Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Nottingham Forest. Story retrospect

Brian Clough and Nottingham Forest

Dear Football Manager fans,

I know most of you as have been following Nottingham Forest story and are interested in reading my totals post. As you understand this day has fallen. It’s time for full extensive retrospect. Together we will try to recall all the best moments of Forest story since the very first season. Here we go!

Total story achievements

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This is what I can really boast about: 2 Premier League titles, Champions League, Europa League and 5 League Cups! Has anybody ever expected such success? Well I had similar targets to achieve but, sincerely, I was not sure at all that it may come true.

The story turned into the most successful FM gaming experience in my life!

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Now I’d like to invite you into the in-depth review of all nine seasons played by Nottingham Forest under my management.

Season 1. Surprisingly promoted to Premier League

Nottingham Forest starts

The story has been started on October, 19, 2012. So it’s almost 1 year ago of real life. The most interesting part at the very beginning was a set of targets and restrictions planned by me for Nottingham Forest. I created 8-season plan of expected achievements. By the way, it was quite ambitious one because I saw Forest wining Premier League in the 7th season and Champions League in the 8th season. But the most unusual part for me touched the restrictions I decided to setup Forest game:

  • Skip the first transfer window
  • Try to keep squad as much British as I can

Then I dived into tactical schemes and player trainings. Normally I tend to many experiments trying to make some kind of unusual tactics. This time more pragmatic tactical approach was accepted. During the first season in the Championship Triple C tactical system was created and worthily proved its strength by surprising promotion to the Premier League through Championship playoffs. We beat Peterborough and Charlton on that way. The media was predicting us the 14th position…

Another significant factor of such a quick success was an efficient squad analysis and following winter transfer campaign. Wonderkids Thomas Drage and Mikkel Diskerud joined Nottm Forest in winter.

It’s also pleasant to recall my experiment with new training system added into FM 2013. I figured out individual training with focus on a role works best of all.

Best players of the season:

  1. Simon Cox (ST)
  2. Daniel Ayala (DC)
  3. Billy Sharp (ST)

Season 2. Survival with certainty

Mattia Destro

Many transfers were made in summer before my debut in PL. I was very successful to sign for free Italian wonderkid striker Mattia Destro. Among other good buyings were Ryan Taylor (DR/DL, $4M) , Michele Pazienza ($950K, Lee Wallace (DL, $3.1M), Alexander Milosevic (DC, $2.2M).

Numerous squad changes influenced season start in a bad way. Forest had 3 points after 8 fixtures being inconveniently placed at the last position in the table. But then newcomers got more or less blended into the squad what allowed to climb up the relegation zone and get the first exciting victory with 5:2 score over English grand club Manchester City.

In winter another Norwegian talent joined Forest: Ole Kristian Selnaes. Further games were of different taste but Nottm Forest played quite reliable and pragmatic football in total. That resulted into a solid finish at the 13th table line with decent amount of conceded goals. Forest defence dispelled my opinion of probable weakness.

Mattia Destro managed to score 21 goals sharing the top striker award with Wayne Rooney and Shane Long.

Best players of the season 2:

  1. Mattia Destro (ST)
  2. Jamaal Lascelles (DC)
  3. Alexander Milosevic (DC)

Season 3. Qualification into Europa League

Premier League

It was an active transfer campaign in summer 2014 which strengthened my squad perceptibly. $13.25M was given for Ukrainian defender Yaroslav Rakitskyi. He was bought to play at the left defender position. It was also great to buy Brazilian super-talent Ademilson for $8.5M and English promising attacking midfielder Will Hughes for $9.25M. Among other important newcomers were Carlos Kameni (GK, Free), Neil Eardley (DR, $9M), Jermaine Defoe (ST, $1.5M).

The optimistic start with confident 3:0 win over Man City continued well. Nottm Forest was placed at the 6th line after a half of the season. Then, in winter, future best defender of the world Mitchell Hewitt joined Forest in 18-year old age. Additionally, I sold Diskerud and bought Tom Cleverly instead as more versatile midfielder. Bunch of youngster who became very good footballers in the last seasons were also bought during the winter transfer window: John McLeish (ST), Jim McClair (ST), Dione (GK), Kevin Prevost (GK).

As a result, Nottm Forest managed to hold on the 6 position what gave right to play in Europa League next season. One of the brightest matches – 5:0 against Aston Villa.

Best players of the season:

  1. Thomas Drage (AML/R/C)
  2. Alexander Milosevic (DC)
  3. Mattia Destro (ST)

Season 4. Our first League Cup and terrible performance in Europe

Forest victory not enough

A new round of squad analysis before the summer transfer window helped to see the weakest positions. I understood I needed a high-class goalie who could perform well against any opponent in Europa League and Premier League. Samir Handanovic was luckily signed for free. 33 years old Zlatan Ibrahimovic (ST, Free), promising explosive Mason Bennett (ST, $11M), young 16-year old genius Mo Cairns (MC, $1.1M) arrived to Nottingham then.

The season began with unbelievable catastrophe in Europa League against Valerenga. We didn’t even get into group round of EL… I’ve never felt so let down during Nottingham Forest story. My players didn’t merely seize on all those numerous clear cut and half chances they had.

Valeranga - shocking matches

I think this failure influenced the whose season. For instance, Nottingham Forest was located nothing but at the 11th position in the beginning of February. However, my tactical consistency and squad management returned team to a road of success. The first trophy was won after that! The League Cup final against Chelsea is very difficult to forget. I remember I was a bit scared by their flamboyant inside forwards Hazard and Ben Arfa… Our 2:0 victory was provided by Tom Cleverly who scored once and made one assist.

As for Premier League, my Forest completed year not so well as in the last season. The 9th position could be the 7th but Newcastle with a late goal by Papiss Cisse in the last fixture stole moved my club down the table.

Best players of the season:

  1. Jamaal Lascelles (DC)
  2. Mitchell Hewitt (DC)
  3. Thomas Drage (AMRLC)

Season 5. Europa League trophy

Euro Cup Final

Frankly, it was the most exciting season in the whole story! That was the time period when Nottingham Forest transformed into a real European force and may be even a grand club.

As usually I had good summer transfers. One of leading centre back Alexander Milosevic was sold to Arsenal for $39M. To substitute him, I bought English DC Danny Batth paying $12.5M to Celtic. Experienced striker Lucas Podolski joined Forest for free. There were some other interesting names of Nottm Forest newcomers: Alexandar Ignjovski (MC/DMC, $20M), 18 years old Carlos Villa (DRC, $13M), 19 years old Rick Stevens (MR/AMR, Free), two young talents Charly Boutin (MC, Free) and Xavier Pitarque (ST, Free), and, attention, 14 years old Zvjezdan Skoric (ML, $625K).

Forest didn’t start season so great as I would wish but qualification into Europa League group and the 8th position in the table didn’t sound bad. Later on our results began improving from match to match because Ignjovski, Batth, Podolski gelled into the team quite quickly. Additionally, Mason Bennett surprised me with a storming performance ahead scoring 16 goals in 18 matches. This is why I felt comfortable at the 4th line in the PL table after 23 fixtures.

There were two winter transfers one of which is totally remarkable for me because Gylfi Sigurdsson arrived from Man City for $17.5M. He became a team leader and my favourite player onwards making huge amount of assists even in the age of 31 in the 9th season. Another Forest newbie was Joe Allen from Wales.

Nottm Forest won the second League Cup in a row beating Arsenal in the downpour match and moved on to the further success in Europa League and Premier League. There was a very complicated interval with intensive match schedule for my team. European experience was under thread after tactical 3:5 defeat to Granada in the first match of quarterfinals. But my boys survived winning 4:1 in the reply match. Then Arsenal was confidently beaten in the semi-finals. 

Europa League final against Chelsea turned into an unforgettable game. 2:2 during after 90 minutes, 4:2 after extra time. Our third goal (decisive one) was brilliantly scored by Gylfi Sigurdsson from free kick.

Forest could also grab the third trophy playing versus Manchester United in FA Cup final but lady luck turned aside in penalties. Meanwhile my team gained 75 points in the league and provided the 4th Champions League position. What a wonderful season!

During the season I shared with you, dear readers, my way to score goals from corners. It’s a consequence of multiple experiments with different corner schemes I tried.

Best players of the season:

  1. Mitchell Hewitt (DC)
  2. Gylfi Sigurdsson (AMC)
  3. Samir Handanovic (GK)

Season 6. Three sad finals

Carlos Fierro in FM 2013

The transfer of my favourite FM12 player Carlos Fierro to Forest made me dreaming of even bigger success this season. I paid $20.5M for him. It’s also important to state experienced left wing player Fabio Coentrao (DL/ML, $9M), Engish centre back Steven Caulker (DC, $11M), and Ross Barkley (AMC/MC, $8.25M) dressed in Nottingham Forest t-shirts.

European Super Cup match vs PSG showed it’s too early to feel invincible. They taught us 3:0 lesson. Then another 0:3 loss happened in the away CL match against Bayern Munich. However, my players restored excellent morale level and began to show lovely performance in every match. As a result: the 4th Premier League position and qualification into knockout round of Champions League. In winter I sold Yaroslav Rakitskyi who somewhat declined and signed for free Brazilian Ganso! Anticipating future, I can say he didn’t manage to realize my hopes and was sold quite soon. Englishman Steven Georcelin joined Forest to become its future super-goalie. He cost $10.5M. Another Englishman Ryan Bertrand came to replace Rakitskyi at the left flank of defense.

Nottingham Forest gained the third League Cup in a row due to Batth+Bennett show. Great success definitely! I saw my players almost flying around pitch in every next game. Extremely confident performance allowed to stay in a title race till the last fixture and make our way into Champions League and FA Cup finals…

I had a chance of early numerous trophy winning with Forest and failed it like Benfica made in the real life. All three final matches including the one against Man Utd in Premier League which might also be called a final completed unsuccessfully. Though we should have won at least FA Cup and Premier League according to match stats.

Best players of the season:

  1. Mitchell Hewitt (DC)
  2. Danny Batth (DC)
  3. Gylfi Sigurdsson (AMC/MC)

Season 7. Stably second

Stably second

I sold out quite many players in summer earning $96M. The following names strengthened Forest:

  • Rodrigo (ST, $61M)
  • Danny Wilson (DLC, $19M)

After little braking at start Forest regained and then braked a bit once again in December matches. The 4th PL position wasn’t making me very happy. All of sudden Ademilson was sold to Anji for $45M and replaced with growing world-star Italian striker Alessandro Promutico. Read about their comparison in this post. I think it was one of my most smartest action in Nottingham Forest story.

But that wasn’t my season in the end despite excellent results in the second half. Normally, 88 points are enough to win Premier League but not this time. Man Utd ruled by Guardiola gained 91 points… Meanwhile Olympique Marseille punished me in the Champions League. Analysing the season, I brought two good questions:

  • Replace Triple C tactics or not?
  • Should I spend much on another world class centre back to play in pair with Mitchell Hewitt?

Best players of the season were:

  1. Mitchell Hewitt (DC)
  2. Gylfi Sigurdsson (AMC/MC)
  3. Rodrigo (ST)

Season 8. We are the champions my friends!

Forest do the double

There were two transfers that influence much success story of Nottingham Forest. Central and right back Chris Smalling arrived from Manchester United in status of their player with highest average rating. I paid $36M + $27M of monthly instalments what looked crazy for some part of blog readers. But I was sure in Smalling. Russian quick anchor man Alexey Solodukhin became also extremely useful player. Later on I confessed I had never such a good defensive midfielder in my squad in any FM story.

I didn’t reject from Triple C tactical system, just replaced counter-attacking tactic by new fluid direct 4-2-3-1 with three inside forwards. It worked like a charm and helped much to win my first Premier League title. Though initially, I had a target to win the title in 7 seasons… Nottm Forest capture a top after great 4:0 win over closest competitors Manchester City in the middle of the season. Then it was not so tough task as I expected. Alessandro Promutico who joined Forest year ago scored had been scoring lots of goals together with Carlos Fierro. We hold on the first position with just 84 points.

As for Champions League, Nottm Forest confidently defeated Real Madrid at the quarterfinal stage but failed to beat mighty PSG in semi-finals.

The 4th League Cup was won by Forest in the nervous penalty shutout against Newcastle.

Best players of the season:

  1. Chris Smalling (DRC)
  2. Alessandro Promutico (ST)
  3. Alexey Solodukhin (MC)

Season 9. Happy end

CL Final at OlimpicoPL table

I decided to strengthen the most weak position of left back with Davide Santon who cost me $51M. A lot, one would say. But I could bet it was a good deal. 34-year old Hulk ($14M), English defender Luke Bailey ($29.5M), highly technical attacking midfielder Younes Belhanda (Free) were also interesting additions to the squad raising competition for first eleven as much as never.

Managing grand club turned out to be a somewhat boring experience because it was just too easy. But the last season is still in mind. 4 trophies were won including total domination in Europe:

  • Community Shield
  • League Cup
  • Premier League
  • Champions League

Just FA Cup remained unconquered in Nottingham Forest story, the most successful Football Manager story, I’ve ever had…

Best players of the season:

  1. Gylfi Sigurdsson (AMC/MC)
  2. Mitchell Hewitt (DC)
  3. Chris Smalling (DRC)

 

Some Forest story stats for you

Board and Fan confidence level after all

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Forest finances

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My manager profile and stats

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Best eleven of all seasons

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Club reputation in the world

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European club coefficients

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What’s next

This is what Forest story looks like after all. It’s time to move on and begin thinking about future of Dynamo Dresden in Football Manager 2014 which got a confident win in the poll beating Arminia Biedfield and Karlsruher. FM 2014 story is going to be started in the first days of November.

Just stay tuned my dear friends. Meanwhile you can download my Nottingham Forest save and enjoy playing it. It took me two days to write this long final blog post. So I would be grateful if you share link to your friends helping them to evaluate my efforts.


 

Excited to blog for you,

Vitaliy Mokosiy

Author: Vitaliy

Playing Football Manager since 1996. Blogging about it since 2007.