Friday, 7 August 2015

8 Conclusions from the Opening Day Defeat to Brighton

Yes, I know it was just the first game of an extremely long season, but here are some, possibly hasty, observations from the 1-0 defeat away at Brighton.

1. We attacked in the wrong way

We were far too reliant on hit and hopes to Antonio or crossing the ball too early with only one or two men in the box. Some days that will work, but I feel we need to be more patient and keep the ball in the midfield in order to work a more suitable opportunity to play the key pass. There is certainly a time and place to set Antonio on his way, as we saw at times on the counter attack, but we need to make sure we’re not so one dimensional. It wasn't until the 53rd minute we actually held onto the ball and tried to build an attack.

2. We’re longing for Gary Gardner

Although Mancienne offers good physical cover, and he by no means played badly, we seemed to be missing a player who is comfortable coming deep and collecting the ball from the defence, and moving it patiently up the field.

3. Ben Osborn’s return can’t come soon enough

I also think our midfield is lacking a bit of mobility, particularly centrally. Vaughan, Tesche and Lansbury just don’t quite have the nip and guile to worm their way out of tight spots and open up some space.

4. Danny Fox is a seriously weak link

You all saw. You all agree. Next…

5. It looks like we’re going to struggle for goals

This isn’t jumping to conclusions off the back of drawing a blank after the first game, it’s just a fear we’ve all had since seeing Assombalonga stretchered off last season. Blackstock put himself about tonight, but is the type of player who only really scores goals that are laid on a plate for him. Tyler Walker, on the other hand, looked to spark some impetus into a pretty limp attacking display. His turn of pace and appetite to close defenders down gives us a different option to Blackstock. I’d certainly like to see Walker starting against Walsall.

6. Darlow and Lascelles shouldn’t be missed

I thought Hobbs and Mills looked a pretty solid centre back pairing. That save from De Vries was also outstanding. Shows his still got plenty to give, even at 34. Ben Hamer will have a fight on his hands, should his transfer even go through.

7. The standard of officiating will no doubt prove infuriating yet again

I thought the man in the middle, Keith Stroud, had a pretty poor day at the office, for both sides. Vaughan got booked for clearly winning the ball. Kayal went in high, and late, on Tesche and escaped punishment.

8. Our luck with injuries doesn't seem to be changing

Our injury record to key players must be one of the worst in the country in recent years, This time, it is Robert Tesche who will be on the treatment table, this time with a broken foot. By no means is it in the same league as Cohen, Reid or Assombalonga, but he has been a mainstay of pre-season and its certainly something we could do without.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Stuart Pearce's Sacking - My Initial Thoughts

News of the dismissal of Stuart Pearce as manager of Nottingham Forest was too momentous for me not to dust the cobwebs off my blog and have my say.

When Fawaz Al-Hasawi stood up from his seat in the Director’s Box and headed downstairs and into the depths of the Main Stand even before the amount of stoppage time had even been announced, it looked as though time might be up on Pearce’s return to the club.

It’s a bitter pill for a lot of fans to swallow, but there was an air of inevitability about this announcement. The dramatic victory at the iPro probably temporarily delayed Fawaz knocking the final nail into Pearce’s coffin, but a record of just 3 wins in 24 games is the kind of run that, rightly or wrongly, modern owners in modern football are not very tolerant of.

Alongside a wretched run of results, the performances were not really there to compensate or offer any significant glimmers of hope. The defeats at home to Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday and Millwall were all pretty dire, and then there was an FA Cup defeat to League One Rochdale. Our style of play had gone from winning in an understandably unimaginative way, to not very easy on the eye, to almost non-existent. Aimless balls into the channel for Assombolonga and Antonio to chase were the kinds of tactics I feared when Pearce was appointed.

I don’t think anyone can deny that Pearce got momentous levels of support from all sections of the fans, especially considering the results. Not many managers would have their name echoing around the stadium while 0-3 down at home. We all wanted this to work. I think its massively unfair to fans to point to other fans and say “I hope you’re happy now”, but then again, Twitter is hardly a hotbed for rationality.

I am unfortunately too young to have seen Pearce in his heyday, but when he walked out of the tunnel against Blackpool, it was one of my favourite moments as a Forest fan. I don’t think I’ve seen the City Ground like that. It filled me with pride, and I can only imagine how proud it must have made the fans who worshipped him for years feel. He brought levels unity and togetherness to the club which seemed a million miles away during the dark, poisonous days of Billy Davies. His candour and openness with the media, largely impressive dealings in the transfer market and undoubted passion for our club were areas where I have a lot of admiration for Pearce. He also showed more love and care to our academy than any manager since Paul Hart, and hopefully that is a legacy will continue to bear fruit and play a big part in our club’s future.

But with each passing game, it become more and more clear that Pearce wasn’t looking like a man who could deliver consistent results. Even great wins away to Wolves and Derby were not the springboards we envisaged they could and probably should have been. The long term losses of Jack Hobbs, Chris Cohen and Andy Reid would see any team and manager suffer, but with the talented and expensively assembled personnel still available to him, Pearce’s record was verging on inexcusable. Personally, Daniel Taylor hit the nail on the head a few weeks ago. He’s the manager we all want from Monday to Friday, but the feeling of positivity subsides somewhat come 5 o’clock on a Saturday.

I did finish this article questioning where we go from here, but as soon as I hit publish, former Forest striker and Crystal Palace and Bolton Wanderers manager Dougie Freedman has been appointed as Pearce's replacement. Even though it didn't work out as we'd hoped and dreamed it would, it is clear though, Pearce leaves the manager’s seat, and considers a role as a club adviser, with his dignity very much intact. The same perhaps can't be said of Fawaz given the speed of Freedman's appointment.

Shall we say I'll see you all again in, what? November 2015 perhaps, for my next blog; 'Dougie Freedman's Sacking - My Initial Thoughts'

Friday, 5 September 2014

The curse of the Manager of the Month award - Fact or fiction?

This morning, the first Football League Manager of the Month awards were handed out. With Forest picking up 13 points from the opening 5 games, Stuart Pearce looked a shoo-in. 

However the award went to Wolves' Kenny Jackett, and it was the first time in 12 years that the season's inaugural award of the season wasn't given to the manager whose side sat top of the division at the end of August.

The usual "at least we've avoided the curse" rang around from some on Twitter. It's funny that it's described as a "curse". Of course there is no evil demon encased within the glass trophy who infects the victor's mind, body and soul and plagues his team for evermore.

But, in general, how much worse do teams perform once their boss has won the award? Obviously the team has generally been the best one that month, so the following month they're almost certainly not going to perform as well.

What would be an acceptable performance in the following month for a team who is bang in form? Top 6? Top half?

The above graph shows the team's league rank for the month they won the award (in blue) and their rank in the following month (in red) - all graphs can be enlarged when clicked. Over the last four seasons, of the teams who have won the award between August and March, 32 teams in total, only 15 of those have featured in the top half of next month's table, with 10 featuring in the top 6. Please note here, April's winners are not included as it isn't really possible to analyse the month which follows, as May has so few games.

At the other end of the table, 13 of the 32 have finished in the bottom quarter of the league for the following month (18th-24th). While this doesn't go as far as to say there is some kind of curse, it does suggest that teams tend to finish in the lower portion of the league more often than you might expect.

Tony Mowbray's Middlesbrough were the worst team in January 2012 having picked up the award in December 2011. Over the last four seasons, on average, teams have finished 12th for the following month after winning the award.

The above graphs show the amount of points won the team's winning month and the following month. The average points needed to win the award is 13, with the average amount of points won in the next month just over 7.

17 of the 32 teams who won the award between August and March of the last four seasons picked up equal to or less than half the amount of points which they managed to gain in their winning month.

Finally, the above table shows points per game (PpG) of the winning and following months over the last four seasons. Every winner has had a PpG of over 2.00, with the average PpG of the winner being 2.54. The following month, the PpG has been just over half that at 1.35 PpG.

14 of the 32 managers achieved a PpG equal to or less than 1.00 in the following month, which at just under 50%, is probably higher than you might expect, with less than 1.00 PpG rightfully being classed as 'relegation form'.

But, overall, looking over the last 4 seasons at least, I personally would say that teams have tended to perform worse than you might expect of a team in such good form in the month after winning the award.

Obviously factors like strength of opposition, amount of games in a month (may be less due to weather or cup games) and players available, amongst others are going to impact a team's performance.

There is definitely supernatural forces involved, but it's interesting to see how much truth there is in one of the game's most frequently discussed points. The data full data for the last 4 seasons is found below.

As always, find me on Twitter; @NFFC_Stats and @Bolton0301


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Data Visualisation: 2013/14 Championship Assist Bubbles

So, here is my first attempt at incorporating some more interesting data visualisation into this blog and the @NFFC_Stats twitter account.

Below are a series of Assist Bubbles for each of the 24 teams competing in last season's Sky Bet Championship. Each main bubble represents the amount of assists by each team's most creative player, which can be found below each team name.

The attached bubbles represent the recipients of his assists and are proportionately sized according to how many goals that player scored. Taking AFC Bournemouth for example, Simon Francis assisted 5 goals for Yann Kermorgant, 2 for Lewis Grabban and 1 for Marc Pugh.

Hopefully some of you will find this vaguely interesting. If you did, please share it and any feedback really is appreciated.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Battle of the Centre Backs

Below is an infographic containing the statistical data from the five players who have played in central defence this season; Danny Collins, Jamaal Lascelles, Kelvin Wilson, Jack Hobbs and Greg Halford.

There is also a poll on the left hand side of this page, where you can vote for who you think is Forest's best central defender.

  • All data is from the 2013/14 SkyBet Championship season only.
  • Greg Halford has played a number of games as a striker or full back, which influences his statistics compared to his four counterparts who have spent the entire season playing as a centre back.
  • I also realise Hobbs isn't our player anymore, and more than likely won't be in the future, but as Forest's mainstay at centre back, he obviously deserves to be looked at.

Data has been obtained from WhoScored, Squawka, Football-Lineups and Transfermarkt and is correct as of January 28th 2014.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Leicester City v Nottingham Forest - SkyBet Infographic Preview

Forest travel to the King Power Stadium on Saturday as our run of tough November fixtures continues. The Reds are looking to recover from back to back defeats to Yeovil and Blackpool respectively, while the Foxes are chasing their 9th successive home win.

Check out the infographics below ahead of the East Midlands clash, provided by SkyBet. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Nottingham Forest and Yeovil Town: An Unlikely Relationship

Nottingham Forest and Yeovil Town. Two clubs whose respective histories paint very different pictures.

One club has twice conquered Europe’s elite while the other has spent 107 of its 118 year existence outside of the Football League. In the summer of 1979, after Forest had won their first European crown, Yeovil were one of the 20 founding member of the Alliance Premier League (better known as the Conference). But now, in 2013, both clubs share league status. Despite competing at difference ends of the table, we are Championship equals.

Despite the two clubs only meeting in eight competitive fixtures, the team from Yeovil have been Forest’s opponents in two of the biggest matches we’ve been through in the last decade.

The first, a night to forget in the second leg of the 2006/07 League One Play-Off semi-finals as Forest squandered a 2-0 aggregate lead. The second, a day to remember as Forest clinched promotion back to the second tier a year later. It would probably be fair to say the punishing lows and euphoric highs of being a football fan were personified in those two contests.

On Saturday Forest and Yeovil square up for the first time since that sun-drenched May afternoon on Trentside, as an unlikely rivalry is set to rekindle. This is no rivalry based on animosity or bitterness, rather one built on competitiveness, mutual respect and pure sporting emotion. Forest fans often cite their Yeovil counterparts as some of the best fans they've come across; displaying nothing but class on the day we clinched promotion (see video).

I spoke to Yeovil fan Ben Barrett (@benbarrett10) about his memories of encounters between the two sides, his hopes for the season and what we can expect on Saturday afternoon.

1. What are your memories of clashes with Forest, particularly the League One play-off semi-final second leg tie at The City Ground in 2007?

Forest and Yeovil have always had some decent clashes, the night in 2007 was probably my 'greatest' memory, well that was until this summer. I remember a few quite specific things, I remember turning up and being asked "what are you lot doing here?" by one Forest fan who obviously thought the tie was over. I remember the Marcus Stewart goal to take it into extra time like it happened a couple of hours ago.

I can see him now, rising highest, nodding it down and wheeling away. Sends shivers down my spine.

Other than that, a year later when we were there when you got promoted, I remember feeling like we should stay and applaud, everyone in the away end did so, it was just like you had done 12 months prior.

There's a mutual admiration between the sets of fans, something lacking in football these days. There's a YouTube clip of Yeovil fans lining up outside their coaches to shake hands with Forest fans, I'm very proud to say I was there on both occasions.

Since then, I have to say, we love seeing the progression of Chris Cohen, genuinely one of the most gifted players I've seen at Huish Park. If he could have a howler on Saturday however, that would be great.

2. Just how big an achievement was it for Yeovil to reach the Championship last season, after just 10 seasons in the Football League?

I think it was Peter Beagrie who said Yeovil getting promoted to the Championship was one of the biggest achievements ever in the football league since it's been in it's current format.

A quite staggering claim, but on the pitch we had no more than 17 players at any one time, off the pitch, we had the lowest budget in League One - let alone this season. Weekend after weekend we were written off, even towards the end no-one, except those in green and white, truly believed Yeovil Town would get promoted, but here we are.

3. Life in the second tier has been tough so far with just 1 win in 12 games, coming on the opening day, is the sole aim for this season survival, and do you think you can achieve that?

Of course survival is the main aim, we want to compete at this level, but that transition wont happen overnight. We're in the process of gaining club's respect and even that is taking it's time.
It's tougher than we could ever have expected, there isn't a single game that is a sure three points, there are international footballers everywhere we look and one or two who are on bigger wages than pretty much all of our squad put together.

But, yet again, we're in there fighting, matching teams like Reading, QPR and Bolton even if the points tally doesn't quite reflect that. 

Will we stay up? That's a multi million pound question, my heart says; "Yes of course, we'll finish 15th, easy", my head on the other hand is far more realistic; I truly believe we will stay up, but in all honesty it will be by the skin of our teeth. 

4. Paddy Madden was one of the stand out players in the Football League last season, but has yet to get off the mark this season, has he struggled to adapt to life at this level?

I think quite a lot of the squad have struggled to adapt, Paddy has never played at this level much like many of the others. The jump in class of opposition is rather large, but that doesn't mean we aren't giving it everything.

Specifically, with Paddy, I personally feel it's a confidence thing, he'll score one, then another, and go on a roll, similar to when he initially joined us. He's got the talent thats for sure.

5. What kind of game can we expect at Huish Park on Saturday, and which players should Forest be wary of?

One of the things I'm most happy about is that we haven't changed our style since getting promoted, it would be easy to put everyone behind the ball and try and sneak winners on the break. We're playing the ball around, getting our passing going and having a go. Why not have a crack at these clubs? If we get beat we can at least say we tried to do it properly.

As for specific players, it's tough to say at the moment, everyone seems a bit 'in and out' with their form. On their day the threat we can pose out wide from Liam Davis and Joel Grant is frighteningly good, but they haven't exactly done so for a few games.

The same applies to Ed Upson, Mr Reliable in the centre of midfield has been a bit off the boil this season, but has talent in abundance if he can find his form.

My tip would be James Hayter up front, the old head with bags of experience is one man we can always turn to. He's the man keeping his head while all those around them are losing their's.

6. Finally, what are your predictions for the game, including the score?

We'll be trying to build on our first home point last weekend and again my heart and head are on different planets, my heart says we'll finally issue a thrashing and the whole season will finally turn around, but again my head is keeping the rest of me in check.

I don't think we'll lose, the idea is firmly planted that our home form is key from now on, so I'll say we'll get something out of this one. 1-0 if our defence is up to it, but 1-1 if we're slow off the mark.

I'd like to thank Ben for taking part in the Q&A, you can find him on Twitter - @benbarrett10
Find me on Twitter @Bolton0301 and @NFFC_Stats