Nottingham Forest have made a steady start to the 2019-20 campaign, with Colin Barrett telling Seat Pitch what he considers to have been the positives and negatives.
The Reds, with six games on the board, have collected nine points and sit 10th in the table.
Luck has been ridden at times, but there is cause for optimism as Championship action prepares to resume after the international break.
Asked to pick out those who have impressed him so far, European Cup-winning hero Barrett said: “Samba Sow. The goalkeeper [Brice Samba], he’s made a massive impression. The fact that [Michael] Dawson and [Joe] Worrall, those two together, that Martin [O’Neill] didn’t have last year, has made a bit of a difference as well. They both seem to be playing well at the same time, which is good.
“[Albert] Adomah down the left-hand side, whenever he’s played he has looked a threat. Joe Lolley I’m still not sure he’s firing on all cylinders yet. I think that will come, there’s more to come from him. Grabban is usual Grabban – if he fancies it, he’ll play. He’ll always be a threat to give you a goal. My worry is if he’s not playing, they’ve got rid of a few strikers. I don’t know about the lad [Rafa] Mir, but give him time and if he gets a chance then we’ll see.
“Matty Cash, they have obviously decided the way he’s going to get in this side at the minute is at right-back. The system they are playing is quite good, it allows the full-backs to gallop on a bit. They could get caught out a bit but if that’s the way you want to play, playing from the back, that’s good and you just have to accept it if it does go wrong.”
A philosophy built around playing from the back means that Ben Watson – a man who remains a divisive figure among the Forest faithful – has an important role to play.
Barrett said on the 34-year-old holding midfielder: “Ben Watson last season never went over the halfway line.
“The last game I saw him against Preston, he was coming into the back four and picking it up from there. Ben is one of these where he’s happy when he sees all of the picture in front of him, he’s not happy at the moment – because he’s getting on in years – if he goes further forward and isn’t sure he can get back quickly enough. The system allows the full-backs to gallop on because Watson comes between the centre-halves and starts everything off from there.
“What you have got to do is stop the opposition from playing. My philosophy is that you have to stop them from playing.
“You have to be brave to build from the back, and that forces the midfield players to engage. It’s no good your attacking players closing down if when they look round the midfield players haven’t closed down theirs, and that’s what has been happening.
“Grabban will not chase around here, there and everywhere but the other two lads, the wide ones will. If they start to close, then before they have even kicked the ball then the midfielders should start to close on theirs. They are just delaying it and allowing the midfield player to pick it up and then turn, and that’s causing them a problem.”
Sabri Lamouchi acknowledges that there are still flaws to be ironed out in his system, with the Frenchman looking to impose his methods on a squad he only inherited and bolstered over the summer.
There have been encouraging signs, with Barrett saying of the man at the helm: “He’s decided how he wants to play.
“So long as the defenders, the whole unit, realise they are defenders first and they think they can keep playing it out from the back, then I think they will get found out eventually. Even the greatest players in the world struggle when you put pressure on them – real pressure. As long as they make sure when they are defending they head it, they kick it, they whack it, don’t take a chance on a pass, put it in the stands and then start again, I know it sounds crude but I think that will be more beneficial in the long run, rather than give the ball away and then they’ve got a chance.
“As long as the defenders realise that they are defenders first and if it’s the time to play, then play. I’m all for playing from the back but you have got to do it at the right time.”
Barrett added when casting an eye over Lamouchi’s efforts so far: “Every season up until the beginning of October, everybody is up or it.
“They have got off to a half decent start – like they did last year – without pulling any trees up. It is a good start but they have got to do more. In this six-game spell, they are halfway down the table. I know it’s only a point behind the play-offs but they are already five points behind an automatic spot. If the next six games are the same then all of a sudden you think to yourself ‘hold on’.
“Where can we improve? Where can we get more points? It’s a good steady start, the lads seem to know what they are doing, he [Lamouchi] seems to know what he wants, they are falling in line. They are hanging in there in some of the games, which is good, but eventually they will get found out.”