having a field day. Both teams have faced questions of their goal-scoring prowess, this will be a reasonably open game so one way or another those questions will probably be answered on Saturday.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this game, either below, or preferably on City Ground Faithful forum, here. Safe journey if you’re going, and COYR!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Stat Attack: The international break effect

With Forest stringing together 6 unbeaten games in the league, there have been questions of whether the international break has come at the wrong time. I began this article with a perception that international breaks tend to hinder The Reds, and that we have to almost start again afterwards. Is this the case?

It has long been an opinion of mine that our opposition see Forest as one of the teams to beat, and so scout us closely and adjust their tactics to nullify ours - therefore we 'get found out' more than most teams, because we are seen as dangerous opponents and face a high level of scrutiny. This ties into my thoughts on the international break because our subsequent opponents have all had an extra two weeks to study and plot against us. Our approaching opponents, Bournemouth, Yeovil & Blackpool will all have spent many hours watching videos of The Garibaldi searching for ways to stop us.

This is exactly what happened to Forest towards the end of last season; Billy's diamond system was mercilessly picked apart during the March international break - beforehand Forest were on the rampage, but the weaknesses were there, and with the extra time to do their homework, teams not only found ways to smother our attack, but they found our Achilles heel in defence.

Unfancied Teams like Barnsley and Blackpool came to The City Ground knowing to defend against Forest by denying space in front of the penalty area, and away from home teams were also well prepared, with Burnley and Middlesbrough in particular knowing how to deny us the initiative. However, it was the way Cardiff knew our real vulnerability that proves the point best; The Bluebirds deliberately looked for space in front of our full-backs and swung in cross after cross - they had been watching and knew it was our weakness.

We won all of our five games before the March international break scoring 15 points; in the equivalent period afterwards we won none, managing only 3 points. It is difficult to believe this drop from averaging 3 PPG (points per game) to averaging 0.6 PPG is coincidental; the international break proved disastrous for Forest's promotion push on that occasion, but was it typical? How have international breaks effected Forest's form generally?
Since the 2007/2008 season, Forest have been involved in 18 international breaks. Analysing Forest's form going into the break, and immediately afterwards, does tend to indicate that the break is a disruptive factor in The Red's form - it is just a question of how disruptive, and then deciding whether this is coincidental.
Of the 18 international breaks, Forest's form was affected, by more than an average of 0.5 PPG, on 12 occasions. Over a short period, 0.5 PPG is quite significant, for example, we went into the break in September 2010 having drawn three and lost two - after the break we went unbeaten for the five game period, winning two - the turnaround was obvious, but only brought a 0.6 PPG difference on average.
Bigger disruptions in form are less prevalent, but they are still quite regular. Of the 18 international breaks, Forest's form was disrupted by more than 0.9 PPG (a drastic turnaround) on 7 of the 18 occasions.

So in general, those 18 international breaks did disrupt form, at least to a certain extent - but was it coincidental? That is impossible to say, however I ran a test, twice, inventing my own 18 international breaks at random points during the same period (from the start of the 2007 season until today). Neither test reproduced the same level of disruption in Forest's form. Although two tests is hardly conclusive, I feel it's indicative enough to be reasonably certain that the international break's effect on form is no coincidence.

If we accept there to be an influence on form, we naturally ask, has it tended to be a positive or negative influence? Contrary to my initial thoughts, it appears to be neither a positive nor negative effect - it is merely a disruption in form. As a matter of fact, during the 18 occasions, Forest's form has been effected positively more than negatively, on 9 out of the 18 occasions (with one instance of he exact same form).
With Saturday's game against Bournemouth in mind, I looked at the games immediately after the breaks - this is more worrisome, with Forest averaging 1.33 points in those games. During the same period, Forest have averaged (in theory) 1.43 points per game, so they have slightly underperformed in the games just after the 18 international breaks.

So was my theory that Forest are generally hindered by the international break correct? Well, no. As it happens I got that wrong - the past has shown that it is likely that our form will be effected, however it also shows that it could go either way, and since Forest aren't really in a red hot streak, only winning two of their past five games, chance indicates that the break could easily prove beneficial.

Forest have not really got going yet, especially since the departure of Adlene Guedioura. This break could be just what Billy Davies and his team needed. We have seen tactical issues in midfield - with The Garibaldi looking comparatively weak defensively in front of the back four. There are also players working on their fitness - the extra two weeks can only have helped these two issues.
For these reasons, I predict that Forest's form will take a turn for the better over the next few games - I'll even have a ridiculous effort at predicting Forest's points tally. Based on our current form, and what's occurred after the past international breaks, I predict Forest will pick up 11 points from the next five games, based on a) the likelihood of the effect being positive, and b) the probability that this effect will be at least 0.6 PPG, and  c) our current form being 1.6 points per game (PPG). If these wildly unscientific assumptions come off, Forest will pick up an average of 2.2PPG against Bournemouth, Yeovil, Blackpool, Leicester and Burnley and will have 33 points. Here's hoping my "calculations" come true!

Thanks for reading. I hope the stat-crunching hasn't been too boring (please say so if an article has bored you, preferably with reasons why - negative, constructive, feedback is just as welcome as praise) and if you can spot the (not) deliberate mistake first I'll send you a signed Mars Bar. You can leave feedback on here, or preferably on citygroundfaithful forum. It's a nice calm place to discuss Forest, feel free to come and discuss. COYR!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Heroes & Villains: Goals conceded (4-11)

My second look at how Forest are conceding their goals. This edition neatly takes stock of Forest without Guedioura - the loss of whom, in my opinion, has caused defensive confusion in front of our back four as Billy was forced back to the drawing board. Before Gueddy's departure we conceded 0.6 goals per game on average, since, we have conceded 1.3 GPG. Will the manner of those goals shed any light on why Forest have conceded more?

These posts are, it must be pointed out, my opinion unless otherwise stated - if I've missed something, or got something wrong, or you just disagree or have something to add, feel free to let me know - it will help build a better picture.

4. Barnsley 1-1 (Chris O'Grady) (penalty).

I'll stick to the short version because there's so much going on in the build up to this goal - which is basically caused by Barnsley's positivity and endeavour exploiting confusion in the Forest midfield. At the game I thought it a clumsy piece of poor positioning from Moussi - I was wrong. During the build up, Barnsley have Forest outnumbered down our left - be it good movement or poor defending, they have a spare player - this causes confusion as to who our midfielders should be picking up (see diagram, right, which is enlargeable when clicked and shows different stages to the attack). Chris Cohen - possibly because he can see how outnumbered we are - darts out of the defence to help Andy Reid, leaving a gap into which Perkins runs. Moussi then spots the danger but can only clatter into Perkins (giving away the penalty) because he had to leave his own man at the very last second. In my opinion The Moose got caught out trying to compensate for his team-mates confusion in marking Perkins - it is difficult to say which of Lansbury & Majewski should have picked him up - Majewski had him last but he was at least doing something - it's difficult to see what Lansbury was contributing defensively. Perhaps this is best put down to good work from Barnsley. If you get a chance, have a closer look at their movement for this goal, it's excellent.

Chris O'Grady slotted away the penalty giving Darlow little chance - no 'keeper error here. The goal should have been disallowed though as at least one Barnsley player was in the box when the penalty was struck.

Players out of position: Difficult. Should Cohen have come out of the defence? Will give him the benefit of the doubt. Majewski or Lansbury should have followed Perkins.
Players beaten for skill: Moussi (mitigating circumstances).
Goalkeeper error? No.

5. Barnsley (2-2) Tomasz Cywyka

Long range free-kick reminiscent of the one scored by Lewis McGugan not long ago. The foul was by Moussi as Forest were being hit on the break - but it looked soft. There was no need to give the referee a decision though, as the Barnsley player was not threatening goal. Darlow had no chance.

Players out of position: None
Players beaten for skill: Moussi
Goalkeeping error? No.

6. Middlesbrough (0-1) Kei Kamara

A recurring theme over the next few games begins here - Forest are hit on the break as teams exploit our tendency to push forward the full-backs. Here, centre-back Greg Halford becomes isolated out in the left-back position (Cohen is up the pitch). He is beaten for skill by Albert Adomah, who has plenty of time to run into the area and play an accurate cross for Kamara to slot in from close range. Being ultra-critical you could say Halford should have tried to hold up Adomah instead of getting too tight and attempting the tackle - but if you're a skilful winger this is exactly the situation you are paid for - Adomah comes up with the goods, 'Boro go 1-0 up.

Forest play exciting, attacking football which means taking risks at the back. We do this by pushing forward Cohen & Lichaj - you won't hear any complaints from me - as you don't when we score because of their extra pressure - but it means we will inevitably concede goals like this one. I personally put this goal down to a vulnerability in our tactics - all teams have them.

Players out of position: You can't blame Cohen for not being there considering our tactics. None.
Players beaten for skill: Halford.
Goalkeeping error? No.

7. Middlesbrough (0-2) George Friend

Forest are hit on the counter-attack and outnumbered at the back while pressing for an equaliser - the midfield simply don't get back. Lichaj does well to hold up a Middlesbrough player, but in doing so is dragged out of position, and Friend launches an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

I can remember at the time watching the space develop, but I couldn't say which midfielders were to blame for not getting back - it would depend what positions they were playing in at that moment too. Abdoun was on the left wing, Reid was playing in the defensive role (and was actually back defending) - should Majewski or Lansbury have been back quicker? I'll need suggestions on this one, otherwise I'll just put this goal down to being caught on the counter-attack.

Players out of position: Difficult to say - considering we were chasing the game, none?
Players beaten for skill: None.
Goalkeeping error? No.

8. Doncaster (0-1) Federico Macheda

Both goals scored by Doncaster were due to our final two defenders becoming isolated at the back. Macheda's first was created by Theo Robinson running at the Forest defence and keeping the two defenders occupied while the second wave of attack ran into a flanking position. Only Jack Hobbs and Eric Lichaj bothered doing any defending here whatsoever - Halford switching off completely, and the defensive midfielder Nathan Chalobah not tracking Macheda's run.

This is a difficult goal to accept because it should not have occurred; at no stage has a Forest player been beaten for skill, nor are we outnumbered, some of our players have decided not to track back. You could suggest our attacking ethos comes into this, but there has to be some balance - the players have to be interested in defending as well.

Players out of position: Halford & Chalobah.
Players beaten for skill: None.
Goalkeeping error? No.

9. Doncaster (1-2) Federico Macheda

Macheda's second goal was as bad as the first. Forest have advanced their full-backs as is their style - this is not something to complain about because it results in attacking excitement (and in fact, goals) but when they go forwards the midfield must be aware of the gaps it leaves - in this case there were midfielders in a position to help out but the didn't.

Forest lose the ball on the half-way line, and Robinson again has a run at the two defenders, this time Hobbs & Halford. They do a good job in holding him up, but Doncaster players make runs to either side of them, and are able to receive the ball in time and space because no Forest players are quick enough back to intervene, or even put thm under pressure.

The most disappointing part of this goal is the role of Richie Wellens. Never known for his pace, he is now 33 years old, yet he was still able to outsprint the Forest midfield and ease himself into a dangerous, unmarked position, where he was able to play an accurate pass for Macheda to score. The closest player to him was Chalobah - 15 years his junior. Billy Davies has stated on several occasions the Chelsea loanee is not fit - hopefully this explains his lack of urgency during this game. I see it as another example of how the loss of Adlene Guedioura has effected the team defensively.

On the positive side, these goals are all symptoms of Forest's attacking intent, something Davies should be praised for, but this is a critique pointing out why we're conceding goals so it needs pointing out that it is costing us goals - in fact Doncaster's second goal was the 5th is a row where Forest were caught out when pushing forward.

Players out of position: Lansbury & Chalobah were definitely in a position to track back quicker and help the defence, Lichaj was too although his instructions to push forward mitigate this.
Players beaten for skill: None.
Goalkeeping error? No.

10. Charlton (1-1) Marvin Sordell

The build up to Charlton's goal is both interesting from a tactical point of view, and gives a broad hint at what has been Forest's weakness in front of the defence. As Charlton attack down Forest's right, Lichaj comes out of the defence to press the ball - not ideal but the Forest defence adjust well. Hobbs pushes out to the right back position as Chalobah slots back into the back four. They do this smoothly - it was nicely organised, but it just goes to prove that even when a team has shuffled successfully and are covering everything they should, if you have different personnel in critical positions you are weaker; in this case Chalobah isn't quite savvy enough as a central defender and strays out of the back four - leading directly to Charlton's first (deflected) shot on goal, and indirectly to the goal because The Reds don't recover and concede from he resultant melee.

This goal is interesting because it's another example, like the Barnsley penalty incident discussed above, of a Forest defender abandoning his position in the back four to press an area in front of him. Is this a regular occurrence? I've a theory it's happening more because the midfield aren't as organised defensively, forcing the defenders to take matters into their own hands - something for us to look out for.

During the melee Forest's defenders don't pick up Sordell, and he has plenty of space to knock in a low cross - Darlow once again has no chance. The closest player to him was Danny Collins who does not react well enough to pick him up - however it all happens very quickly. Charlton were all over Forest at times during this game; there was always going to be a time when the defenders didn't quite react quickly enough considering the pressure.

Players out of position: Chalobah strays out of the back four leading to the initial gap, Collins - Sordell was in acres of space in his area.
Players beaten for skill: None.
Goalkeeping error? No.

11. Brighton (0-1) Andrew Crofts

Brighton's goal results from a deep cross, knocked down and finished from close range. At first I thought Chalobah was a little lax in allowing the cross so easily - but since the Brighton winger was clever in his movement away from Chally, and acted quickly, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I thought the problem was that it was not dealt with as well as it could have been. Chris Cohen wasn't at all convincing in defending the aerial threat, and I think the other players were surprised that the Brighton player was able to have a swipe at the ball - Crofts reacted first and stooped to head in.

Players out of position: None.
Players beaten for skill: Cohen in defending the cross. Crofts beats two defenders to the ball, but I can' definitely say they were at fault.
Goalkeeping error? No.


Thanks for reading if you've survived this far - I'll try to keep these shorter in future. I think it's been a useful exercise even this early because it's providing hints that are starting to confirm our theories that the loss of Adlene Guedioura, and more importantly the subsequent necessity to change the game plan and organisation that Billy has been working on over the summer, has left Forest weaker in front of the back four, effectively sending Billy back to the drawing board. For example, in our first 5 games (before Guedioura's departure) none of our goals were due (even partially) to players out of position (the midfield were working as a unit and had an understanding) whereas this has risen to 50% in the last 6 games. Forest's midfield organisation has been lost in the reshuffle, and we're seeing gaps in front of the defence - I've a further theory that this (relative, I must stress) lack of organisation is leading to the players more comfortable with their responsibilities, trying to make up for our weakness and themselves being tempted out of position (see goals 4 and 10, above).

Also, the less diligent defending of space has meant that, where before our opponents had to beat us with skill - this has not been the case since the shake-up in our midfield (see graphic, above).

At risk of sending you to sleep, I'll look at this in more detail later. Thanks for reading. As a disclaimer, this is not meant to be a dig at (4th in the league) Forest, more an examination of how we're conceding goals, something that every team will do. Personally I think the loss of a key player has given The Garibaldi a serious knock, and it's a testament that they are still one of the best sides in the league. They are doing brilliantly to be getting these results considering they are not at their best.

I'd appreciate help in refining this series - I'll definitely have missed things or made errors, the more people help the more vivid picture we'll have of how Forest are conceding (and scoring) their goals. You can comment below, or preferably here on citygroundfaithful. Thanks for any help.
 
COYR!
 
Read the last article on goals conceded here.