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How do you solve a problem like Forest?

Sunday 7th August 2011
I've had my doubts about whether my beloved Forest were heading in the right direction after pre-season. Yes, our record was impressive with hardly any goals conceeded but we didn't exactly set the world alight at the other end either. All this was against lower quality opposition but nevertheless, I approached today's game with a hint of optimism despite being aware that our last 4 opening games have ended 0-0.

In the end, that scoreline was always inevitable and I'll take a point against a team that have been a thorn in Forest's side in recent seasons. It still leaves me wondering how we're going to sort out key areas of the team as we struggled to outplay a Barnsley team that are amongst the favourites to face the drop this season. May I point you in the direction of James Bolton's version of events at the City Ground which offers some good opinions on the action and what the future may hold for Forest http://itsroundanditswhite.co.uk/2011/08/06/forest-frustrated-by-barnsley-%e2%80%93-a-signal-for-what-must-be-done

I'm not ashamed to say that I will be repeating some of those opinions in this article as they are fundamental problems that are facing Steve McClaren. The most obvious and urgent problem is what I mentioned earlier; a lack of goals. Playing one up front wasn't going to work today and it is something we must shy away from at home, where we have created a fortress. We need to make the most of what fit strikers we have. Personally I would've played a 3-2-1-3-2 (advanced I know) that would've looked something like this:

Camp

Chambers

Gunter                                                                                                                                                                      Cohen

Boateng

Anderson                                                                            McGugan                                                                 Reid

McGoldrick                               Findley

 

I think that by playing Gunter and Cohen as wing-backs you can utilise their pace because as anyone who's seen a Forest game in the last 3 seasons knows, they're always getting forward anyway. Chambers is quick and strong enough to deal with any threat behind them. Most importantly though, you have an attacking presence and you've set your stall out to score goals which means that the opposition are on the back foot. Of course, that's assuming it's implemented right. Despite that, I'm glad Joe Garner got a chance at some first-team football because I do feel he is our most natural goalscorer if a little lacking in experience to McGoldrick and Findley. Once Blackstock's back we have the makings of a decent, if not remarkable, Championship strikeforce. Until then, the problem still exists, so how do we fix it?

The problem with the strategy that the board have taken this season - one of little investment - is that it just won't cut the mustard this season. The Championship has truly resembled more of a Premier League 2 this year as big clubs have come down and much money has been spent by ambitious Championship regulars. Look at teams such as Ipswich, Derby and the much-fancied Leicester and West Ham who have brought in new talent or held onto the players they had. That's 4 teams who will probably be in the mix without even mentioning Cardiff, Birmingham, Blackpool, Brighton or Reading. Forest have the advantage of having a good squad anyway but I can't help looking across the league with envy at some of the summer transfers. Right now, I can't see a full strength Forest side beating a half-strength West Ham side.

So what needs to be done? Firstly, it is an abberation that the transfer committee still exists especially when it is headed by David Pleat who spends more time focusing on his media career than he does on Steve McClaren's shortlist. If I was put in charge I would've ordered them to be sacked before the ink was dry on my contract. It is impossible to achieve success if it takes weeks to discuss a transfer. It cost us when it came to Victor Moses and it'll cost us again. The chairman should place his trust in McClaren, a more astute manager than David Platt who necessitated the creation of the transfer committee after splashing out £12 million on two unknown Italians who flopped in the Premiership. McClaren knows who to get and how to get them at a decent price. That's how he built up such a good Middlesbrough side. Doughty hired McClaren and he has to relinquish some responsibility to him otherwise he is no better than a parent who never gives their child independence.

Nigel Doughty could guide Forest to the promised land for a fraction of £12 million. In fact, I think he could do it with just £3 million - small change to Leicester and West Ham. £3 million would  buy us a decent left-back and a good striker, maybe in the shape of Jay Rodriguez or a Premier League outcast. That's all this team is missing. We have most of the solid defence, we have the talented midfield but we lack depth in places. I've heard names such as Ishmael Miller and Wesley Verhoek touted about and while I appreciate Miller's scoring record in the Championship, I feel we could find someone even better than him. As for Verhoek, he'd be a great signing for sure but we already have Anderson and Reid with McCleary as suitable backup. Verhoek will cost money which will probably come out of the fund for a left-back and a striker. If it doesn't come out of that fund then he is an absolute definite purchase.

There's no reason why we can't reach the playoffs again this season with those signings and I'd feel we had a better shot than in the last two seasons but do I really think my wishes will come true? No. I think Doughty will supply minimum investment, maybe paying out for Verhoek if he's cheap enough and then asking McClaren to loan a Premier League striker who doesn't have high wage demands. Time will tell of course but for now, I'm going to be pessimistic and predict a period of mixed results. Yes, we'll ground out wins now and again and we'll keep tight at the back but we'll end up losing games that we should be winning which has cost us towards the end of the season before. We need to establish a striker partnership and have a dependable left-back. Tonight we sit 15th and I don't expect us to march into the playoff picture anytime soon.

Follow me on twitter @tom_davidson

 
Tom Davidson

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