Lamouchi's clinical Forest flying high - Interview
Tuesday, 26th Nov 2019 22:22 by Clive Whittingham
It's been a bright start to the Championship season for a more tactical, thoughtful, clinical Nottingham Forest side after another mad summer in the transfer market, says Jack McCormick.
Encouraging start for the Trees, particularly away from home, what have you made of it so far?
It’s been a huge improvement on recent seasons, that’s for sure. We have a defined style of play and are very hard to beat — and we’re picking up some brilliant results on the road, as you mention. Another solid point at Ashton Gate at the weekend, too. We will certainly give you a game.
Forest league results so far…
Looking back to the summer, what exactly went on with Martin O’Neill? Sabri Lamouchi basically arrived 10 minutes later which suggests that was planned well in advance. Seemed a bit left field at the time - what was the reaction then and how do you assess his performance so far?
I’m not really sure. There are all sorts of whispers — player revolts and all the usual rubbish — but I think the consensus is that once Roy Keane left things fell apart (not that it was going particularly well before that). Being frank, MON’s results weren’t good enough and the season ended with a whimper. The owners made the decision to act early enough that Lamouchi could get most of pre-season, and a transfer window, under his belt. Not many fans argued with the decision, despite MON being a bonafide Forest legend.
Lamouchi himself has been excellent from day one. Nobody had any idea who he was (apart from that he’d played against us in the UEFA Cup for Auxerre in the 90s) but he did have a degree of pedigree when you looked at his CV: taking Ivory Coast to the World Cup, a good stint with Rennes in France.
He very quickly showed everyone why he was brought in, getting the team playing some lovely football while introducing proper defensive solidity — the sort we haven’t seen at the City Ground for many years. He was only given a 12-month contract with but has been such a success that it looks like his deal will be extended in the coming weeks.
Another window of racking and stacking players - firstly what did you make of the summer business, and secondly how are Forest FFP compliant with a squad of 100 players?
It was a mixed bag, as we’ve come to expect. And it wasn’t very inspiring. They were almost all names we’d never heard of, bar Sammy Ameobi (who’s always been a pain to play against but never really looked that good at football) and Carl Jenkinson (who has also never really looked that good at football, and has been injured since he joined).
But several of the signings — especially Tiago Silva, Brice Samba and Samba Sow (a doubt for the game with an injury that’s kept him out for a while) — have been fantastic.
Samba (Brice, that is) is the best keeper we’ve had in years, possibly decades. He’s a real character, confident between the sticks and very good with his feet — he must have one of the highest pass completion stats at the club. We bought him from Caen who had just been relegated from the French First Division.
The other Samba is a midfield powerhouse, strong as an ox and smart with the ball. I really hope he’s fit for Wednesday because our other box-to-box midfielder, Ryan Yates, got himself a straight red at Bristol.
Silva is more of a flair player, very good technically, and yet another Portuguese import. But, where Joao Carvalho — our record signing brought in last summer — is a genius with a football but lightweight and not much good without it, Silva will get up and down the pitch to fly in with tackles as well as skin defenders alive with his skills.
Honourable mention for Ameobi, too. He’s like Bambi on ice and he’s one of the most unpredictable players I’ve ever seen in a red shirt, but he’s been really impressive. Expect him to start on Wednesday and go on at least one Messi-esque dribble at some point, before hoofing the ball through the window of the Crown and Sceptre.
Ins: Here we go again then… Carl Jenkinson, 27, RB, Arsenal, £1.98m >>> Brice Samba, 25, GK, Caen, £1.8m >>> Samba Sow, 30, DM, Dinamo Moscow, £650k >>> Chema 27, CB, Levante, £450k >>> >>> Yuri Ribeiro, 22, LB, Benfica, Undisclosed >>> Tiago Silva, 26, AM, Feirense, Undisclosed >>> Sammy Ameobi, 27, AM, Bolton, Free >>> Albert Adomah, 31, RW, Villa, Free >>> Rezart Rama, 18, RB, Olympiacos, Free >>> Arijanet Muric, 20, GK, Man City, Loan >>> Alfa Semedo, 21, DM, Benfica, Loan >>> Rafa Mir 22, CF, Wolves, Loan >>> John Bostock, 27, CM, Toulouse, Loan
Outs: Arvin Appiah, 18, RW, Almeira, £8m >>> Ben Osborn, 24, LB/LM, Sheff Utd, £3.5m >>> Panagiotis Tachtsidis, 28, DM, Lecce, £450k >>> Stephen Henderson, 31, GK, Palace, Free >>> Apostolos Vellios, 27, CF, Athens, Free >>> El Arbi Hillel Soudani, 31, RW, Olympiacos, Undisclosed >>> Karim Ansarifard, 29, CF, Al Sailiya (Qatar), Undisclosed >>> Jorge Grant, 24, LM, Lincoln, Undisclosed >>> Jason Cummings, 24, CF, Shrewsbury, Undisclosed >>> Adlène Guédioura, 33, CM, Al Gharafa (Qatar), Undisclosed >>> Gboly Ariyibi, 24, RW, Panetolikos, Free >>> Daryl Murphy, 36, CF, Bolton, Free >>> Liam Bossin, 22, GK, Released >>> Jamie Ward, 33, AM, Released >>> Juan Fuentes, 29, LB, Released >>> Luke Steele, 34, GK, Millwall, Loan >>> Liam Bridcutt, 30, CM, Bolton, Loan >>> Tyler Walker, 22, CF, Lincoln, Loan
What’s the style of play? What should we expect on Wednesday?
Solid. We’ve conceded the second-fewest goals in the league — including keeping a clean sheet against Bristol on Saturday with ten men for a third of the game. We don’t create many chances at the other end but we are clinical when we do. Only Huddersfield have had fewer shots on goal than us in the league, so that tells you something.
We’ll let you have a lot of the ball (seriously, at least 65% possession coming your way) but we won’t let you do a great deal with it. We play with a conditional press, where certain actions from the opposition trigger intense pressure from our attackers, but until that point we’ll let you knock it about as much as you like. It’s interesting to watch and something Lamouchi has clearly instructed the team to do — and it works.
We push our fullbacks high up the pitch with the wingers tucking inside, a number ten just behind the striker, a box-to-box midfielder and one sitting just in front of the defence. It’s a fluid approach and everyone is comfortable on the ball, so our goals tend to come from decent team moves (see our opener at Fulham as a perfect example).
I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out against a Warburton team, knowing how partial he was to having a lot of possession and little end product. On that point, I noticed he still hasn’t learned how to coach defenders, so I imagine (despite our shortcomings up front) it’ll be a high-scoring game. I’ll go for a 3-2 to one of us.
Stand out players and weak links in the team?
I’ve covered a few of the standouts already from the summer signings. Others are Matty Cash, a swashbuckling right-winger-turned-right-back who is an early shout for Player of the Season, and Joe Worrall, a centre-back who will put absolutely everything on the line to keep a clean sheet.
Lewis Grabban is also in typically decent goalscoring form. He’s been the best I’ve seen him in a Forest shirt so far this season — not just for his goals but his hold-up play and intelligence, too.
And Ben Watson, the ancient ginger bloke who scored an FA Cup Final winner for Wigan about 50 years ago, is a man reborn under Lamouchi. He’d been frozen out under the past couple of managers and was top of everyone’s ‘get rid’ list in the summer, but Sabri’s somehow managed to turn him into Andrea Pirlo. He sits at the base of the midfield in our 4-1-4-1 and dictates everything.
I’m also a big fan of skilful left-back Yuri Ribeiro, who we got from Benfica (guess the nationality). But he was out at the weekend and your old mate Jack Robinson — who I’m still not convinced by — filled in.
Quick half a dozen signings in January? Any names being mentioned?
Believe it or not, it’s looking like a quiet one. We’ve got a massive squad and are still trying to ship a few out. The only positions we’re really looking to fill are a striker, as competition for Grabban, and an attacking mid/winger to give us more options in attack.
Dwight Gayle has been mentioned a few times as the striker. A nasty piece of work but the type you’d rather have on your side than against you. Not sure if we’ll be able to pull that off but would put us in a very strong position for a top six finish if we could.
So is this finally the year? Or another false dawn?
Who knows! We tend to do relatively well up until about now, then things fall apart and we sack the manager/start again from scratch. But, honestly, this year feels different. There’s a huge amount of positivity around the club, both on and off the field, and it feels like everyone is pulling in the same direction for once. Hopefully, come May, that direction is the Premier League.
Links >>> Official Website >>> Nottingham Post – Local Press >>> LTLF – Message Board >>> Bandy and Shinty – Fanzine >>> Forza Garibaldi – Blog >>> LFW Reciprocal Interview >>> Matchday with Max – YouTube Channel
The Twitter @jack_mccormick, @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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