Philippe Montanier has bamboozled us all with his continuous adjustments but it’s time to stop the changes!
Since taking the reins at the City Ground, the Frenchman has proved somewhat unpredictable regarding player selection and choice of formation. In all fairness, he has created an entertaining brand of football and in stark contrast to last season, persistently attacked the opposition. There are goals a plenty at both ends of the field, but too many in our own net for my liking.
In all fairness to Montanier, he hasn’t had much in the way of a pre season. However; as we approach the month of October we should be witnessing a familiar frame of the team. Saturday’s starting line up against Norwich City was again peppered with different personnel in unfamiliar roles, including a home debut for Nicolao Dumitru.
Our opponents Norwich City came to the City Ground having won their last two matches, regardless of form; they are always a team to be reckoned with. Having been up to the Premier league and back, they have retained a nucleus of that squad and haven’t deviated too much in the way of formations either. This is the kind of stability I am urging our manager to employ, a settled team and a consistent formation.
Despite my concerns on Saturday, Forest took to the pitch like a team possessed. To a man, everybody looked comfortable on the ball and produced an excellent first half display. City had a sprinkling of good chances though; Robbie Brady was twice brilliantly denied by Stojkovic in the Forest goal. The Serbian stopper went one better by saving Wes Hoolahan’s well struck penalty. Nicolao Dumitru had brought down the Irishman with a clumsy lunge from behind, although everyone in the stand around me thought Hoolahan had dived. Watch the reaction of the Forest players; there seems to be little opposition to the decision. For me it was a foul!
Hildeberto Pereira was electric in the advanced midfield position and seemed to be at the heart of everything, he played in Carayol who intern crossed for Vellios, and the Greek striker was inches away from a certain goal. Pereira then produced wonderful skill before feeding Dumitru down the left; the Italian’s lovely cross was headed against the post by Lichaj before Apostolos Vellios tucked away the rebound. That’s 3 goals in 6 days for Vellios, in the same week that I wrote him off on live radio! Despite this purple patch, I will stand by my comments. If he does continue in this vein of form, I’ll be the first to admit that I got it wrong, but a season doesn’t last 6 days.
Whatever Alex Neil said to his players at the interval definitely had an impact; if the home side owned the first half, the canaries absolutely dominated the second. Norwich clicked into gear and without overstating it, they battered us. Jonny Howson scored the deserved equaliser for them soon after the break; he was completely unmarked from a corner as he pounced at the back post. City were controlling the game from the midfield, Howson, Hoolahan and Brady ran the show; it highlighted a few anomalies in our own team to be honest. Pajtim Kasami was second best and when he did get possession he gave the ball away just as quick. He was merely a passenger as Norwich broke with ease, time after time. Their domination was rewarded in the 65th minute when Graham Dorrans lashed home from 20 yards, after Olsen’s initial shot was blocked.
What followed can only be described as misguided; Chris Cohen was replaced by Lansbury and Nicklas Bendtner came on for Vellios. Although I’m often critical of Lansbury, he should have started the game, and I certainly wouldn’t have taken off Cohen when Kasami was having such a poor game. Vellios; another player who I’ve berated, did enough to finish the game and would have been utilised far better had Bendtner partnered, rather than replaced him. It’s glaringly obvious that Nicklas Bendtner is not yet fit; so why throw him on as the lone striker?
Ironically the big Dane missed a great chance to equalise with twenty minutes remaining; he was extremely rusty in every facet of his game to be honest. Again; it will be a while before we see him at full capacity. Forest’s only other chance came in the form of a diving header, from substitute Ben Osborn. Another 2-2 draw would have flattered us on Saturday though.
I think Montanier’s selection of the back four was decent enough and Mancienne would have been my man of the match. The midfield set up and personnel need sorting definitively; there are just too many changes on a weekly basis. Norwich won this contest courtesy of their midfield and we would do well to emulate them.
So it’s back to the drawing board again and who knows what the unpredictable Frenchman will conjure up next!