Nottingham Forest have had a strong start to their Championship season, with an opening day defeat West Brom backed up with solid draws at Leeds United and Charlton Athletic and a 3-0 win over Birmingham.
Noticeably, this mid-August victory is the only game this season where there has been a margin of more than one goal for Forest. Four 1-1 draws and two 1-0 home wins would suggest Forest aren’t a spectacular side, but victories away to both Swansea and Fulham would suggest they have a clear gameplan every week based on who they come up against, something echoed by midfielder Matty Cash in midweek.
Their defeat against Hull at the City Ground however, coupled with a loss at Wigan in front of the Sky cameras, suggest that perhaps now is the perfect time to play the East Midlanders, who are out of the top six for the first time in over a month.
Forest started the season off in a 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 with former Royals man Lewis Grabban (five goals) leading the line. In Sammy Ameobi and Joe Lolley out wide, Forest have a pair of exciting wingers who can both cause problems from out wide in attack and can drop back into the midfield four.
However, this changed into a 4-2-3-1 with Samba Sow joining ever-present Ben Watson in front of the defence to offer more protection, with either Ivanildo or Carvalho further forwards with the wingers (in the No.10 role). The two wingers can play very wide, able to stretch the play and drag the full backs out of place. With Cash playing at right back this season, Forest have an especially potent attacking threat from that right hand side, able to get the youngster forwards with either Lolley or Adomah able to drift into the box with Grabban or overload the opposition full back.
One of Forest’s main strengths is their versatility in attack, with many of their attacking options able to play across the forward line. This is perfectly epitomised by their ability to switch into a 4-4-2, as they did in their recent trips to Wigan and Blackburn, with Ameobi as a second striker and Ribeiro coming into the side on the right wing. The strength in depth Forest have can appear frightening, with reported Reading target John Bostock coming in against Wigan for the influential Sow, out with injury in recent weeks and, despite their loss to the Latics, there was a chance for visiting fans to see Mir Vicente in action up front.
At the back, nervy performances mixed in with a few errors led to Arijanet Muric being replaced in the Forest goal by Brice Samba, who has excelled, claiming six clean sheets in all competitions. In defence, Forest have experience in standout performer Michael Dawson, who usually partners Worrall, but has been out injured of late with the likes of Benito and Figueiredo stepping up to the plate but not able to continue their 10 match unbeaten streak. With Jack Robinson at left back, Forest have a relatively settled back four, and may be boosted by the return of Ryan Yates from injury as Sabri Lamouchi will be looking to arrest this run of two defeats in two.
All in all, Forest have a very strong side who should be challenging in the top six this season, but with a few key players out injured, it remains to be seen whether this blip in form will last long enough for Reading to take advantage of.