Nottingham Forest were deservedly beaten by a strong West Bromwich Albion side on Saturday, but the lessons learned from it will be invaluable.
Despite the Baggies superiority Forest were defeated by two very unorthodox goals; the first a howler from Aro Muric and the winner can only be described as an absolute fluke.
That said, Albion looked streets ahead of the home side for the majority of the contest.
Slaven Bilic’s troops were well drilled, very physical and extremely organised. If I had to sum them up in just a word, it would be strength. Their back four is one of the best I’ve seen at Championship level, one that will thwart many an opposition attack, regardless of their firepower.
Reverting to the same fixture last season, it all started so well. Matty Cash bombed forward from his newly assigned right back spot and blasted home from outside the box.
The midfielder, like Ben Osborn, is doing his best in alien territory.
It’s fair to say that Albion pretty much controlled the game from the 15th minute despite not creating that many clear-cut chances.
As the Black Country men began to dictate the proceedings something caught my eye. Slaven Bilic virtually kicked and headed every ball for his team from the technical area, whilst Sabri Lamouchi remained perpetually passive. That’s no indictment on the Frenchman, purely an observation.
Shape wise, I’m happy for the Reds to enforce a 4-3-3. The previous two managers/coaches usually relied upon the safety of 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 at times.
Ironically, Lamouchi went 4-4-2 around the hour mark with the introduction of Rafa Mir. The twenty-two-year-old Spaniard, on loan from Wolves, looked very hungry and, in my opinion, offered more in his first five minutes of action, than Lewis Grabban had in the previous sixty-two.
Grabban is a very good striker at Championship level but his attitude and willingness to be a team player concerns me at times.
Do we need him? Absolutely! But he needs to apply himself more often. From my position in the commentary box I noted several instances when he received the ball in good positions before misscontrolling or being outmuscled. Grabban publicly supported twitter accounts that dismissed our necessity for more strikers, however, despite being a big fan of the hit man, it would be crazy to suggest that he doesn’t need competition or accomplices in the firing line.
We can ramble on all week long about where it all went wrong or why we didn’t win, but remember this, West Bromwich Albion lost to Bolton on the opening day of last season. Yes, that sounds so cliché but it’s indelibly true. Also, worthy of note, Fergie’s “Kids” got spanked by Aston Villa in 1995!
I’m certainly not going to pass judgment upon Sabri Lamouchi, Aro Muric or Nottingham Forest in general: we lost but things will appear considerably different throughout the season. Personally, I think that losing this test of strength will allow us to convey the character required to gain promotion back to the Premier League.
As first days go, it was as tough as it gets, and it doesn’t get any easier away at Eland Road next Saturday. Bring it on I say. Leagues are neither won, drawn or lost under the sunny, August skies in England.
However, boys must become men if Nottingham Forest are to return to the Premier league after Twenty-One years of asking!