Nottingham Forest have clearly angered the football gods.

Barely a week goes by at the moment without another name being added to the list of those unavailable to the Reds.

You could almost piece together a useful starting XI from those unable to be called upon.

Injuries and suspensions have hit hard – particularly at the back.

As things stand, Martin O’Neill is without Michael Dawson, Tobias Figueiredo, Michael Hefele, Sam Byram, Juan Fuentes and Yohan Benalouane.

Hillal Soudani is also out of action, while Jack Colback is set to complete a two-match ban against Brentford.

On top of that, January arrivals Molla Wague and Pele are short of match sharpness.

At a time when stability and a settled side would be most welcome, O’Neill has been forced to get creative.


(Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

He has told the Nottingham Post of his struggles at the back: “There is obviously a problem there. We have the long-term injuries there, who you can totally disregard [against Brentford], then we have Benalouane, who will miss the game through suspension.

“We will have to have a look at our options. Jack Robinson has played in the centre and has done admirably for us there.

“Putting two new players in at the same time, might cause us a bit of a problem.

“Molla is doing fine, he has been doing fine this week. He has not played much recently. But we are in a situation here where, I suppose, where – while I would not want to call it experimentation – we do need to look at players.”

O’Neill may be reluctant to use the word ‘experimentation’, but that is precisely what it is.

He may have little choice but to go against his wishes and field two new boys as a centre-half pairing on Saturday.

Robinson remains an option to fill in, as does Claudio Yacob, but they are better utilised elsewhere.

Ben Osborn at left-back and Ben Watson back in the middle of the park anyone?

The situation is obviously far from ideal.

It is, however, the hand Forest have been dealt and they need to bluff their way through it.

After all, it could be that a winning formula is stumbled upon when least expected.



O’Neill has already had a go at 4-4-2 and rotated options in and out.

Changes will have to be made again this weekend.

Joao Carvalho could be among those welcomed back into the fold from bench duty, with O’Neill having said in the Post: “In the last 20 minutes last weekend [against Birmingham] we saw Joao come on the field and I thought he did very, very well indeed.

“We did not make too many changes after beating Wigan. We did change one or two things around, to try to suit the team.

“Maybe in this minute, all things that are happening are not all sorting the team – that is something we need to find out. But we have no time to spare.”

Correct, we don’t.

And that is why the experiments will have to continue.

O’Neill has not settled on what could be considered a strongest XI as yet, so the learning curve rolls on.

Hopefully answers can be found on home soil against Brentford and the return of those stuck on the sidelines will eventually offer a welcome headache, rather than welcome relief.

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