It was yet another frustrating weekend for Nottingham Forest, whose inability to put the ball in the back of the net cost them dearly as despite being the much better side, they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Brentford.
In short, Brentford had two five-minute spells in the second half. They scored in both. The rest of the match was controlled by a Forest side who looked assured in possession, were playing on the floor and creating chances.
Herein lies the problem. Nelson Oliveira had two superb chances – one of which would easily be classed as a golden chance by experts – and spurned both of them. The golden chance in question was a free header that he could only half connect with from a Jamie Ward cross, and as such forced the goalkeeper into making a routine parry.
What became glaringly obvious is just why we are losing games – in its simplest form, we are not taking our chances. The actual problem goes a lot deeper than that, to matters out of Dougie Freedman’s control.
Oliveira is a very good footballer. He is enviously skilful, he holds the ball up tremendously well, he can win a header against pressure, and he is excellent at laying the ball off for others to create a chance. He is not however, a ruthless finisher.
He would work incredibly well with two strikers in the Forest side – Britt Assombalonga and Matty Fryatt. Assombalonga is lethal in front of goal, and Fryatt’s proved all his career that he can score goals. The issue is, both are injured and both won’t be available until after Christmas.
Then you have Tyler Walker – an academy graduate with immense potential, who proved against Brentford that he is learning the tricks of the trade in order to win headers and to play with his back to goal, despite a slight frame and perhaps preferring to be just off the striker. In short, he’s learning to play in the Championship…but is still nowhere near ready just yet.
In amongst the strikers, there is also Dexter Blackstock, who is also more of a hold-up man than a bustling number 9. Seeing as Oliveira tends to drift into the number 10 role when he plays, playing the two together wouldn’t really work.
Finally, there is Chris O’Grady, who well…is hampered by the fact that while he is also a target man, he is at a level which is nowhere near good enough for Nottingham Forest Football Club, unless they fancy plying their trade in League One.
However, the loan signing of O’Grady proved just how desperate Forest were to bring in a striker given the constraints of their embargo situation – an embargo brought on largely in part by the reckless antics of the Forest chairman, Fawaz Al-Hasawi.
Having to resort to signing a player that clearly isn’t good enough for the Championship in a bid to score goals says it all. Think back to all the hirings and firings issued under Fawaz, as well as rumours that Rafik Djebbour and Djamel Abdoun were both signed by him behind the manager’s back – on monster contracts as well, let it be known – and then wonder why Forest can’t score goals.
Freedman’s record in the transfer market has been largely pretty good. At Crystal Palace, he signed the likes of Mile Jedinak, Yannick Bolasie, Joel Ward and Damien Delaney – all of whom still feature for them now in the Premier League. He also signed Glenn Murray, who scored 31 goals on the way to Palace’s promotion in 2012.
At Bolton, his record was hit and miss, but barring O’Grady, most of the players he’s signed at Forest have been revelations – especially Dani Pinillos at left-back and Ryan Mendes on the wing. Matt Mills has also been superb at centre-back this season.
But, because of Fawaz’s naivety and power hungry dictatorship, Freedman wasn’t able to go out and purchase a forward who will routinely find the net. I’d even go as far as saying that with Assombalonga fit from the start of the season, Forest could even be knocking on the door for the play-offs.
However, while there is an excuse for the poor form, football is a results-based business. It seems sad in a way that Freedman has said he’ll have to change tactics to a more negative style of play just to get points on the board, but if that’s what it takes then so be it.
Hopefully for the Scot, a poor result against Reading on Saturday won’t spell the end of his tenure as manager at Nottingham Forest, with there being every chance the managerial merry-go-round at The City Ground could swing again.