It was a disappointing start to the 2020/21 Championship campaign for Nottingham Forest, who lost 2-0 to Queens Park Rangers at the weekend.
This season is all about redemption for Forest. The Reds’ 2019/20 season ended in heartbreak, following the 4-1 capitulation to Stoke City which saw them miss out on a play-off spot on the final day of the season.
Sabri Lamouchi will be urging his side to right their wrongs and go one step further in their quest for Premier League football this term, but improvements need to be made across the board as soon as possible.
Forest – who were knocked out of the Carabao Cup after a 1-0 loss to Barnsley last week – were hoping to produce a far better display in West London, as they prepared to take on QPR on Saturday afternoon.
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But it turned out to be another frustrating afternoon for Lamouchi and his team, with a lapse of concentration in defence and missed chances in front of goal leading to defeat.
Lyndon Dykes converted from the spot right after half-time after Tobias Figueiredo clumsily bundled the striker over inside the area, and Ilias Chair tapped in from close-range late on to secure the three points.
Saturday afternoon saw Joao Carvalho be omitted from the squad, after training in a separate, smaller group in the build-up to the trip to West London.
In his place, Luke Freeman made his full Forest debut against his former club, and here, we take a look at the Sheffield United loanee’s performance in greater detail…
After failing to add too many goals and possess that creative spark in midfield last term, the onus is on Freeman to perform this season and replicate the form he displayed during his time at QPR.
Freeman scored eight goals and produced six assists the last time he played in the Championship over a whole season, and fans will be hoping for similar output this time around.
At the weekend, the 28-year-old played in the hole, sitting behind Lewis Grabban with Joe Lolley and Nuno da Costa either side in a 4-2-3-1 system.
Freeman’s responsibility in the attacking midfield role this season is to collect the ball from Jack Colback and/or Ryan Yates in pockets of space, turn and drive forward with the ball.
His link-up work was impressive on Saturday, finding a teammate successfully 19 out of 25 times, accruing an overall success rate of 76%.
Eight of those passes were played forward, six times successfully, whilst all four of his passes into the final third were made accurately, as Forest threatened particularly out wide.
If he keeps passing the ball into these areas, then the likes of Lewis Grabban, Lyle Taylor and Sammy Ameobi are likely to punish the opposition on multiple occasions this season, providing they find themselves in the right place at the right time.
Freeman did find it hard to cope with the physicality of the game as well as QPR’s tenacity on and off the ball. The R’s’midfield trio of Geoff Cameron, Tom Carroll and Luke Amos were robust and won the majority of the midfield battles on Saturday.
Freeman could only win five of his 17 offensive duels, whilst only managing to complete one of his four dribbles successfully, with very little space to operate in.
As fitness grows and Forest improve, Freeman should thrive in the number 10 role for Forest. His final pass is there, and as match sharpness grows, then the output will be there too.