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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Nottingham Forest

Paul Taylor of The Athletic previews tonight's encounter

28 January 2020

Barring two defeats at the end of October and slightly sticky patch from November into December, from an outsider’s perspective Nottingham Forest look to have enjoyed a highly-consistent season and are rightly among the promotion picture with just the final stretch on the horizon. How would you summarise this campaign so far?

Well the December stutter is nothing new, it’s bizarre. Forest have this very weird record of having barely taken any points in December. They were fortunate to get two wins towards the end of the month just to overcome it a little bit, but in previous years it has cost numerous managers their jobs, so they’ll be grateful to have got through it and still be going into January in a position to challenge, having won – at the time we are speaking – four of the last five games. They very much have overcome that stutter. I was trying to teach Sabri Lamouchi ‘under the radar’ last week because I was watching the West Brom vs Stoke game on Sky Sports and they were talking about how Fulham, Swansea and one or two other teams would be delighted with this result – Forest weren’t even mentioned, but it feels as though they are picking up momentum at the right time.

There’s still a long way to go but with Leeds and West Brom starting to feel the pressure of late, do you think Forest have one eye a top two finish?

I have a way of looking at this: they have to aim for it, because if you aim for automatic promotion then you’ve, naturally, got more chance of getting into the top six. Whether it’s realistic or not, I don’t know, because I get the sense that West Brom and Leeds’ stutters aren’t going to last for that long and I still think it’s going to require a heck of a run of form – in spite of the points gap narrowing – to match them between now and the end of the season. I think they will come good again and also Brentford could potentially be in there. If you finish above those three, you’ve got a good chance of winning promotion this season.

With these two sides so evenly matched in the table at the moment, just how important could a win in west London be for Sabri Lamouchi’s men?

There’s no getting around it, it’s massive. Over the next month or so, Forest have got to play Brentford, West Brom and Leeds, so it’s a significant spell in the season and if they can get through February in a similar kind of form to what we’ve seen so far, they might just have half a chance of doing something special this season. But I wouldn’t, for a minute, think that’s going to be easy and the game against Brentford is probably one of the hardest they’ll face between now and the end of the season. If they can come there and get a win, then maybe a few more people, including me, might start to believe a bit more.

Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye out for on Tuesday?

Lewis Grabban. He’s a bit of an obvious one but he’s the first player since Stan Collymore to score 15 goals in consecutive seasons and he could be the first since Marlon Harewood and David Johnson to get 20 goals. They both did that in the 2002/03 season, so it’s been a fair while since they had a 20-goal-a-season striker. He’s one of those players who works really hard, is honest, has endeavour and industry, but there will be long spells of games where you don’t think he’s doing much. Then, all of a sudden, he’ll get one chance and he’ll put it away. He’s unbelievably ruthless, particularly away from home, and if he gets an opportunity, he tends to put it away. That’s what he’s all about.

How is Lamouchi likely to set up his side?

He’s got two ways of playing, both of which are very similar. They favour a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-1-1-1, which aren’t too different, it just depends on the personnel they play in front of the back four. They like to be disciplined, they like to be organised, the like to break down and they don’t give away too many chances or goals. They are actually better suited to playing away from home because it, naturally, leads to them being able to play on the counter-attack with pace and urgency, using players like Joe Lolley, Sammy Ameobi and Grabban to go and get a goal on the break. They’ve got some good results this season by playing that way and I just get the feeling that’s because of the way they play and the way it suits them when they are on the road.

What’s your score prediction for Forest’s final trip to Griffin Park?

I won’t miss that press box! Let’s go for the easy route and say it’ll be a 2-2 draw.

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