Forest 1 - 2 Derby County
17/09/11 13:00 Category: Championship
Just when you think this season can’t possibly get any worse, we find ourselves in the bottom three having lost a game that should have resulted in a comfortable win. Even worse, it had to be to that lot from down the A52.
The only players to emerge with any credit were MOTM Moussi for adding a more dynamic edge to the midfield and bothering to leave the safety of the half-way line. Miller had a decent first half, won everything in the air without getting too much help from anyone else. Lynch looked committed at left back and was unlucky not to score. The rest were generally a shambles, especially the defence who looked fragile every time the visitors got within 30 yards of our goal. They were average but worked hard and we could have no complaints over the result.
In reality, it should have been an even heavier defeat as they conspired to miss a free header at the far post with the defence nowhere. At the other end, we created very little throughout, apart from one excellent lofted through ball from McGugan, straight to Lynch, who forced a decent save. There was also one decent goal-line hand-ball shout that looked worthy of another penalty but the referee had already given one and wasn’t in a hurry to dismiss anymore of their players.
Despite all of McClaren’s complaints about lack of signings, there is no way that his squad should have lost to an average side having a one man and even a goal advantage. He’s had plenty of time to build a capable squad and yet we still lack a proper left back and genuine pace. His signings and tactics have been poor, turning a once solid defence into a number of nervous individuals, creating a one-paced midfield that finds itself unable to make any impact on games, whilst struggling to create chances in the final third. We’ve barely threatened the opposition keepers in most games this season and must rank lowly on the number of efforts on goal stats for this season.
The team overall seem to have lost that togetherness that was built up under the previous manager and was the key element of the side. We very rarely hammered teams but built up a reputation for conceding few goals whilst being clinical at the other end. At the moment, we seem to have neither.
Compared to last season, we are a poor imitation of the side that reached successive play-offs semi-finals. The loss of form from the likes of Camp, Gunter, Chambers, Cohen, McGugan has been key to our problems this season. The chest thumping, fist pumping Camp has been replaced by a timid, nervous wreck who is starting to make Paul Smith look worthy of a starting place. He’s started conceding goals that previously he would have saved without even thinking twice. Gunter used to be the reliable 7/10 member of the squad who could be relied upon despite the team performance and would contribute at both ends of the pitch. Chambers had a outstanding last season and was deservedly player of the season. This season has seen a succession of unforced errors and he’s looked very nervous, especially when in possession. We need to get back to defenders actually defending and not thinking they are some ball-playing Beckenbauers at the back. Maybe it’s time to remove the captaincy from him and allow him to get back to defending.
In Cohen’s case, the lack of form is completely understandable due to the indecision of the manager in terms of where to play him. McGugan has struggled to make any impact this season and has had been left as substitute in recent appearances. We saw the best of McGugan last season under Davies strict supervision and that progress seems to be in danger of being wasted. At times, he carried us single-handedly with his goals and creativity. McClaren has preferred to use 2 from Boateng, Greening and Moussi this season in centre midfield which has restricted McGugan to a left wing role and competing with another new signing, Andy Reid. Davies got McGugan playing on the left hand side of a diamond which at least got him involved in games. However, with McClaren preferring more width, he’s been stuck out on the touchline and we’ve not seen the same player since.
It’s not all McClaren’s fault though. The inconsistent messages from the club are based around short term reactive rather than proactive thinking. We were supposed to be targeting hungry, young players from the lower leagues whose value could only increase and then we recruit the likes of Boateng, Greening and Reid. We never complete our squad building in the summer and spend August and September as extra pre-season taking scraps from other teams. This season was the one where we’d see an impact from the academy but, apart from a brief Freeman appearance in the cup, we’re still waiting. Billy Davies was supposed to be the best young manager outside of the Premier League and then is sacked a few months later. This change was supposedly needed in the name of progression but the good work of the last two years is quickly being unravelled and it feels like we’re close to the depressing times under the final stages of the Calderwood era.