In the latest edition of Before the Whistle, George Singer takes a glance at the new-look Nottingham Forest under Aitor Karanka, where they can cause Fulham problems, and how the Whites should set up to make it a magnificent five wins on the spin.
Their Recent Results
L: Nottingham Forest 0-3 Preston
L: Hull 2-1 Nottingham Forest
W: Wolves 0-2 Nottingham Forest
L:Nottingham Forest 0-1 Aston Villa
W:Nottingham Forest 4-2 Arsenal
Our Recent Meetings
September 2017:Nottingham Forest 1-3 Fulham
February 2017: Fulham 3-2 Nottingham Forest
September 2016:Nottingham Forest 1-1 Fulham
April 2016: Fulham 1-3 Nottingham Forest
Match Odds with Grosvenor Casino
Nottingham Forest: 18/5
Fulhamish Tip: Fulham to win and Ryan Sessegnon to score is at 11/4 with Grosvenor
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Hello and welcome to another edition of Before the Whistle! Today I take a look at Nottingham Forest, and what to look out for as we aim to do the double over the reds!
Last time we played
In our previous match against Forest, all the way back in September, it was a matchup of two teams on a poor run of form. Forest were aiming to avoid 4 losses in a row, and Fulham were looking to finally kickstart a lukewarm promotion attempt.
Kamara, paired upfront with Fonte, quickly opened the scoring – his second goal in 2 games. With uncharacteristically smooth control of a Sessegnon through ball, then selling a dummy to the opposition defence, Kamara opened up an angle which he cooly slotted into. However, Forest quickly replied, capitalising on acres of space left in midfield. This brought the scores level at half time, and was a perfect illustration of a classic Fulham performance: dangerous going forward but laving far too much space free at the back.
Luckily for the Whites, an unconvinving second half performance was enough to steal the 3 points. Johansen put away a lovely freekick, and Kebano put the cherry on the cake by finishing a Mollo cutback in the 89th minute. However, it never felt like a comfortable performance, with the late goals papering over a cracked Fulham performance.
As Karanka has only taken charge of a couple of games so far, it’s hard to know for sure what to expect from Forest. However, he has tended to favour a 4-2-3-1, which is what we’re most likely to see on Saturday.
There also has been a small amount of rotation in personnel. Karanka has previously played Brereton up top, who impressed in the FA cup win against Arsenal. He also has another potential striking option in Daryl Murphy – who is slowly returning to fitness after a long layoff. We may even see an appearance from an old Whites favourite in Ashkan Dejagah, a deadline day signing from Wolfsburg’s reserves. No fewer than 6 players joined Forest on transfer deadline day, so it’s likely we’ll see some of these make their debut on Saturday.
What kind of football to Forest tend to play?
Unlike a lot of teams in the league, who tend to cross the ball in from wide, Forest tend to focus their attacks through the centre of the pitch. They have impressive possession statistics: they average 54.7% – the 4th highest in the league. Whilst Karanka may start to tweak their style of play to be more assured at the back, we’re still likely to see a team that play football the right way.
In fact, defensive organisation is something the Forest fans have been screaming out for. The reds concede the 2nd most shots per game in the league (15) which is majorly hampering their ability to move into the top half of the table. One of their deadline day signings Costel Pantilimon, a Premier League veteran, will surely be kept busy over the rest of the season as he takes his place between the sticks.
Man to watch
My man to watch this week is Kieran Dowell. The 20 year old plays at the tip of midfield – and has been a potent attacking threat all season. Not only is he the top scorer for the club, with 9 goals in the league, he also creates 1.8 key passes per game, the joint most for the club.
Dowell tends to operate just outside the penalty box, strafing left and right to support his team’s attacks. He’s a true playmaker – with Forest’s attacks tending to coming via his passes.
Above is an example of what Fulham will need to look out for. All Dowell needs is a pocket of space, where his close control sucks in 6 opposition defenders, freeing up Brereton up top. A perfectly weighted through ball gives the striker a simple chance, which he doesn’t miss.
Notes for Slav
Due to the way Forest tend to play, preferring to keep hold of the ball and play intricate central passes, you’d expect them to struggle at the Cottage. Whenever we have the ball their dangermen will naturally be starved of attacking opportunities. However, when they do have the ball, closing space in midfield will be key. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a pair of McDonald and Norwood sitting infront of the defence. The pair top the defensive stats in Fulham’s midfield, with 1.45 and 1.22 tackles per game, compared to Johansen’s 0.53 and Cairney’s 0.92.
When we do have the ball, the key will be to capitalise on a disorganised Forest defence. By using the natural pace of our wingers, and the ball playing ability of Piazon & Fonte, we should be able to find areas of space to pass the ball through. I see no reason why we shouldn’t keep consistency with our front 3 players, and allow Ojo & Kamara to punish tired legs later in the game.
This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.