Thursday, 28 September 2017

Forest Five Asides: Matching Montanier, Twitter, new style, defender shopping, old boys

I try not to get too carried away by league tables until ten games have been played. Until you've played a decent range of teams both at home and away it's impossible to judge what constitutes a 'good start' but now, having reached that landmark, it's worth seeing where we're at.

Memories of Montanier


A total of 12 points from ten games means we've achieved exactly the same tally as this time last season (although the points came from three wins and three draws a year ago). The comparative calm off the field - and lack of a Burke-shaped deadline disaster - does still give hope that things might not turn as sour as they did under Phillippe Montanier. The Frenchman's reign was just another in a long list of false starts, but it's not just the points total that feels familiar. An inability to keep things tight at the back and a struggle to find a settled starting lineup do, to some extent at least, continue.

Twitter


None of that means I'm 'calling for Mark Warburton's head'. In fact, I can't help feeling that barely anyone really is. It seems these days that a few angry people on Twitter probably get a little too much attention and I've seen many more posts denouncing the 'Warburton Out' cries than I have genuine calls for his removal. Surely only a tiny minority would actually want to see the manager sacked at this stage? The vast majority of fans had modest ambitions for the season and, despite a run of five defeats in the last six games, there's no need to panic and presume that these can't be achieved. Indeed, anyone prone to panicking ought to have 'we stayed up on goal difference on the last day of the season and then sold our top striker' printed out and stuck on every wall of their house as a timely reminder. There's a long way to go.

Yet it's easy to see how one or two tweets can become a 'story' which, in turn, creates a skewed impression. Especially in a click-bait era in which cheap 'Twitter reacts' stories are churned out on an all-too-regular basis. Twitter can sometimes end up in a race to the bottom, with the most outrageous views getting shares and attention, and no-one is ever willing to admit a rash comment made in the heat of the moment was misplaced.

The Guardian's Football Weekly podcast remarked on Monday about the fact that Forest fans had been venting their frustrations on Twitter, which made me wince a little. It'd be a shame if we became known as 'one of those' fanbases that overreacts at every twist and turn. I mean, we're not Liverpool, right?

That's not to say that I'm calling for us all to be nodding dogs who slavishly go along with the 'regime'. Forest are making plenty of mistakes at the moment, and it's clearly fair to be worried about this. I think Seat Pitch summed up the balance to be struck in a piece this week, arguing:
"It doesn’t mean anyone is beyond criticism. It doesn’t mean we meekly stand by and watch a side give away soft goals week in, week out.But it does mean we’re in a process of renewal. It does mean that we trust the owner and the manager to have a plan and to stick to it. It does mean that there will be ups and downs."

Building from the ball, not the back


It's fair to say that the Warburton Way isn't going to be easy to adopt. He wants to develop a system that, by its very nature, will take longer to bed in. He certainly doesn't seem to have adopted the mantra of 'build from the back', in which received wisdom suggests you focus first on setting up a solid defence before anything else (although, conversely, 'build from the back' is what his sides do quite a lot!).

He prefers, it seems, to try to build a style that dominates possession - 'building from the ball' if you will. We shouldn't be afraid of new ideas and plenty of better teams than us try to starve the opposition of the ball. You can't, after all, concede if you're in charge of possession.

The challenge now is to avoid giving the ball away cheaply, learn how to cope with teams who put us under pressure by pressing high up the pitch and to become more dangerous on the ball in the final third. It's a different way, but that doesn't necessarily make it the wrong way. We've shown tantalising flashes of getting it right so far, if we can click then we might well be able to produce some exciting football.

Defender shopping


Still, a defensive recruit seemed an absolute must after last season's troubles and I can't help wondering if he regrets not prioritising this position now. Let's hope Frank McParland is scouring the leagues as we speak and can unearth another gem. His track record so far suggests that he's up to the task.

The current mob might've been tighter defensively under Dougie Freedman but we're not going to be playing 'Freedman football' under Warburton and it seems wishful thinking to me to think that they're good enough in the long run (although I hope I'm wrong, obviously).



Old Boys


If you needed a reminder about how long we've been out of the top flight then it was perhaps sobering to consider the case of Ryan Sessegnon on Tuesday night. The Fulham man wasn't even conceived, let alone born, when Forest last played a Premier League game.

I once used to fashion fantasy football teams from ex Forest players in the top flight in a vain attempt to cling on to our connection to the big time. I found out recently that I'm not alone - other fans of ex top flight teams have, apparently, been known to adopt a similar tactic.

But, could you even muster a Premier League XI from ex Reds now?

This is the best I could manage: Darlow, Kane, Bertrand, Lascelles, Morgan, Chalobah, Ramsey, Ince, Antonio, Burke, Akpom. It's a stretch given the number of loanees, that Todd Kane is a Chelsea player in name alone and Chuba Akpom is a footballer in name alone, but there you go. Did I miss anyone?

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