The Forest | Ep 03 - Winter is Coming | FM21
Posted on December 25, 2020 | ⌚ 5 min read
Story Blog Post # 005
We managed to take our red hot form into November, despite the disappointment versus newly promoted Coventry.
We went into this game without conceding in the last 5 games, scoring 10 in the process.
It should have surely been a routine victory over a newly promoted side, right?
This was the first complacency on my part, when I decided to rotate my defence and the midfield.
The result was that we were completely outplayed for most of the game, until we managed to score a penalty -against the run of play-. However, Coventry managed to grab a late, and deserved, equalizer.
The dressing room after this game saw the first water bottle thrown at the team. I though I had to ensure that complacency doesn't seep into our team, which thankfully, didn't affect us.
The rest of the month went well, scoring and defending well until...
I absolutely loathe the December and January fixtures. We played 8 times during December, and a further 6 matches during January.
We enter December with a full hospital, leaving us devoid of crucial squad depth options during this tough period which we had to play three of our promotion rivals, Watford, Norwich and Brentford.
We tasted our first league defeat against relegated Watford, in the first game in December. It was a drab match, where we defended well, but didn't take our chances. We were consigned to defeat by this late Quina strike, a result that saw us drop off the top of the table during the winter:
More disappointment followed as we conceded 3 in the next 3 games.
2 of these came against relegated Norwich, in which we played abysmally as we trailed 2-1 by the end of the first half.
However, somehow, we managed to score two, thanks to Knockaert and Arter, and get full points from this game.
I resisted a strong urge to change and tweak tactically, even though we were playing poorly, but since this was mostly against superior opposition in Norwich and Watford, I decided to stick to our approach.
We allowed Brentford to dominate us in the next game, only to be saved yet again by Knockaert to draw 1-1, and remain second in the table behind Watford.
This point came at great cost:
Knockaert has been the league's best player, scoring 12 in 18 appearances. I was devastated to lose at this particular time, but then, we had to adjust to life without his services. His loan was only till January, and while he had an optional future fee of 10M, I barely can afford half of that amount.
Brentford, however, decided next game to beat Watford 2-0 ending their 10 away games unbeaten streak; while we started to get back to our rhythm by beating relegation candidates, Sheff Wednesday, to finally hold the first spot in the table.
It was this Sheffield Wednesday game that we started to look solid and dominant once more. I was glad that I did not make any tactical changes, and yet manage to break our poor form quickly.
Despite Knockaert's absence during the final 4 games in December, we scored 9, conceding 0!
Media also started praising our defence:
As half of the season is gone, I have already pinpointed our squad weaknesses. These are mainly the LB, RB and ST positions, besides a replacement for Knockaert, who shall leave during the season, and Fulham has zero interset to extend his loan.
However, lack of money, and imminent promotion makes it hard to find and sign targets that could do well, since usually a squad makeover is to due after promotion, it does not make sense to overspend now.
With this in mind, I decided to look for cheap players that could do a job right now, and become at least a decent sub in the Premier league. Accordingly, our window was as follows:
Xavier Amaechi - Loan in, Hamburg
Xavier was identified and signed by the DoF. I liked this transfer as it is a cheap backup to our weakened flanks, since Lolley, Mighten and Freeman are usually out injured. Xavier is quick, hardworking and skilful, I hope I can improve him during the second half of the season.
Josh Sims - 875K, Southampton
Sims was detected by our scouts that he is transfer listed at Southamption. I instantly decided that he would be the perfect (cheap) replacement of Knockaert, and added him as a transfer target. The DoF managed to sign him successfully. He has decent stats, but a bit lacking in the mental department.
George Puscas - 4.7M, Reading
Our marquee signing is former Inter striker, Puscas, from Reading. I have struggled to properly utilize Grabban as he is not a natural target man, and while Guerrero had put in some decent performances, I couldn't rely entirely on him to carry our attack. Puscas comes with a very nice attribute set, with much potential to improve. I reckon he could play second fiddle to us in the Premier league.
Anthony Knockaert: End of loan, Fulham
I probably never felt devastated on losing a player as I felt on losing Knockaert at the start of the transfer window. He was clearly on a higher level than the rest of the league, and carried us at times. Hopefully, Sims, Lolley, Mighten and Freeman could step up and fill the massive void left by Knockaert.
He played his last game for Forest against Preston on the 2nd of January, 2021, scoring this beauty:
Six days later, he was in the Fulham starting XI that knocked Nottingham Forest out of the 3rd round of the FA Cup.
Anyways, during January, we managed to hit top gear in the league that saw us steamroll our opponents, maintaining 8 consecutive league clean sheets, winning 7 of those 8 games.
This clean sheet streak was broken by an absolute howitzer by Mowatt in our game against Barnsely during the final match in January:
We had the final laugh at the end as Guerrero scores a brace to give us a comeback win, and consolidate our position on top of the table by the end of the transfer window:
We continue to be, by far, the most clinical team in the league:
and by far, the most impenetrable defence, too, which is classed as "extremely out of the ordinary":
To put substance to this statistic, our xG against so far is 20.79, second least, yet we conceded only 10, least in the league. This is conceding 9 goals less than Watford, which have an xG against of 19.05.
This could only mean that we face a lot of low quality shots, that opponents fail to convert, which is a testament to the successful implementation of the Forest way of playing football.
Finally, it seems that we are going to have some decent attackers in this year's youth intake:
Man of the Month(s): Knockaert
Knockaert has been in a league of his own so far, being the catalyst of our attack, and our top scorer. He is going to be badly missed, especially with our misfiring strikers.
Hall of Shame: Fullback department
I can't remember when I have had poorer fullbacks. Cyrus Christie, Yuri Ribeiro, Gaetan Bong and Jenkinson would all average consistently low ratings, and usually get dribbled past, lose aerial and ground duels and get caught out of position. To be completely fair, they'd have some decent games, but they are consistently poor. If only I had some more money...
Until next update
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