With a home game to high-flying Burnley next up, can Nottingham Forest end their recent bad run of form?
The performance on Friday night was, without doubt, the worst of the season. It’s impossible to point the finger at anybody except Dougie Freedman — Bristol City’s wing-backs’ effectiveness was only usurped by the home side’s dominance in midfield. Not only were we slow out of the starting blocks, there was little sense of any organisation or tactical discipline.
It was inevitable that players would be out of position with injuries and suspensions, and it was inevitable that Danny Fox would be not only on his wrong foot but rusty too. Chris Burke is no central midfielder — but we knew that, strange that Dougie didn’t. And surely he would’ve been more effective tracking back on the right-wing? Jonny Williams and Jamie Ward might have put a shift in during the international break but we would have stood a chance in midfield.
The loan deal for Bolton’s Liam Trotter could be sealed in time for tonight’s kick-off — and with Michael Mancienne, Kyle Ebecilio, Ben Osborn and Robert Tesche all ruled out of the Bristol City match, it’s clear there’s a serious deficiency at the heart of midfield.
Eric Lichaj will return after a one-game ban which will ensure the back four is balanced again, but without protection from midfield there’s no guarantee the defence will easily recover from Friday’s disastrous performance.
That said, Burnley’s defensive record isn’t that much better than ours — 11 goals conceded compared to 12; we have, in fact, the least goals scored against outside the top eight. But it’s our profligacy in front of goal that is most cause for concern. Despite a wealth of attacking options, our attempts on goal is a miserable 40% shot accuracy — only MK Dons, Preston North End and Leeds United are worse. Conversely, we are top of the league for chances created (150). Burnley, in contrast, have the highest number of shots on goal in the Championship at 53%, according to Squawka statistics, but are one of the lowest in terms of chances created (91).
After his two goals at the weekend, big-money signing Andre Gray will be the one to watch upfront but it’s David Jones who has been pulling the strings in midfield with Burnley’s most assists (three), highest passing accuracy and completion, and chances created (13).
But, as we all know, statistics count for little when results aren’t going your way. The pressure is on Freedman and, despite the embargo and injury crisis, we could see ourselves slipping down the table before that all-important Derby game next month. Fingers crossed he can arrest the decline.