Nottingham Forest and Notts County, both recently recognised by the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame, are approaching their respective sixteenth and seventeenth Boxing Day fixtures outside of top flight football as we head towards the mid point of the EFL season.
As is seemingly now a tradition, both clubs have begun the new season with a new man in the dugout, but neither outfit look likely to finally end years of decay and kick-start a return to top of the English football pyramid.
It’s been a more than steady start for the Magpies. After fifteen games they find themselves in the League Two play-off spot. At this point last season, they lay ten places lower down the table, a similar position to where they would go on to end yet another dismally backwards campaign.
So what’s changed? John Sheridan, the club’s fifth permanent manager since March 2015, appears to have got it right in the transfer market. During the summer he brought in a total of ten new players. All ten have been frequenting the team sheet since match day one, with each new man making at least ten appearances so far.
However, the injury to Jon Stead, who was brought to the club last season, has created uncertainty. Stead had notched up nine goals before his injury, the second highest in the division. With him out until Christmas, Notts can no longer rely on their attacking prowess to cover for their inconsistent defence.
There are some parallels to be observed on the red side of the river. Forest have yet another manager and several new high profile signings, but results have been very poor. It’s hard to understand why Phillippe Montanier can’t seem to do well with the quality of players at his disposal.
He arrived with fans hoping for a repeat of the management that secured Real Sociedad’s highest ever league finish, not of excessive activity in the transfer market and bizarre team rotation that stories from his time in France had warned of. It seems Forest have been experiencing the latter.
With the team lying just a point outside of the relegation zone, Montanier has proved to be a very frustrating manager. If he is to achieve the top ten finish he recently set his sights on, he may need to think about altering his methods.
By the end of the fourth league game of the season, the Frenchman had used a baffling twenty-two players. Only two changes were enforced through injury. Perhaps an even more amazing statistic is that after eighteen games across all competitions, Forest are yet to keep a clean sheet, shipping an average of just under two goals a game.
PM: We are near to the relegation places so we need a result against QPR. The players are aware of the situation and we will fight #NFFC
— Nottingham Forest FC (@NFFC) November 3, 2016
Players such as David Vaughan have shone and then been rotated for the next fixture. Holding midfielders have been overlooked in exchange for an extra attacker. Their most exciting player, Hildeberto Pereira, has fans crying out for him to be played on the wing.
Montanier has recently justified the positioning of the young Portuguese ‘right-back’, stating “he is most effective when given the space to start a run into the midfield”.
His most recent decision to deploy new signing Thomas Lam at centre-back, against a Cardiff attack spear-headed by Rickie Lambert, left you wondering if more experienced championship managers would have made the same choice.
The highly experienced Jack Hobbs was fit and available to play, yet Lam, who has seemed more suited to midfield than the heart of defence, was still preferred.
With the former owner of MLB side the San Diego Padres looking set to buy the club from the highly criticised Fawaz Al Hasawi, Montanier’s time at the club may end regardless of any upturn in results. Watch this space.
Image courtesy of dom fellowes via flickr.com
Video via youtube.com