If Nottingham Forest are opting to select either Ben Watson or Claudio Yacob in their starting XI, then who should get the nod?

In recent outings, Martin O’Neill has favoured the former.

That was the case again during a trip to West Brom on Tuesday evening.

Watson, who skippered the side against the Baggies, took in another full 90 minutes at The Hawthorns.

There are obvious qualities that he brings to the fold as a seasoned 33-year-old with Premier League and FA Cup-winning experience.

At times, he displayed calmness in the heat of battle which few of those around him were able to replicate.

Some nice touches and an ability to break up play and keep things ticking over in the middle of the park.

There were also signs of rustiness and fatigue from a man who has just completed four successive Championship outings for the first time this season.

When welcomed back into the fold against former club Wigan on January 26, Watson was seeing his first minutes since October.

He came in, during O’Neill’s second game at the helm, and took both the armband and a starting berth from Yacob.

Forest have collected seven points from 12 with Watson in the team, but has that been because of him or in spite of him?


(Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

He certainly did the collective cause few favours when West Brom recorded their first goal of the evening on Tuesday.

A poor touch, compounded by a failure to then clean up his own mess, resulted in Jacob Murphy restoring parity.

As Watson slapped the turf in frustration, he knew fingers would be pointed at him.

Would Yacob have fared any better in that situation?

Well, you get the feeling that the Argentine – had he seen his touch let him down inside his own box – would have responded by the taking the ball, Yohan Benalouane and any Baggies which got in his way.

This is not to say that Yacob is a holding midfielder without fault.

He is no Claude Makelele-N’Golo Kante hybrid that puts out fires with the minimum of fuss and makes those around him look infinitely better.

He is, however, as experienced as Watson and better versed in the dark arts.

Never one to shy away from a tackle, the 31-year-old can be relied upon to put a boot in where it hurts and more often than not be the one to walk away unscathed.


O’Neill told the club’s official website when offering his take on proceedings in the West Midlands: “Overall, I was delighted with the team. Physically they made a big effort, worked exceptionally hard and I was really delighted with them

“I couldn’t have got any more from the team. Physically we were very strong, the minute we lost the ball we tried to get into shape and there has been lots of improvement and still more to come.”

The Reds boss has made physicality a top priority within his selections to date.

Joao Carvalho is not getting much of a look in because Forest are favouring graft over guile in a division which demands an abundance of dogged determination.

Watson has those qualities, he showed as much when helping to steady the ship last season.

There are questions, though, of his value.

Useful in the past, but one for the present and future?

Both Watson and Yacob are set to see their current deals expire in 2020 and, as the slightly younger man, the latter would appear to be the better long-term option.

And if that is the case, then he should be cementing a leading role now.

He has let nobody down in his outings to date and was considered to be captain material in O’Neill’s first game at the helm.

The experiments have continued since then and maybe there should be more to come.

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