Already into the second half of the season and Forest remain in the relegation zone… Looking at the stats for the season so far, can we predict what will happen?
Ignoring cup games, Steve McClaren averaged just 0.8 points per game in his short tenure and, despite 10 hours without a goal, things have improved since Steve Cotterill was appointed.
Cotterill has averaged 1.07 points per game and tightened up the back four, conceding less goals (18 in 15 games) than McClaren (21 in 10).
Scoring has clearly been a huge problem but defensively we’ve been one of the most robust teams with only 11 other teams in the Championship conceding less during Cotterill’s reign. Five of those are in the top six and Bristol City and Millwall are the only two with less than 30 points.
Even if we continue with our disastrous scoring record and maintain 1.07 points per game, the final tally will be 46 points.
It might not sound enough but 46 has been enough to avoid relegation in three of the past 10 seasons; 49 has been enough in 14 of the past 20 seasons; 53 pretty much guarantees survival.
An ‘easier’ target is winning 14 games — only five clubs (Walsall, Millwall, Birmingham City, Brentford and Plymouth Argyle) have been relegated winning 13 games in the past 20 years; with three going down on goal difference alone. No club has gone down in that time having won 14 games.
We’re currently on seven wins but — unlike normal Forest seasons – we aren’t drawing many so it’s nicking those points, where we might have lost earlier in the season, that will be crucial. Home form has to improve — only three wins and eight losses, the worst in the division; only Bristol City come close.
Let’s look at the remaining 21 fixtures — nine home games and 11 away. Disregarding McClaren’s results, Forest are currently managing 1.00 point per game in away fixtures – 12th best in the division – but, more worryingly, we have the second worst home record in the division behind Ipswich with just 1.12 points per game.
Given our form, the next 21 games could actually work in our favour. As it currently stands, 10 of those games are against teams in the top half of the table; after the games against Southampton and West Ham, we only have three games against top six sides – Middlesbrough, Reading and Hull.
In 12 games we’ve taken 15 points off teams in the bottom half of the table compared to nine points in 13 games against teams in the top half. With 11 games remaining against teams within 12 points of us, everything remains to play for.
The table will change, of course, during the next four months but games against Watford, Coventry, Doncaster, Millwall, Bristol City and Portsmouth are clearly going to be key.
It’s pointless trying to guess who we’ll beat; this season’s too impossible to predict. But if Cotterill can continue a relatively modest win percentage of 33.3% then we should achieve those seven wins. It could come down to the draws — another 21 points will put us on 45 points. Given that it looks likely to be a very close season — both at the top and the bottom of the table — we need to be targeting 53; eight draws. That leaves six losses from 21 to be guaranteed safety — 1.33 points per game.
Put it this way, if we put in the kind of performances we did against the likes of Cardiff, Brighton and Crystal Palace and come away with something, it could easily see Cotterill’s points per game up to 1.33. It’s not too big an ask. Is it?
Sadly, statistics don’t tell us if we’ll score as freely as we do against Ipswich. Let’s see what the transfer window brings — if anything.
With thanks to Sunny Sandhu.
Feel free to add your own hypotheses below…