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Monday, 3 February 2014

Where We're At - A Squad Appraisal

So now the squad is all put together, and although there are potential for loans when the loan window reopens, the anticipated activity there will be much slimmer, with some potential injury cover being the only signings we'd expect. The overall picture is very good, especially as held on the main assets as well as strengthened.


Goalkeeper
We have the quality of the young up and coming Darlow coupled with an experienced older hand in de Vries acting as cover at Forest. It feels better in terms of ability than for a couple of years, when Camp and Smith were both (largely) reliable keepers. Not quite the battles we occasionally used to have but its stable, as in the past we chopped and changed a little. I would love to see Darlow cement himself as a legend in goal as since Crossley it feels like we change keeper every 2 years or so (with a Beasant, Ward, Gerrard, Smith, Camp progression line with few other limited time performers) Evtimov as a third man to cover means we shouldn't ever need him, and he can continue to develop with no limelight or pressure.

Darlow
Defence
The strength in this position is compared to the previous season frightening. We have 2 or 3 bodies for every position, so only the worst run of injuries or suspensions would cause the problems we had till recently. The problem, if you can call it a problem is deciding the best line up. One assumes of monetary value alone its Hobbs and Wilson, should they both be fit, but Lascelles has stepped up admirably, and Collins has been a capable deputy for the last few weeks. We could even put Halford back into the defence as well before we even mention the new boy Gomis. The full back berths have 2 people for each berth, with Jara and Lichaj at right back, and Fox and Harding at left back. This is unheard of for cover in those roles for Forest, especially the old left back spot, and right back looks especially strong in depth with 2 internationals vying for a spot. As said though, what's the best set up? You'd have to probably say Jara, Wilson, Hobbs and Fox, though anyone else stepping in there would be good enough.
Hobbs and Lascelles
Midfield
Like defence, we have such a strength in depth in midfield. The central roles with Reid, Lansbury, and Vaughan having competition from Moussi, Majewski, and with Cohen long term out means there is competition for places. That’s if we go with a midfield 3 as we have been doing for a while, there's even more of a battle if we go with 2. Push onto the wings and Abdoun, Mackie and Paterson are all hitting form and forcing selection issues for the manager. A few of the strikers can drop off that central role to play the advanced midfielder, (Cox especially) meaning the versatility of some players is a bonus. We even can add Greening to the mix, even if he is largely a spent force and likely to never play for us again. This is the only position injuries could really force our hand, but Moussi being back in form means we have extra strength. Jara can also fill in at midfield if needs be too, and Lichaj at right back wouldn’t be weakening the team, so there's that option too.

Lansbury, Paterson and Abdoun
Attack
The attacking options are numerous if not always reliable. Djebbour offers something new and we're not fully sure exactly yet, other than scoring from half a yard versus Yeovil (already better than Findlay then eh?) But bear in mind we have a few options. Cox has been first choice for the last 18 months, and his return isn't great, that said he has been scoring since Christmas, grabbing a lot better ratio of goals per game that he had before. Henderson is as he always has been with Forest, an alternative approach. Physical games are we unleash him and although not always effective he gives defenders something else to think about. Derbyshire, aside from THAT Leeds goal is a waste of time, when he comes on he mindlessly runs about a bit. Tudgay might as well have his back packed ready for a loan move, and Blackstock, heavily out of favour and form before going to Leeds is now out the picture with an injury anyway. If all fails just put Halford up there again, though Mackie plays effectively through the middle too.
Cox and Henderson with Paterson

The Manager
Billy has been backed this window in a way he never got before. That should firstly keep him happy, but secondly give him the tools he wants. It works both ways though. I always thought Billy worked better when he was up against it, backs to the wall, and that’s why post January we'd usually go on a good run. Now, I'm not so sure that mentality would exist, we have a new one to look for. I suppose we could try and get that second spot against the odds, but it Billy has new motivational challenges, with having a large squad to keep happy, rather than the previous attempts with tight knit squads pulling in the same direction. I suppose that’s why many of the spare extra players will get shipped out on loan, so that there aren't unhappy players bringing morale down through lack of action.
Billy
Overall
The squad depth compared to what we have had before is unbelievable. There has always been area that we were less strong in, but now the weak links have been removed. In every squad I can remember in a long time, there was always a position in need of improvement, and now I am not so sure. It augurs well for the rest of the season. We have strength everywhere, injuries are not such a worry, and ready place replacements are there should we need them. We can rotate if players get tired, and so hopefully there will be no playoffs burn out if we go that route. We should stay string all the way till May. Hopefully all of Fawaz investments will pay off and he can see his team in the top flight.
Fawaz

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