The first international break of the season is usually a hindrance for Championship clubs, but for a beleaguered Nottingham Forest, it’s come at just the right time.
Forest suffered their very first defeat of the season last Saturday at Brentford, which triggered angry reactions from the supporters across the various social media platforms, especially Twitter.
Most of the comments alluded to the manner of the defeat as opposed to the loss in general. As I trawled through the masses of comments from Reds fans, there was a common denominator, the holding midfield pairing of Ben Watson and Jack Colback. And as I read each one, I found myself agreeing that they are just too similar to one another.
At this point, some might say that’s a bit fickle, given the way in which they performed together at the end of last season. But, as my brother pointed out to me as we left Griffin Park on Saturday, that was a period of stability. This season, for all intents and purposes is geared up for a promotion push on the front foot. The signings of Carvalho, Dias, Goncalves, Soudani and Grabban are evidence enough to back up that statement.
The loss of Adlene Guedioura to injury has been a costly one but Liam Bridcutt’s performance against Newcastle provided tangible evidence that he’s capable of filling the Algerian’s boots. So, you could imagine my disbelief when he was only on the substitutes bench for the Brentford game. The former Leeds united man has waited patiently for his chance this season, and in my opinion, took it with both hands against the Toon. Bridcutt has always been renowned for his defensive capabilities but like Guedioura, he has a lot to offer offensively. If you look at some of his play from last season, you’ll witness several defence splitting passes and through balls within his repertoire. Unfortunately for Bridcutt, Adlene Guedioura looks set to return to Forest duties after the upcoming break, so a spell on the side lines looks imminent once more.
As for the international break, it will provide much needed breathing space for Aitor Karanka. The Spaniard will be able to take stock of all that’s gone before and hopefully address the anomalies here and there. When all’s said and done, we’re just six games into the season and when you compare that to Fulham’s stats last August, there’s no need for delirium.
But Aitor will have plenty to ponder upon, regarding formations, team selection and so on. I very much doubt that he’ll deviate from his trusted 4-2-3-1 blueprint, so it’s a case of horses for courses. I’m sure us fans have our own ideas of who should and shouldn’t be playing but ultimately, the buck stops with the gaffer. The likes of Matty Cash and Ben Osborn have been excellent from the bench of late and should be genuine contenders for a start against Swansea, especially Cash who’s in the form of his life.
As for the supporters, the two week break couldn’t have come at a better time, if only to lower people’s blood pressure. It’s a long time since I witnessed such venomous anger toward a Nottingham Forest manager after such a short period of game time. People have referred to Karanka’s overall win rate since taking over in January of this year, but for arguments sake, he’s only had six games with his best squad of choice. He assembled most of the new look squad in pre-season, so I think it’s only fair to grant him the clemency to prove their worth. If after 20-odd games it’s still not happening, then maybe questions should be asked, but after six is a little harsh in my opinion.
As a footnote to this piece, I will be brutally honest and admit that what I’ve watched this season, especially last Saturday, hasn’t been great. But, I’ve seen flashes of what we can produce on our day, against West Brom and Newcastle respectively.
Hopefully, the break will be a good thing for everyone at the club, both manager and supporters alike.