The calibre of player brought in to Forest this summer signalled the start of a new era, and a win and three draws leaves us unbeaten in our first four games. A feat not achieved since 2014. Yet underwhelmed feelings linger around the City Ground. Perhaps, unluckily exacerbated by the blistering form of promotion rivals Leeds and Middlesborough. A lethargic start against Bristol, a lack of ruthlessness at home to the Baggies and an unmitigated absence of desire in the first half against a promising Wigan side meant that the Reds dropped 6 points, feebly. But lets not forget, 13 signings were made this summer, most of which had never experienced the robust, relentless game that English football proposes. While the spine of our rivals teams remain intact, ours has been altered significantly. It will take time for the players to gel, to learn each others qualities and their idiosyncrasies. A popular excuse, but a valid one.
Regardless of this, what has concerned Forest fans most is seeing a completely different team commit all the old crimes. Starting with defending set pieces. 4 out of the 5 goals conceded so far this season have been from set pieces (including League cup tie with Bury). At times the 6’6 Pantilimon has failed to command his area properly and we continue to erratically rotate between zonal and man marking. Karanka must find a way to eradicate this as when we faced one dimensional sides like Cardiff last season it became very problematic. Secondly, is the manner in which we start matches. With the exception of the West Brom game, we have come out the blocks in poor fashion, whether it be a lapses of concentration, or simply a lack of energy and hunger. However, when the whistle blows for the second half, we have looked a different team.
The importance of remaining unbeaten, though, can not be reiterated enough. Forest have displayed an impressive resilience, a refusal to be beaten. When you arrive at the DW or Ashton Gate and the run of play is against you, it is the sign of an astute team to nick a point. Come the end of the season, these points here and there start to add up, and you find yourself moving up the table after reasonably under-par performances. So overall, although it wasn’t the scintillating start many fans expected, it has given us a solid platform to improve upon. Onto the player ratings.
Costel Pantilimon: 7, Made some important saves with his huge stature, but could organise set pieces better. Will be pushed for No.1 place with Luke Steele.
Ben Osborn: 6, Has often been a nuisance down the left wing, but final ball needs to improve and defensive positioning could be better. Hopefully, this will improve with experience at left back.
Danny Fox: 8, So far proving he isn’t a half season wonder. His distribution has been phenomenal, yet has lapses in concentration every now and again.
Tobias Figueiredo: 6, A quiet player, often a good asset for a defender. He hasn’t really found his form of last season yet though.
Michael Dawson: 6, Sidelined for 3 of the 4 matches due to injury and general old age, but his leadership will be invaluable as the season goes on. Will probably start when fit ahead of Tobias.
Adlene Guedioura: 9, The 32 year old has been Forest’s best player so far. His range of passing and ability to pick the right pass has been exceptional. Scored a great goal against West Brom and nearly topped it off with a wonder strike had it not been for a magnificent save by Sam Johnstone. Looks in much better shape too, and has been a warrior in the middle of the park, unleashing the other side of his game.
Jack Colback: 7, Been solid mostly. Does a lot of work that goes unnoticed, but has also given a few free kicks away in dangerous areas.
Joao Carvalho: 6, As expected he has found the physicality of the Championship tough to cope with, but he has shown flashes of the talent he has. It will take time for him to settle in, but he has a huge potential.
Gil Dias: 8, The robust, fleet-footed winger seemed a perfect match for the championship, and has made a great start to his loan spell at the City Ground. What the fans admire most, though, is his superb work rate. Although, the exhausting fixture schedule seemed to take it’s toll against Reading where he played his 3rd game in 7 days for the reds.
Joe Lolley: 6, Much like Dias, Lolley loves to track back and consistently puts a shift in for the team. An altruist. Squanders too many chances though. He needs to urgently work on his finishing if he wants to keep his place ahead of Goncalves.
Matty Cash: 8, Starting only 1 of the first 4 league games, it is not the start Cash would have hoped for. Yet the extra competition for places appears to be having a positive effect on him, scoring 2 goals in 2 games (1 in league, 1 in cup). He could have gone into his shell when the new signings arrived, but no, he looks like a man with a point to prove.
Daryl Murphy: 7, Murphy turned 35 in March. His appearances will be elusive this season, as a result. But when he plays, he brings a huge ariel threat and frees up the creative players around him. A goal and an all round solid performance against Bristol showed that he can still compete for a place in the first 11.
Lewis Grabban: 5, Not the ideal start for Grabban having not scored in 3 appearances. The missed penalty against Wigan will not help his confidence either. Karanka must keep faith in him, because as the season goes on, his teammates will have developed a chemistry with him and they will have learned which runs he likes to make. If he stays fit, he will be the ’20 goal’ striker that forest have craved for years.
Hilal Soudani: 8, The Algerian brute is quickly becoming a favourite among the Forest fans. Two goals in two appearances for Soudani has rescued his side a much needed 4 points. Perhaps, his strength and power will be more effective as a late substitution.