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5 Things Nottingham Forest Learned Against Brentford

Nottingham Forest threw away an early lead and lost 3-2 at the GTECH Community Stadium against Brentford, but what are five things from the game that the visitors learned?

Ivan Toney’s re-welcoming party somewhat overshadowed the fact that there was even another team on the field. However, Nottingham Forest made the Bees sweat for their victory, a result that could have been so different if the Reds were at full strength. While Forest turn to FA Cup action this Friday, what can Nuno Espirito Santo take away from the defeat?

Forest have been hampered by AFCON and injuries

Losing six players was always likely to hit the Forest squad hard, and coupled with injuries, the competition has really shown Forest’s reliance on their key players. Brentford just kept putting balls into the box, and the Reds’ rather small duo of Murillo and Andrew Omobamidele were exposed. If either Willy Boly or Moussa Niakhate were fit then it’s likely one or both would have played, with fellow defenders Scott McKenna and Joe Worrall seemingly being frozen out.

Forest didn’t lose any attacking players to AFCON though – instead, their best and most reliable three attackers were out through injury. Taiwo Awoniyi, Morgan Gibbs-White and Anthony Elanga all missed the game; their absence felt through Forest’s lack of creative confidence or explosive pace. Had they been able to call upon Gibbs-White’s creativity, Elanga’s pace and aggression or Awoniyi’s ability to create a chance out of nothing then I’m sure Forest would have at least snatched a point.

Nuno has got them playing some exciting stuff

That’s now six consecutive games that Forest have scored two or more goals in, all under the stewardship of their new Portuguese gaffer. Nuno’s style is well suited to the players as it builds on the defensive laurels of predecessor Steve Cooper at times, but he also encourages his side to get on the ball and dictate.

They have also broken quickly, shown by counterattacking goals against Newcastle and Manchester United. Nuno has brought attacking variation rather than the more one-dimensional approach beforehand, with more limbs than ever in Forest away ends.

The goalkeeping position gets more worrying by the week

Signing Odysseas Vlachodimos and Matt Turner for a combined fee of £11m seemed like good business in the summer but in reality, they have signed two number twos. Turner’s blunders have been for all to see, his distribution is far from up to scratch. Odysseas has been given his fair share of chances and has never really gotten near anything nor commanded his penalty area. Not ideal traits for your number one.

There seems to be a mistake by one of them each game. While Ivan Toney’s ball manoeuvring tactics must be questioned, so should Turner’s assembling of Forest’s wall, with Ryan Yates questioning the ‘keeper and Callum Hudson-Odoi standing a yard next to it with no player to mark on his side. That was the eventual area where Toney flighted the ball.

Furthermore, a repeated offence was not having anyone on the post for defensive corners. Yes, it’s the little things, but they all add up, and Forest did concede via a near post header from a corner, so would Forest have conceded it with a player there?

Chris Wood is on fire

Brought in from Newcastle last winter, Chris Wood was hardly the Hollywood signing. It took him almost all of that time to win over the fans and a Boxing Day hat-trick against his former side went a long way in doing that.

However, in the absence of Awoniyi, the New Zealand captain has really stepped up, with more confidence than ever. He wins aerial duels, has a turn of pace and is always in the positions to score goals. In Forest’s last two games against Blackpool and Brentford (the games in the space of three days of each other) he played over 200 minutes; in that time only two decent crosses were put into the penalty area, with Wood there to score both. The sign of a true centre forward.  

Their midfield options are plentiful

A depleted squad meant Forest fielded four players whose preferred position is holding midfielder. They all shone in this game, with Nico Dominguez impressing on the wing once more, far from his natural position. He brings assurance down that side and gives Forest an outlet, while the selection also allowed Danilo and Yates to play further forwards – just take a look at Danilo’s goal!

Even Orel Mangala, who rarely passes halfway, found himself in scoring positions on a couple of occasions, Forest’s midfield prowess allowing for this expression. And with Ibrahim Sangare and Cheikhou Kouyate to return from AFCON, midfield looks like one place where the Reds are set.

It’s rare to have more positives than negatives following defeat, but a valiant effort was displayed by a side four or five players away from Forest’s full-strength XI, so the bright side must be looked at as they prepare for FA Cup action against Bristol City.  

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