words: David Marples
Albert Einstein was right all along: an object can be in two different states at the same time.
Although he doubted his own theory, physicists from the University of California at Santa Barbara made a breakthrough in 2010 and concluded that “Quantum theory dictates that a very tiny thing can absorb energy only in discrete amounts, can never sit perfectly still, and can literally be in two places at once,” said Science writer, Adrian Cho.
On the one hand, this team is more than capable of serving up dishes as confused as trifle on pizza in the form of performances against Brentford, Millwall and Norwich. (Burton is deliberately excluded on the ground that the whole sorry thing never actually happened.) Yet increasingly, there is a reassuring sense that you know what you are going to get from each performance and what’s more, such consistency is starting to yield some serious points on the board.
With just over a third of the season completed, Forest have claimed 16 26 points from 16 games. This is the second highest points haul from 16 games over the previous ten years.
2018: 26 from 16
2017: 24 from 16 – finished in 21st position
2016: 16 from 16 – finished in 21st position
2015: 17 from 16 – finished in 16th position
2014: 22 from 16 – finished in 14th position
2013: 27 from 16 – finished in 11th position
2012: 23 from 16 – finished in 8th position
2011: 17 from 16 – finished in 19th position
2010: 23 from 16 – finished in 6th position
2009: 25 from 16 – finished in 3rd position
2008: 11 from 16 – finished in 19th position
Yet the Championship is chaos theory perfectly embodied and to draw a direct correlation between points haul at this stage and final league positions is riskier than a 1983 film in which Tom Cruise dances in his pants. After all, in 2013, 27 points were gained from 16 games yet come the final reckoning, Forest finished in 11th position.
Nonetheless, it’s fair to say that despite the whole Burton thing (never happened) and despite a habit of conceding late goals, it’s all going pretty well or at the very least, better than most of the previous ten years.
Despite the inconsistency, Forest are growing increasingly consistent in terms of what they serve up. They are tidy in possession out wide and confident in their ability to produce overloads high up the pitch. As the game develops, they increasingly like to suck the opposition in before hitting raking balls out wide in order to exploit the pace of Matty Cash, Joe Lolley or Gil Bastião Dias. At some stage in the game – and usually later rather than earlier - João Carvalho will do something that will make you want to invite him to your house, sit him in your favourite chair, allow him to keep his shoes on, offer him tea in the best mug and tell him how wonderful he is. And Lewis Grabban will score a goal.
In consecutive league games, Forest have faced the league leaders and have acquitted themselves well. Indeed, another thing we can reliably expect from this side is that after a disappointing performance, they will come back stronger in the next game. They did so after defeat at Brentford (followed by a decent point and clean sheet at Swansea), after the draw with Millwall (followed by a win and clean sheet at Middlesbrough) and after defeat at home to Norwich (followed by a 3-0 mauling of Bolton). Although the Burton thing didn’t actually happen, this performance and result follows the same trend: poor performances are quickly rectified in the next game – a very useful characteristic to have in your locker, especially in a league as tight and utterly unpredictable as this one.
For large parts of the game against Sheffield United, Forest looked comfortable. The first half was very even with the visitors looking sharp in attack and comfortable in midfield – totally at ease in knocking the ball around in order to create space for the dangerous front pairing of Billy Sharpe and Leon Clarke. John Fleck was especially influential for the Blades. Yet that’s not to say they had it all their own way and Forest created some decent opportunities, most notable being Lolley’s strike that grazed the bar.
After half-time, Forest looked increasingly in control as United attacks moored on the jagged coastline featuring rocks in the image of Michael Dawson and Tobias Pereira Figueiredo. Despite some reservations in some quarters, it should be acknowledged that Costel Pantilimon’s clean sheet stash is on the rise. Early on, he kicked long towards Lewis Grabban on a number of occasions – something which he has been frequently urged to do by some. Naturally, after three such instances, he was urged to stop doing that and pass it out to a nearby defender. Sometimes in life, you just can’t win.
If any team was more likely to score, it was Forest although in a game of few chances, it required a little something unexpected and special to break the deadlock. Rather than allow the ball to run out for another corner, Carvalho collected it and attacked the full back before shimmying and shooting towards goal. Grabban helped it along its sweet way.
With Ben Watson overlooked and Jack Colback suspended, Claudio Yacob made his first start in midfield and hugely impressed not just in his simple but clever distribution but also his unwillingness to allow runners to ghost past him. He is a snarling bundle of spikiness with his constant pushing, shoving, barging, stalking and ability to wind up every single person who isn’t on his team. He’s just what Forest need.
As it stands, Forest can certainly be in two different states at one time: slightly frustrating but incredibly pleasing.
Issue Ten is at the printers and will be with you very soon. It features exclusive interviews with two 80s Forest icons and all the usual lovely stuff. There's a crossword too.