A new era is underway at the City Ground, 3 months in to my time at the club I am modeling the club on Borussia Dortmund…..I am a big fan of how Dortmund have rebuilt since they fell in to financial difficulties a few years ago, since then Dortmund have grown and have the highest average attendance in Football around the World, they are 2nd only to The Dallas Cowboys as the highest average attendance in the World in any team sport. I will be managing our finances closely as I look to put the club back on the map in Europe.
I have streamlined our first team squad down to 20 players has planned. I have been able to use the money created by the sale of Kelvin Wilson to Norwich to bring in some fresh faces on short term free deals plus it’s allowed me to release Danny Fox and the loan termination of Chris O’Grady. I have got the side playing to the Forest Way Philosophy sooner than I expected. I have also short listed a number of transfer targets and sent the scouts out to do the ground work in preperation so we are ready to make our move once the embargo is lifted. Funnily enough I am actually enjoying working under the embargo it has made me revaluate the squad and change the way I manage the club. I have looked to set our playing style based on Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund, which the players have adapted to well.
Below I have listed our 1st team squad for this season
Dorus de Vries – At the age of 34 Dorus is coming towards the end of his career. but he is my number one this season and as started the season well. 6 clean sheets on the bounce and some key saves.
Dimitar Evtimov – Dimi provides back up between the sticks for me and as the ability to step up in the future. He is yet to play a game for me but no doubt he will get his chance in the future.
Review: I will be looking to bring a new keeper in at the end of the season. The new keeper may come in to the club as the new number 1 depending on Evtimov ‘s progress this season.
Eric Lichaj – The best right back at the club by far and in the last year of his contract. On current form I will be looking to extend his stay at the club. Playing well in all our games so far and might well get that extension on his contract.
Review: Lichaj is the only reasonable right back at the club with centre back Michael Mancienne covering for me this season, so again an area of the team I will look to strengthen in the summer.
Dani Pinillos – First choice left back established himself well from the off this season and looked solid in our back 4 in the first 2 months of the season. The Spanish left back looks a quality signing.
Bojan Jokic – Very strong left back and good rotation option with Pinillos, looks to overlap in our system at every opportunity
Review: Very pleased with this area of the squad and hope to keep both Pinillos and Jokic at the club, with long term injury to club captain Chris Cohen both have a done an excellent job in our system this season.
Jack Hobbs – A rock at the heart of our defence this season playing in 15 of our 16 games this season, A solid performer.
Michael Mancienne – Adds a touch of quality to our back 4 and covers the right back position for me in the absence of Lichaj. Played in rotation with Matt Mills but started all our games in the last month. Can also step in to the midfield if required
Matt Mills – Rotation option covering Hobbs and Mancienne after the sale of Kelvin & former Bolton skipper has provided good cover so far this season but needs to step up if he wants to start games.
Alex Lacovitti – Playing in our U21 squad he has got the attributes to develop in to a good centre back in the future, Lacovitti will provide cover this season and then hopefully kick on in his development.
Review: The central defence at the club has been superb this season building a fortress at the City Ground back up is provided by Roger Riera and Alex Lacovitti. May need to strengthen if we gain promotion.
Ryan Mendes – Mendes as proven to be a good signing for an embargoed club and his loan deal can be made permanent for £3.6m. My first choice in the right sided position chipped in with 2 goals and 4 assists so far this season a key player for us so far.
Jamie Ward – Started the season well on the left wing, I am using him in rotation with Giorgos Samaras, he has netted 6 times already and looks like being a super option out on the left cutting in.
Jermaine Pennant – Brought in on a free transfer on a 10 month contract as cover for Ryan Mendes and the 32 year old as reacted well in his brief time at the club already providing a goal and assist.
Giorgos Samaras – Another free transfer on a contract until the end of the season, Samaras has made an instant impact with 3 goals in 6 starts. Playing in rotation with Jamie Ward we have strong options on both wings.
Review: I am more than happy with our options on both wings, however with 3 contracts expiring it’s an area I have to evaluate has the season goes on.
Henri Lansbury – Lansbury has been playing in a Trequartista role for us and has been exceptional and one of our top performers in the opening months of the season. Lansbury can drop back and play in our centre if required.
Gary Gardner – Solid midfielder on loan from Aston Villa. Gardner has been a consistent performer in our midfield with 13 starts under his belt.
Ben Osborn – Limited starts so far but looks to have a future with us, can play in a couple of position ‘s in midfield and could well become useful as the season
David Vaughan – Quality player keeps the ball moving in our system, the Welshman has put in some quality performance ‘s so far. At 32 he is at the wrong end of his career but still a class act at this level.
Kyle Ebecillo – The FC Twente man is on loan with us until the end of the season, he won young player of the month award in August and has become one of my favourite players in the squad. I may look to make him a permanent member of our squad.
Michu – Spanish attacking midfielder signed on a free after the termination of Chris O’Grady ‘s loan. I will use him in rotation with Lansbury in the Trequartista role. Looks to be a good capture for free after 3 quality starts returning an assist and goal.
Review: The central midfield is well covered and should get us in to the top 6 at least. We also have Andy Reid, Robert Tesche and Chris Cohen out injured long term. We may well be looking to release a few at the end of the season.
Nélson Oliveira – Has excelled in our system so far with 13 goals in 16 appearances and proving a real coup for a club under the transfer embargo. We have got him on loan until the end of the season. On this form I would very much like to sign him on a permanent deal. I feel if he stays injury free he will get the goals to take us to the next level.
Tyler Walker – The son of club legend Des Walker, and has the talent to be nurtured in to a prolific goal scorer in the future.
Review: I have decided to stick with just the 2 strikers in my first team squad with the option of Jamie Ward, Giorgos Samaras and Michu providing the cover up front. I have decided Dexter Blackstock is not good enough in my opinion so he is listed and could leave on a free in the near future. We also have both Britt Assombalonga and Matty Fryatt with long term injuries.
I think the transfer embargo has definitely made me think more about how we will progress in the future, we do have a chairman who will put the money in but my approach to recruiting and development of players as changed for the better.
Looking at our recent match Away match at Huddersfield which we Won 3-0
I have watched a big chunk of this game to see how our 4-2-3-1 is developing. I will start by looking at our defensive unit, we set up with 2 Ball playing Centre Back’s and 2 Attacking Wing Backs we play an high line to enable us to press the play and reduce the gap between our Midfield 2. Our 4-2-3-1 becomes a 4-1-4-1 in the defensive phase of play with our Deep Lying Playmaker sitting deeper than our Roaming Playmaker out of our midfield pairing. Our 2 wingers drop in and sit with our Trequartista which seems to give us a diamond instead of a flat 4 in front of our Deep Lying Playmaker leaving our front man to occupy the oppositions half.
Our defence looked really solid against Huddersfield with the press doing its job making Huddersfield play long and hurried passes which we delt with easily (this as become a theme of our play during the last month) what I did notice is the opposition are hitting long diagnal balls to our right back area which gives us a 2v1 situation in our favour with our right sided centre back and our wing back dealing with this phase easily. Michael Mancienne is stepping in to our midfield area with the ball on occasions breaking the line.
Hopefully we can continue to defend well in the coming months with my back 5 preference being….
(GKP) De Vries
(WBR)Lichaj (BPD) Mancienne (BPD) Hobbs (WBL) Pinillos
We went on a 6 game run without shipping a goal in the League which is very pleasing to see so early on in the season.
The midfield performance against Huddersfield was a joy to watch with David Vaughan and Gary Gardner both given Playmaker roles they really kept the ball moving particularly in the 2nd half feeding our wingers Mendes and Samaras and Trequartista on the day Henri Lansbury who got one of our goals after we overloaded the left side before switching to the right for the overlapping Lichaj to pull one back for Lansbury to net. Our wide men were busy with Samaras and Mendes teasing the Huddersfield back line relentlessly both creating opportunities for our front man Nélson Oliveira who capped a wonderful display with 2 more goals. Oliveira has most definitely filled the void left by the long term injury to Britt Assombalonga, the Portuguese front man is not only scoring the goals but his overall game play as made him a perfect fit for our system with his tireless closing down and quality off the ball play.