Nottingham Forest 2-1 Coventry City
This whole analysis is tainted from the 96th minute yesterday.
Let's begin with the formation. It worked before and worked again, once we got going, and more on that shortly. My early notes were to question McFadzean in at the center of the three...
In the opening exchanges, City looked better organized within the formation, and allowing Forest to have the ball deep, meant they could force Forest to make plenty of sideways passes and play longer, direct balls without being able to play through the middle.
The shape holds well, but was vulnerable in transition for City, in the first half. Forcing Forest into more direct balls helps City to control the narrative, but it means for a more defensive set up. Coventry would defend in a 1-5-3-2 (left picture), and my opinion is that this set up should allow for more success in transition given Biamou AND Godden can be the outlet and not just an isolated Godden. The second picture shows one of those moments early on, aided by O'Hare joining the attack. However, there were very few successes in using this in the first half, which meant the census was Forest dominating the first half.
Now, Ben Sheaf. He has been pressed a lot in previous games, as he as tended to be the only outlet for a dazed and pressured back three. He had plenty of moments early on for having the ball at his feet and driving forwards. He played O'Hare in just after 4 minutes, and here you see him with space, where he proved much more of a threat.
Returning to the formation. The Forest ball rotation against the deep City line was slow enough to allow City time to cover. Although McCallum was deeper, the slow rotation allowed Hamer (or O'Hare on the opposite side) to press the receiving fullback.
The real problem came from quicker switches and the left foot of Knockaert, which really hurt City in this first half. He attracts and deserves attention, and in this picture he pulls Ositgard out with him, leaving Rose and McFadzean central. It also leaves McCallum isolated pressing on Freeman, which allows the full-back Ribeiro to join the attack, ultimately resulting in a corner for Forest.
Something else that annoys me, and maybe it does you too... Samba Sow was booked on 17 minutes, which I think had significant value in quietening his game as he had an excellent start. However, and sadly, CWR and texts are talking about getting red cards as they did against Blackburn. We can't go through the Championship with that.
In the 32nd minute, there was a foul from Biamou. See the picture. He won the ball, held it up, and had no outlet, which is a trend from previous weeks. He and Godden struggled to hold anything up early on (though not helped by long, high balls), but he finally got one down. He had no outlet, with a static midfield watching and Sow 'wins' a freekick. This allowed Knockaert to deliver a freekick in the same place as the goal on 30 mins. Both were fantastic balls in, showing the quality he has. Really, the only real threat against City comes from the left foot of Knockaert.
Two notable moments, and opposites, in attack for City that I think demonstrates the attacking mindset that fans are asking for, and which was lacking significantly in the first half.
This first image shows O'Hare driving forwards. The ball was won from a Forest long ball, and ultimately Sheaf released O'Hare. He owes some gratitude to Biamou and Godden, and Robins, for the shape they held and pushing the Forest backline backward.
The opposite is this, after a diagonal ball from McFadzean brings McCallum into the game (replicate his goal against Reading maybe?), but he plays a 'safer' square pass out to Giles, allowing Forest to recover and the attack to fade away.
After the restart, City had several good opportunities and on 56 the deserved goal came. Samba was definitely cheating to pick up the cross, not anticipating the run of O'Hare, but this was a trend in O'Hares game that made a significant difference to the overall performance of City's attack.
As the game drew on, both teams were pushing, but the collective of Coventry was much more resilient. You see in the picture the collective defending to dispossess Ameobi, and just this image alone shows the positivity and purpose that City played with in the second half.
I've already talked of the shape that benefited O'Hare and gave him space to impact the game, but losing Godden was something unexpected. Tyler Walker, perhaps anxious to show Forest what they could have had, carried the torch with Biamou. The left image shows the through ball he pursued after the collective dispossessing of Ameobi, and the second was a swift build up from Coventry, with the final pass coming from Sheaf. What you don't see are the multiple times he held the ball up and got Coventry up the field.
Control from City as the game winds down. Chances coming, Ostigard with headers, O'hare driving into the space and being fouled multiple times and seems more opportunistic from the resulting set pieces and winning the ball high, but its a reward from the front foot and the aggressive approach of the second half. There is always the fear of conceding on the counter, but Forest lacking any real threat going forwards toward the end of the game and keeping players like Knockaert quiet in the second half is a reward for the City organization and control of the second half.
(I can't help but feel that the win was there for us and these are games we need to win. If we're going to say that losses to Bournemouth are expected, then these are games that we should also hold high expectations.) This was my wrap up, and then the penalty happened.
It happens, and it shouldn't. Blame Biamou, blame McFadzean, blame Robins for not suring things up, but a loss stings from being on the front foot and feeling good about our attack. Here is what the giveaway looked like, and I summarize that it is all our own fault: