In his debut article for Forest 24-7, Mr GeoChallenge discusses a somewhat controversial idea
Davies needs to be ruthless: McGugan out, Lynch in.
Lewis McGugan is Forest's top scorer with a bombastic 11 goals from midfield. He is the man that lifts the crowd, the man with the key to any Championship defence - he is our biggest threat and he needs to be dropped, and replaced with the much maligned Joel Lynch.
Forest are dropping from the sky faster than a three winged penguin. One win from our last eight games has left us in danger of losing even a play-off position. Teams are meeting our skill with grit, determination and a plan, and we're being dragged into physical, tough fights. We're playing teams at their own game and some of our players don't have it in their locker. Teams are flooding the midfield, creating tactical, positional games. Games in which there is no room for a passenger.
We all like to see a winger attack, but this player has responsibility - he must form a partnership with his full back or the team will face the consequences - I propose that McGugan does not do this. He rarely tracks back, even more rarely harries players when threatening to cross the ball, and often goes missing when the going gets tough. The last home game was a good example of McGugan not being up for a hard-working, physical, positional battle - our midfield could find no space going forward and didn't compete defensively, meaning we had to go direct, playing into Hull's game-plan.
However, from match one I have been left cringing at the galaxial space that appears in front of our left back, thisis most obvious when the opposition have the ball on their left wing. Our defence shuffles over like good little boys, except there is suddenly enough room on our left side to park the QE2. The opposition sometimes spot this and a good run/pass has left us with problems. This very rarely happens on our right hand side.
McGugan has been playing as Forest's left winger, and should be learning his defensive role like Paul Anderson is. 'Ando' has been much criticised this year because the goals and mazy dribbles of his Swansea days have not materialised, but to me it's clear he has taken on alot of extra knowledge/duties and is struggling to do them whilst attacking as he used to. He is doubling up and underlapping much better than he used to, and dropping onto the defence when it stuffles over to the left very well and has saved our skin on more than one occasion by doing so. He is generally supporting Chris Gunter very well and his work-rate has improved - the Forest coaches have clearly been working on Anderson's defensive side, if we had a left sided player doing this we would look so much stronger.
The above is only observational, so in the interest of fairness I looked at our goals conceeded (only since the Leicester game due to laziness, and Eggheads is coming on in a bit). We have played 18 league games since & including the 1-0 defeat at Leicester, conceeding 16 goals. Of the 13 goals from open play, 8 goals have arisen from threats coming from our left hand side (Middlesborough, Preston (2), Scunthorpe, QPR, Coventry, Barnsley and Leicester). We've been beaten straight down the middle 4 times, and only once from our right.*
* (I must point out these statistics are from my own viewing only, and for one or two goals this is slightly subjective, especially Leciester & Coventry - but stand by my assertion that they came from problems on the left of our defence).
This is 61% ofour goals conceeded from open play coming from problems developing on our left side, a disproportionate amount.
Watching over the videos the lack of a defensive partnership between our left winger and left back can be seen in numerous examples. The Tommy Smith goal for QPR is a perfect example of a very good player spotting our frailty and mercilessly exploiting it. Drifting alone into the wide gap between full-back and winger, he recieved the ball under no pressure whatsoever. Faced with two QPR players, one of which made an intelligent run behind him, Konchesky could only follow his man. Chambers seemingly took an age to close Smith down, but if he'd of ran out of the defence Smith could have slipped Chambers' man in behind, so Chambers was stuck, and actually did the right thing in forcing Smith to shoot rather than pass earlier. Smith rifled in an excellent goal - but Forest were left in a vey tight spot by their left winger daydreaming and not supporting the defence. Lack of defensive cover from the left winger heavily contributed to the recent Middlesborough goal in exactly the above manner. We also suffer deadly crosses from this area against Barnsley, Preston and Scunthorpe, crosses too easily made.
This defensive frailty is hurting the shape of our entire team, and needs rectifying - now. The fans have been crying out for a left back, and having experience there does help, but he still needs support that McGugan is unable to give. This is no lambasting of our top scorer - he's no winger, but the manager needs to address this and stop playing him there, either by moving him next to McKenna/Moussi or dropping him completely, because it's no coincidence that many of our problems come from the left wing, where McGugan can usually be found. He has the ability to disappear - so much so I've sometimes wondered if he was employing some sort of cloaking device. There are difficult games approaching where every player must make a contribution, if Lewis can't force himself into a game Forest are better off playing someone else. Two goals in these last 18 league games suggests his contribution has dipped.
The solution may already be at the club - Joel Lynch. Having played very well at times this season, I propose bringing Lynch in at left back with the attacking wing back Konchesky slotting into midfield. Konchesky is a defender but I don't think he's that much of a square peg - with his experience he'll be able to play the position and this will enfuse a little more grit into our midfield, a midfield which with the exception of McKenna, allows the game to pass them by too often. Konchesky would at least make his prescence felt.
I think I've demonstrated that the left hand side of our defence is considerably weaker, and also that McGugan has not been contributing as much from this position. Forest need a player to sit on our left wing and, as well as providing an outlet, get stuck in defensively. Konchesky may be the answer - he surely would defensively - but if not Davies needs to bring in a proper winger who knows how to defend. And maybe he does need to be ruthless with McGugan too. It may be just the motivation Lewis needs.