There are certainly positive elements of every Nottingham Forest performance under Nuno Espirito Santo so far (and six points from four games is a perfectly acceptable return for a team who were on the slide).
Chris Wood is in brilliant goalscoring form, which is something I really didn’t think I’d write again outside of the OFC Nations Cup. Forest offer far more of an attacking threat, which was necessary. Their central midfielders are getting and creating chances, rather than all staying deep.
But Forest will be in relegation trouble (particularly if the points deduction hits) if they continue to defend so haphazardly from set-piece situations and crosses into the box. That is why they lost against Bournemouth. That is why they lost against Brentford.
Some of this is by circumstance, absentees forcing near-constant change. Forest’s starting back four for the Bournemouth game, only four league games ago: Neco Williams, Willy Boly, Murillo, Harry Toffolo. Forest’s starting back four for the Brentford game: Gonzalo Montiel, Andrew Omobamidele, Murillo, Nuno Tavares. There is always change here, for one reason or another.
But it’s about getting the basics right, and that shouldn’t rely upon having the same players out there every week. Yes, Ivan Toney did move the ball to the side a bit (and moving the foam with it was really cheeky), but Matt Turner still lined up his wall after that and there still looked like a very obvious gap into which any decent player could curl the ball. Toney’s free-kick didn’t even go over the line right next to the post.
The second goal is classic Forest defending. Ben Mee is Brentford’s very obvious corner threat – he scored three league goals last season, three the season before and now has two so far this season. To let him not only win his header, but win it with a frighteningly simple run to the front post, is criminal. There are teams below Forest who are better at this than them, and that’s not good enough.
The other thing Forest are worse at than every other club is dropping points when leading – they are the most generous club in the land. Since the start of last season, Forest have dropped 46 league points from winning positions. This season alone, they have lost as many matches during which they have held a lead as Everton, Fulham, Wolves, and Crystal Palace combined. That’s why they are below them all.
Then, as is their vibe these days, Sunday brought news of another letter to PGMOL over the Toney free-kick. I can understand the frustration (although, to repeat, they got several things wrong themselves). But this persistent complaining about refereeing decisions is a really bad look, particularly given members of the media have the news. Were this a private process, maybe I could make it permissible – not this public outcry every time. It risks ceding any goodwill.
This latest complaint seems to have irked many supporters. Officials miss things. Officials make mistakes. But those fans make the point that Forest would be far better getting their own house in order defensively. If this is an attempt to create a siege mentality of us versus them, so be it. But that should exist anyway when your team needs points. It doesn’t make this right.