If you were tired of defensive tactics at Nottingham Forest, then prepare yourself for the complete opposite under Philippe Montanier!
The Frenchman, Forest’s first ever foreign manager, has certainly been true to his word. From the outset, he stated his intent on playing out from the back. Well; if you were in attendance at the City Ground on Saturday, it was blindingly obvious that this was indeed the new order.
However, in stark contrast to the avant-garde mentality, there was a concerning lack of defensive discipline. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that conceding three at home is a worry, but on the flip side, we didn’t score four in any single game last season. Of course, it’s too early to make assumptions based on this performance; especially given the actual team selection.
With a much changed line up, Forest still showed the basic framework of a Dougie Freedman formation by going 4-1-4-1. The unfortunate absentees were Eric Lichaj, David Vaughan, and Jamie Ward; with the likes of Mancienne, Cohen, Pinillos and Fryatt succumbing to injuries. The biggest shock was the inclusion of so many youngsters; Grant, Cash, Burke and Lacovitti were refreshingly thrown into the fray by the new gaffer. Despite all the upheaval, the reds endeavoured to a 4-3 victory.
These changes paved the way for the new signings such as Lam, Pereira, Kasami and Henderson to make their debuts; some fared better than others but their collective inclusion definitely enhanced the manager’s ethos. Especially Pereira, who bombed on at every opportunity and left the field to a standing ovation from the supporters.
Lam, despite his well taken goal, was a liability in defence and will surely be replaced by either Mancienne or Damien Perquis given time; despite a successful season behind him, Matt Mills also struggled to impress. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a centre half pairing of Perquis and Mancienne given a road test before October. Mancienne has been linked with Olympiacos (where have we heard of them before?) but I can’t see that happening. Why am I not impressed by Thomas Lam? He’s built like a racing snake and will get absolutely battered in the Championship.
When all’s said and done, we won the game and took maximum points. We also made hard work of what should have been a walkover; fair play to Nigel Clough for going 4-4-2 and not parking the bus. It was brilliant to see him jump out of the dugout and respond to the A block when they requested a wave; forever a legend at Forest.
The encouraging facets of this opening encounter were the performances of people like kasami, who stabilised and dictated the pace of the game when he came on, also the game time for Matty Cash and Lacovitti who both did well. Jorge Grant was inept and needs to reassess his mindset. Since scoring at White Hart lane last year he seems to think he’s made it; the lad needs to break a sweat if he’s going to succeed.
I cannot dwell on this opening day encounter too much because there are too many variables; new manager, disjointed side, injury to De Vries and the odd suspension. Given all the adversities, it’s just a normal day at the world famous city ground. What I can say is this; we only stayed up by virtue of a solid defence last season. Despite the new philosophy, you’d be crazy to completely reassemble the back four.
So to stick my neck on the block, I’ll give you my favoured line up. If you’re going to play out from the back, you don’t need to play 4-1-4-1. You should be confident enough to play 4-4-2 or very similar. When you have ball playing centre halfs, you don’t need a buffer and that guy should NEVER be Henri Lansbury. Despite my criticisms, he should always be an attacking midfielder. I would replace Osborn with Jamie Paterson and give him a run of at least seven consecutive games to prove himself. This will upset a few people but I feel that Osborn has reached his peak.
Barring injuries; this is the side and formation I’d select from what Montanier has at his disposal.
4-4-2/4-4-1-1 De Vries
Pereira Mills/Perquis Mancienne Pinillos
Burke Kasami Cohen/Vaughan Paterson