Nottingham Forest’s unbeaten start to the 2018/19 season continued courtesy of what can only be described as an ugly win against Reading on Saturday.
Despite sitting in fifth position in the Championship and having yet to record a defeat, I left the City Ground thinking that the best is yet to come.
I’ll give you two good reasons for my optimism, Jack Robinson and Sam Byram.
Robinson made his Forest debut on Saturday, albeit for just fifteen minutes or so, whereas Byram is yet to feature after his post deadline day Loan procurement by NFFC.
I wholeheartedly believe that once this pair of fine young full backs establish themselves in Aitor Karanka’s first team squad, the results will only get better. Without being overly negative, it’s clear to see that the full back positions at Nottingham Forest are for all intents and purposes the weak links in an otherwise well assembled machine.
Tendayi Darikwa has failed to assert himself at the City Ground since the departure of his main competitor Eric Lichaj. Whilst Ben Osborn, is basically a square peg in a round hole.
Darikwa is great going forward but is something of a liability when defending his own goal, which as it transpires is his primary job description.
Some of supporters highlighted the inability of Eric Lichaj when it came to preventing crosses into the box, and to an extent that was true, but Tendayi Darikwa is even more prone to this in my opinion.
As for Ben Osborn, he’s doing all he can in an alien environment, but despite his best efforts It’s proving to be a bit of a struggle.
I’m well aware that he began his career as a full back but that was a long time ago and even his most ardent fans must admit that he’s struggling a little in that role.
I spoke about this very issue in this week’s Forever Forest podcast and in no way am I slandering our full backs. However, given that it’s almost 20 years since we graced the Premier League, sentiment must now be replaced by success.
So, what do the likes of Jack Robinson and Sam Byram bring to the table? A wealth of experience for starters, Robinson has amassed over 100 professional appearances including three for Liverpool.
He has also represented England at no less than five different age groups. He was very highly rated at QPR and is anything but a gamble in the Championship. Byram, who is the same age as Robinson at 24 has also racked up well over 100 appearances and was once a 4.5m target of Ronald Koeman when he was the Southampton manager. He has received glowing appraisals from all his former managers, including the likes of Neil Warnock, Eddie Gray Uwe Rosler and Neil Redfearn.
Throw in his Europa League experience for West Ham and you have the makings of a very driven young professional.
Above all, the pair of them can defend their goal well, which is all we really need to know.
Despite all the hype surrounding Nottingham Forest’s new signings, the stand out players thus far have been Adlene Guedioura and Danny Fox. Fox, who was a unanimous choice for man of the match against Reading, has been a revelation since moving from left back into the centre of the defence.
And, if he continues in the same vein of form, could well keep out Michael Hefele, whom the club signed from Huddersfield on transfer deadline day. Another glaring example of the strength in depth or as some might say, the embarrassment of riches within the City Ground walls.
Looking back at Nottingham Forest’s decent start to this Championship campaign, I take positives from the fact that we are both unbeaten and winning without playing well.
We have already bettered the results against the same opposition from last season’s contests and I was in no doubt that Aitor Karanka would bolster the defence during the transfer window.
Let’s face it, he starred in defence for Real Madrid in a Champions League winning side.
Given the progressive start to this new season, both on and off the field of play, the additions of Robinson and Byram assure me that the best is yet to come for Nottingham Forest.