Having adopted a midfield diamond for the past three games is it fair to say Nottingham Forest have two wins and a loss, despite of and not because of the diamond?
It seems to be a strange tactic for Billy Davies with the players used — Guy Moussi or Paul McKenna on the right side of midfield with one of them in the holding role, Chris Cohen left and Lewis McGugan forward. And while it’s clearly benefitting McGugan, either that or he’s hit some form, there’s a definite imbalance.
We dominated the first half against Leicester but with their three deep-lying midfielders there was no space; the pressing game kept them in their own half for periods but there were too few options, too little movement.
With a lack of wingers it’s sensible to use a formation other than a flat 4-4-2 but only if the players suit the positions. Gareth McCleary didn’t even make the bench against Bristol City and Raddy Majewski appears to be out of favour. If we’re not playing a 4-4-2 with wingers I’d rather play 4-3-3/4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 despite our plethora of strikers. If McKenna and Moussi are both playing I’d expect them both to sit deep, especially as we’re conceding goals, and with Paul Anderson injured and Nathan Tyson’s form erratic, Cohen/McGugan/Majewski behind a striker.
A lot depends on the full-backs with a diamond, with Chris Gunter and A. Leftback overlapping we’re less dependent on wingers or at least midfielders playing in wide positions. Cohen and McGugan can both play as left or right midfielders without playing as wingers. But there’s just no width with a diamond. It’s more defensive — presumably, at least partly, why Billy’s trialling it — and also means the team should be able to cope with attacking full-backs, dropping into a 4-1-3-2 formation and players tracking back. In theory, at least.
Davies may well be seeking to get Moussi match-fit, keep competition for places and save some players for the final push. The limitations of the squad obviously dictate everything but, despite scoring three against Leicester, we looked utterly devoid of ideas. I didn’t see the Bristol City game so couldn’t comment, although Moussi was played wide rather than McKenna — given current form, probably better positions for both of them.
With the right players it could suit us — and can be attacking as Paul Hart showed — but I just don’t see it working as well as it should. It does, at least, put McGugan centrestage. And, given he’s our most important player at the moment, maybe it’s worth continuing with… just not with McKenna AND Moussi.
Still, we’ve won the last two two games and play-offs remain a possibility — no complaints here! I’d expect to see the formation continue in Saturday’s home game against Scunthorpe United given recent results but the likes of McLeary and Majewski will surely get some minutes — especially if it looks like we need some width and pace…