Martin O’Neill managed to recruit a handful of loan signings in the January transfer window, players that could allow varying formations for the Reds.
If the truth be told, the new year transfer period isn’t all it’s cracked up to be any more. The odd club will be lucky enough to make a stellar signing but for the majority it’s an opportunity to offload their out of favour squad players.
For Nottingham Forest it was very much a case of needs must, especially in the centre half position, where they’ve been hit with numerous injuries all at once. Martin O’Neill moved swiftly for Yohan Benalouane on an permanent deal from Leicester City before adding Alex Milosevic and Molla Wague before the closing of the window.
Of the injured defenders, Tobias Figueiredo should be the first to return to full fitness. And once back in the fold Forest would have the option to adopt a 3-5-2 if they desired so. Benalouane (after suspension), Milosevic and Figueiredo could possibly occupy a back three whilst being flanked by the likes of Robinson and Darikwa as wing backs.
Of course, this throws up conundrums in front of the defence regarding which midfielders would get the nod, but the fact of the matter is that the players are available to suit such a formation if needed. Would Martin O’Neill be as audacious to try such a system? Well, he has publicly stated that he is open to variations in the way in which his side will set up in future.
Further up the field the addition striker of Leo Bonatini from Wolves is perhaps the most welcome addition, he’s no stranger to the Championship and could be the perfect foil for Lewis Grabban. Even though Daryl Murphy has led the line as a lone forward for O’Neill in the last couple of matches, many supporters are clamouring for more potency. The manager did pair Bonatini and Grabban for half an hour against Birmingham and the debut boy came mighty close to scoring but for a deflection off a Blues player.
Once again, having Bonatini gives the manager more options as far as tactics are concerned. He’s tried 4-4-2 which didn’t sit well with the fans after the lack lustre defeat to Bristol City. But, who’s to say that O’Neill can’t deploy a staggered front two (4-4-1-1), something that worked well for caretaker manager Paul Williams during his short spell in charge of Nottingham Forest.
There is also the adaptation of 4-4-2 with a diamond in the midfield, Colback, Yacob or Pele at the base, Carvalho at the tip and flanked by Lolley and Cash? This would still allow a front two, but the ramifications would of course be the lack of width. And, it would obviously call for a return to the side for Joao Carvalho.
Some NFFC supporters have described the club’s transfer activity as uninspiring but there really aren’t that many super deals to be had at this time of the year any more. The defensive holes have been plugged and a proven Championship striker has been recruited so in essence we have enough to work with, and importantly we have the personnel for different formations.