A number of things became apparent after Nottingham Forest produced another below-par performance and fell to their third defeat of the season on Wednesday night.
Old habits were to die hard as, once again, Forest started strongly, flying out the traps in the opening 15 minutes of their home clash against Blackburn Rovers.
But after failing to convert their chances early on, Blackburn grew in confidence and were more than worthy winners in the end. Second half goals from Daniel Ayala and Darragh Lenihan, either side of Philip Zinckernagel’s long-range effort, secured a win for Rovers and put further pressure on Chris Hughton and his side.
If it weren’t for Zinckernagel’s piece of individual brilliance, Forest may not have found a way back into the game, at a time in the match where fans were beginning to voice their frustrations and even sing for Hughton’s predecessor, Sabri Lamouchi.
Quiz: Have Nottingham Forest won or lost more against each of these 25 English teams?
In truth, the main downfall which became apparent is something which became apparent last season. Forest’s inability to progress the ball quick enough and supply the offensive players with service quickly enough.
Jack Colback and Ryan Yates were selected in defensive midfield for the third game running, with Hughton complimenting the balance they offer and understanding they have with one another pre-match. Whilst they offer fairly steady protection of the back four, their lack of forward-thinking and ability to do so efficiently can be questioned.
Last season, James Garner’s arrival on loan from Manchester United proved inspiring for Forest. The midfielder helped revive things on Trentside, helping Forest turn a corner and push themselves well away from the relegation zone before the season fizzled out.
Garner’s quality on the ball is undeniable, which is to perhaps be expected from a player who has come through the ranks at an academy of one of greatest clubs in world football. His passing range is incredible, and his ability to play through the lines and pick out the attacking midfielders is what made him a roaring success at the City Ground last season.
Not only did he help create chances, but his four goals in 20 games added another string to his bow, and is just another reason why Forest remain particularly keen on bringing him back on loan for the season.
Hughton remains keen to add as many fresh faces to his squad as possible ahead of the final couple of weeks of the window, though. Wednesday night’s defeat not only highlighted the need to strengthen the starting line-up, but to simply make up the numbers of a matchday squad, with suspensions and injuries rife.
At left-back, Jordi Osei-Tutu, who arrived on loan from Arsenal as competition for Jordan Gabriel at right-back, hobbled off injured with the same hamstring issue which kept him out for large parts of last season at Cardiff City.
Gabriel, who is Forest’s only realistic option at right-back given Carl Jenkinson’s omissions, will also miss Saturday’s trip to Stoke after picking up two yellow cards on Wednesday. And yet, strengthening the full-back areas still doesn’t even feel as it is the biggest priority, given their lack of mobility and guile in central midfield.
Forest will lick their rounds and look to recover from Wednesday night’s latest blow. A way of doing that would be bringing Garner back on loan to the City Ground.