It has been a superb couple of weeks for Philippe Montanier’s team as they have turned their fortunes around as the pressure was building after a poor 1-1 draw against Queens Park Rangers at home which now seems so long ago.
It is difficult to pin down one reason why Nottingham Forest’s results have changed so drastically in a run of form that has seen them go from being two points off relegation to just six points off the play-offs but there have been some noticeable changes from Montanier.
A more settled team
Montanier was criticised heavily throughout the run which saw Forest win just one game out of 12 as he regularly made several changes to the line-up, making him appear to still not know his best team despite the fact we are now well into the season.
Not all of these changes were out of choice, Forest have been dealt several injury blows already throughout the season and have also had to deal with a significant amount of suspensions as the side have a very poor disciplinary record this campaign.
However, more recently, Montanier has been picking a more settled side and this has been rewarded with more positive results. He changed formation to a back three and it took time for the team to understand this formation but now it is beginning to click.
It appears his first choice back three is Joe Worrall, Matt Mills and Damien Perquis. Daniel Pinillos is likely to be first choice left-back when fit and Eric Lichaj is the best right-back at the club. Ironically, this defence has only been able to play together once which was in the only game where Forest kept a clean sheet in the 2-0 win away at Ipswich Town.
The defence is the most important area of the pitch to have a settled team selection but the midfield also now appears to be more set in stone.
Thomas Lam has claimed the position just in front of the defence with some impressive displays of late and Henri Lansbury and Patjim Kasami have been doing well further forward.
The performances of these three have been so good that even a fully fit David Vaughan cannot find a way into the team.
Ben Osborn has also made himself one of the first names on the team sheet with a run of man-of-the-match performances in the number 10 role.
As for the striker position, Montanier now has a choice of Britt Assombalonga, Nicklas Bendtner or Apostolos Vellios which is a welcome headache for the Forest boss.
The return of injured players
As well as more settled team selections, the return of injured players has also had a very positive impact on Forest’s recent positive results.
The return of Britt Assombalonga has arguably had the biggest impact. Forest are still having to be very careful with him due to how serious his injury was and the length of time he found himself on the sidelines.
However, just having him involved gave the rest of the team a lift and his quality in front of goal will be the difference for Forest in many games this season.
Nicklas Bendtner has also recently returned from injury and provides Forest with another option in the attacking department. He was starting to perform very well before he picked up his injury against Birmingham City but appears to have come back in similar form as he picked up his second goal for the club against Newcastle United on Friday night.
The return of Daniel Pinillos was also a huge boost to Forest’s defensive problems. Despite the fact that he is back on the sidelines with a more minor injury, it is hoped that he is back involved within the next few weeks.
His performance away at Ipswich showed his quality and he helped contribute to the only clean sheet Forest have achieved all season.
The likes of Damien Perquis, Eric Lichaj, Thomas Lam, Michael Mancienne and more have also suffered minor injuries throughout this season but are now all back fully fit for Montanier to choose from.
Young players given a chance
Philippe Montanier has also not been afraid to give youngsters a chance to impress and impose themselves on the first team.
The likes of Joe Worrall and Matty Cash have both been given several first team oppurtunities with Worrall in particular cementing a place in the back three.
Their impressive performances have been shown by the fact Premier League teams are now keeping an eye on their progress.
Ben Osborn has also of course continued his rapid development after breaking through the Forest academy system a couple of years ago and is setting an example to the rest of the team, especially the other youngsters.