It is just under a week until Nottingham Forest embark on their 2017-2018 Championship campaign, and it all kicks off against Millwall at The City Ground on Friday 4th August. All supporters like I will hope Forest can build on their successful pre season were we notched up three wins and one draw. We still have a very large squad and one that is filled with talent and no one really knows what formation or line up Mark Warbutton will choose come Friday.
In this article I have gone with a 4-5-1 formation and I will discuss who my starting XI would be.
For me this is a no brainer, Jordan Smith has to start in goal. With Henderson still out injured, Stojkovic heading for the door and Evtimov still heavily inexperienced, Smith will surely start in goal come Friday evening. Smith is far from the finished product but his performances last season against Derby County and Ipswich Town show he is an outstanding shot stopper and is growing in confidence with every game he plays.
Tendayi Darikwa is relatively unknown to most Forest fans but given his experience at Burnley and his positional diversity I feel he could be an ideal right back for this season. Darikwa played very well against Burnley in our last pre season friendly and due to his versatility he is able to play anywhere on the right side of the pitch. He possesses the ability to get forward and attack but also is a trusted and renowned defender. This will provide flexibility to Warbutton when choosing Forest’s tactics.
In terms of the centre back partnership, I have to go with Joe Worrall and Jack Hobbs. Joe Worral really stepped up last season when Phillipe Montanier promoted him from the academy for the match against Reading in late October. Joe Worrall has showed both composure, calmness and leadership in his first season with the senior squad. The young centre back also won silverware this Summer, winning the Toulon Tournament with the England U21s. Mark Warbutton already said he wants to build a team with both youth and experience and picking Worrall will only strengthen his side.
Jack Hobbs is my man to partner Joe Worrall at the back for this season. If Hobbs can stay fit we know he possesses bags of quality and would provide both experience and skill to the Forest rearguard. Jack Hobbs is a towering and physical defender who will be key in warding off any potential aerial threats from oppositions and he also possesses the instinct to score a couple of goals at the other end of the pitch when given the chance.
Honestly, this is a position that Forest really do struggle with in terms of depth and quality. Mark Warbutton released Dani Pinillos this Summer has not added a sufficient replacement. I like Armand Traoré but I do not think he is good enough to be our starting left back, due to his repetitive inconsistent form. Therefore I have gone with last season’s player of the year, Eric Lichaj. Lichaj is a right back by trade, but he is more than capable of playing on the left hand side. A solid defender who is not afraid of getting forward and thus he is my choice for the left back slot.
In my trio of central midfielders I have to go with perhaps not the best three central midfielders at our disposal but instead the three who would complement each other the best and act as the spine of the team. My opinion is that Mark Warbutton should look at David Vaughan, Ben Osborn and Zach Clough.
David Vaughan is an experienced CDM and would provide the cover and maturity to allow Osborn and Clough to push on further up the pitch. Vaughan hardly ever puts in a mistimed tackle and is a rock when called into his defensive duties. He also possesses the ability to pick a pass, to unlock a defence and has great vision, which is exactly what Mark Warbutton is looking for in his Forest side.
Many supporters called for Osborn to be used out wide last season and grew frustrated as the youngster was deployed in the centre Forest’s side last season. I for one was one of those supporters. However, due to the arrival of Barrie McKay I feel that we are better off playing him in the centre in an attacking role instead of him keeping out a quality wide midfielder such as McKay from the team. Osborn boasts a great hunger for winning the ball back and pressing, this with his ability to unleash a blinder and take on defenders is just a few reasons why I would have him playing in the centre this season.
Zach Clough is another gem in the Forest side and is wasted when used out wide. His ability to dribble and win the ball back is why I have picked him at centre midfield, as due to the cover of Vaughan behind, it will allow Clough and Osborn to press and overload the opposition’s defence. If you are confused where I am coming from then just look back to his delightful goal against Derby at the City Ground.
I’ll never understand why Jamie Ward was loaned out to Burton Albion but to be truthful no one understood many of Phillipe Montanier’s decisions last season. Ward is a huge asset to any team, given his pace, drive and ability to finish when given the chances. He is another player who hounds opposing players and never lacks in the crossing category. LM has to be Jamie Ward. Ward is also highly versatile is able to play on the right if needed and thus this gives Mark Warbutton another tactical edge, if he picks Jamie Ward.
I really did struggle to choose who should be played at RM. On the one hand Mustapha Carayol was in fine form at the end of last season but overall his first season at Trentside was underwhelming. However, I have given this spot to new signing to Barrie McKay, due to his explosiveness on the ball and movement off the ball. McKay also has a decent goal record whilst playing at Rangers and this is something I think Carayol lacks. McKay changed the game when he came on against Girona in the recent pre season friendly and he is definitely one to watch.
In a 4-5-1 formation Forest will need a strong target man who is able to hold up play but also have the ability to turn a defender and then drive at the heart of the opposition’s defence. I’d have to go with Ben Brereton up top due to his raw ability, desire and work rate. His performances for Nottingham Forest U23s last season showed the young man is a clinical finisher and this was only enhanced when he made his breakthrough to the first team at the end of last season. Brereton’s sheer size will also allow him to hold the ball up and bring into play both Ben Osborn and Zach Clough which again is another reason why I have gone with the young Englishman up top for the Reds.
Here is my predicted line up for the game against Millwall and this is how I feel Mark Warbutton could set them up.