Despite currently leading the way as Nottingham Forest’s top scorer, there is something seriously wrong with Britt Assombalonga.
The Congolese hit man is a shadow of his former self at present and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. His form of late has been very poor and is getting consistently worse by the day.
It’s so easy to lay the boot into players when they suffer a dip in form but you tend to cut them some slack if it looks like they’re still putting in the effort. Unfortunately, I’m seeing a distinct lack of effort from Britt and I’d go as far as to say that his attitude is poor. He’s always been a thick set lad, given his African heritage but quite a few people are implying that he’s overweight and unfit.
Before I begin to throw the kitchen sink of insults at him, we must consider that he suffered a horrendous injury a couple of years ago, and has also spent a large portion of this campaign in the treatment room. He became a father last year, celebrating the birth of his baby daughter Amiyh in August 2016. It’s fair to say that his life has changed considerably in the last two years and that could well have contributed to his slump in form.
Assombalonga came to prominence when he moved from Watford to Peterborough United for a club record fee in 2013, the rest as they say is history. He was a massive hit for the Posh and scored almost at will before attracting the attention of Stuart Pearce at Forest. The burly forward is a larger than life character and soaked up the pressure of becoming the Reds record signing, the goals continued to flow and he looked like a snip at £5.5Million (possibly 7.5 with clauses). That early exuberance and energy is a tangible example of just how much he’s changed in recent times, he seems a shadow of that cock sure striker that everyone hated marking.
Cast your mind back to the 2014-15 season and the games against Derby County in particular, he caused havoc for the Rams in both encounters. He bullied Richard Keogh and found the net at both, The City Ground and away at the IPRO. However; It was like watching a different person as he moped around the pitch against Brighton last Saturday, constantly getting caught offside in the process. Regardless of whether he touched the ball or not for the opening goal, he was naïve enough to almost ruin the great team work that had provided the opportunity. Assombalonga barely broke into a sprint all game and seemed over apologetic to his team mates every time he lost possession, which was an awful lot.
The 24-year-old looks like a troubled man but I’m not convinced it’s purely down to the repercussions of his injuries. He looks mentally week and I get the feeling that he has issues off the pitch that are clouding his mind. I’m definitely not implying that it’s substance related or anything of the sort. Could it possibly be down to parenthood? I was lucky enough to interview Hull City’s Michael Dawson last week and he had this to say about becoming a parent for the first time; “I think it does affect your game mentality for a while, if you lose a game you don’t tend to dwell on it as much, when you go home to your family and kids, they give you the same love regardless”.
A major factor to take into consideration is the team formation, more often than not, Britt has found himself playing as a lone frontman. Given his natural physique, it’s glaringly obvious that he isn’t suited to such a role along with a few others let it be said. It’s odd how many managers and coaches opt for one up top these days, given the minimal number of players who can revel in that environment. Stan Collymore is one of the only people I can think of that could handle the lone striker mantle, his combination of brawn, speed and skill was an absolute rarity.
Could Gary Brazil’s recent switch to a staggered front two have been influenced by Assombalonga’s decline? It’s possible but with Ross McCormack and Ben Brereton available for selection, it seems unlikely that the manager would alter the shape of the side to accommodate one player.
The whole situation has been worsening for quite some time now; I remember having a debate with my mate Jitz Jani after the FA Cup defeat at Wigan. I scrutinised the substitution of Assombalonga by saying that it was the midfield not providing the service. Jitz, who was at the game said that “Britt barely put a jog in, never asked for the ball, projected poor body language and looked generally disinterested”. Given that the FA Cup exit happened at the turn of the year, it’s fair to say that there is a long-standing issue here that needs resolving.
As I’ve stated from the outset, I don’t intend to be fickle and just berate our striker because things aren’t going to plan. Brit Assombalonga is a great footballer and his record of almost one goal per two matches at Forest speaks for itself. I’m merely trying to highlight the issue vis the public domain because it seems the club are oblivious to it. None of us actually know the reasons for Assombalonga’s change in persona but I would strongly urge the man himself to work with Nottingham Forest’s sport phycologists to resolve this ever-worsening situation.