Picking over the wreckage - Knee Jerks
Tuesday, 27th Feb 2018 17:11 by Antti Heinola
Well that blows apart our - 'at least our home form is half decent' line, but maybe it was predictable. In the last 20 years or so, Forest have now beaten us: 2-5, 0-4, 0-5, 0-3, 0-4 and 0-3. Not our favourite opponents, says Antti Heinola.
Let's start with a positive. Sorry, *the* positive. What a treat to see Gino Padula at half time, and what a gent he is. Definition of cult hero, right there. When he got choked up telling us he loved us, I thought I might just burst into tears myself. It says much about that first team that Ollie built that so many of them are held in such high regard and remembered so well by the fans. Rowly, Langley, Gallen, Day, Shittu, Palmer, Gino, Biggie, Cookie, Birchy, Furs... the list goes on. It's instructive that Gino told us that kids not even born when he was playing for us know exactly who he is. Amazing. Even more amazing is that if you'd added together the noise for our two goals, you still wouldn't have reached the noise made for Gino at half time. By a long, long, long way, the highlight of the day.
A year ago we were lamenting Ollie's incessant... well, it wasn't tinkering, it was uber-tinkering. Ranieri on speed. The big changes he made gave us no stability, we lost momentum then suddenly couldn't get it back and only a win against Forest saved us from a truly embarrassing eight defeats in a row and relegation. This year, it's the opposite. We're dying for changes. We're begging him to try something a little different. For some width. Or - a proper plan.
Against Bolton we had ten minutes of Bidwell playing left wing against ten men before Ollie finally made a change. On Saturday, we had it again - first half, this time. Bidwell almost playing as part of a front three at times, while Forest ripped through us at will time and again. I like Bidwell, but if he's a left winger then LFW was a sane place to be on Saturday night. So he was left wing, Lynch was often tucked up behind him. Then Bidwell dropped back almost to play full back again. Then Josh Scowen came over to the bench, arms open, asking to know what the fuck was going on and where was everyone supposed to be playing. I don't blame him - no one else could work out this weird lopsided formation either, where the defensive Bidwell is pushed up next to the forwards, but the offensive Pawel is playing almost as a full back. And any changes he did make did nothing to stem the tide. Neither Scowen or Luongo or any of our legion of centre halves could deal with Tomlin (again) and Brereton had the freedom of the park despite nominally having three opponents against him. I mean, was this all a surprise? This team has smashed us once this season. We must have some idea of how we struggled in that game and tried to combat it?
And then what team gets hammered like that on Saturday and doesn't use all three subs? What has Bright Osayi-Samuel got to do to get more minutes? He came on against Barnsley and while, yes, he should've scored, ripped into them with his pace and desire to run with the ball. Since then, stuck on the bench, even when we're desperate for goals. Why? The ludicrous thing was, as much as Forest deserved their win, they barely looked better than us at the back and it could easily have been 5-4 or even 5-5, if we could only put our chances away. As usual, Smyth apart, we looked one-paced. Why keep your one genuine speed merchant warming a bench? I don't get it.
Managers are being sacked in this division for less. And while I have sympathy for Ollie, and I love him of course, he has to admit to himself that it is not going to happen this time around. I hope we don't now embark on yet another crazy run of defeats and risk a relegation we shouldn't be close to, but really, come the end of the season, he needs to call time on this. We should be quietly looking for a replacement now. I totally understand he doesn't have the money, and I'm not expecting miracles and I don't really think our squad is much more than two or three places better than where it is. But here's the question: If we were allowed to spend £15m this summer on new players, would you want Ollie spending it? I don't think I would, and he's better when he can get in the transfer market. What we need more is a clever coach who can eke more out of this squad than he can.
It's been tough for that lot at the back this season with all the injuries. They've all had their critics, and rightly so. It was a shame at the weekend that not only did they have, collectively, a poor game, but the midfield in front of them did too. I mean, this Forest side is not renowned for its attacking verve. No wins in six, and their goals in that time were: 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1. And we gave them five, and it could have been more. I mean, that is a complete and total system breakdown. You had Smithies absolutely screaming at Pav for the first goal, presumably for not tracking back at all. You had Tomlin unmarked for the first, and then given about 20 minutes to pick his spot for a lovely finish for the second. Tomlin again showing more guile in five seconds than the rest of our team (bar Freeman) have managed all season to set up a simple third (although seeing as Scowen actually had to leap over a prone Lynch to try and put in a challenge, it could be argued that goal should not have been allowed - I'm all for playing on despite injuries, but not when prone players impede other players). You had the fourth where Smithies palmed it up and to the side and should have a reasonable expectation that one of his defenders would get off their backsides and chase it down rather than just watch Cash cash in. And a fifth where everyone backed off, particularly Onuoha, until he curled it in. Five absolute shambles of goals to concede. Every single one of them.
Scowen and Luongo
Luongo scored one, and was also very unlucky not to equalise ten seconds before it was 2-0, and yet this was a poor game from Massimo. Difficult to really know why, but his passing was off, he didn't win as much of the ball as he usually does, and he and Scowen constantly found themselves completely overrun and out-numbered. Our midfield just couldn't cope with their running or their quick passing, and when they did get the ball, they never seemed to have options themselves. Barring a few quick triangles, they never had an outlet. Smyth was well marshalled despite his willing chasing, while Smith simply can't take balls into his feet. And with no one wide, they were constantly forced backwards. Scowen was clearly exasperated with this as early as the 20th minute as he gestured to the bench, but his day didn't improve and neither did he receive much help from the coaching staff. As usual with this team, you can't say no one wasn't trying. They all were. No one was walking, as Gary Neville kept pointing out about Arsenal players yesterday, but regardless, it was still easy for Forest to pick us apart. Our formation has been rumbled and some teams are finding it stupidly easy to destroy it.
Destroys us almost every time he plays us. Wouldn't it be easier to put all our eggs in one basket and buy him this summer?
I know I mentioned it in KJ1, but I'm actually perversely proud by the complete lack of reaction to our first goal. Quite often on TV you see a few fans dutifully go crazy when their team scores despite being several goals down (I saw a beauty of this genre from a Birmingham fan on TV a few weeks ago), but when Luongo scored his goal - his third of the season! He's on fire! - the lack of response was amazing. It was: 'Did that...? Have we...? Will it be disa...? Oh. A goal.' Marvellous.
Pictures – Action Images
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