EFL Championship 2019/20: Nottingham Forest vs Derby County- tactical analysis

EFL Championship 2019/20: Nottingham Forest Vs Derby County- tactical analysis tactics
Another excellent example of this press.

The annual East Midlands derby was on the horizon as Nottingham Forest and Derby County were set to lock horns once again in the 2019/20 EFL Championship. Forest were looking to build on an excellent 2-1 away win against Luton Town and were also looking to move within two points of league leaders West Bromwich Albion. A win would therefore add to what had been an impressive start to the season and further highlight the ambition within the City Ground to be playing Premier League football next season. As for Derby, they were looking to build on a solid 2-0 home win Vs Middlesbrough. Off the pitch incidents had clearly been a dark cloud over the club in recent weeks and a big win at their most fierce rivals could have had an excellent impact on their so far disappointing league campaign. The derby between the two East Midlands clubs promised to be a great spectacle. Bragging rights, league positions and local pride were all on the line.

Nottingham Forest eventually ran out 1-0 winners against Derby County in an intense derby match between the two clubs. A Jayden Bogle mistake in the second half allowed Lewis Grabban to snatch the winner and give all the local pride to Forest. Forest will use this excellent win over their local rivals as motivation in order to maintain a playoff place or potentially higher. Derby, on the other hand, struggled to make much out of the game and will need the upcoming international break to regroup and try to get back on track. This tactical analysis will attempt to look at the tactics of both teams. This analysis will also attempt to look at how both teams can improve going forward and achieve their season objectives.


Forest lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Brice Samba started between the sticks. Matty Cash and Yuri Ribeiro were the two full-backs. They had the objective to get forward and provide attacking support. Tobias Figueiredo and Joe Worrall were the two centre-backs looking to provide defensive solidity. Ben Watson was the holding midfielder; his influence would be key in Forest’s attacking play. Tiago Silva and Ryan Yates were the more advanced central midfielders, looking to get forward at any chance to provide support for the forward players. Joe Lolley and Sammy Ameobi were the two wide players looking to put crosses and key passes into the main forward Lewis Grabban.

As For Derby, they lined up in a more traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. Kelle Roos started in goal for the Rams. Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe were the two full-backs who looked to get forward as much as possible. Curtis Davies and Matthew Clarke were the two centre-backs. They would certainly have their work cut out with the attacking talent Forest had on show. Graeme Shinnie and Krystian Bielik were the two holding midfielders, who both looked to have an influence on the game. Tom Lawrence and Duane Holmes were the two wider players, their pace would be crucial to the in behind runs that were attempted. Chris Martin started in the attacking midfielder role. His objective was to be a second striker and support lone striker Jack Marriott.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Nottingham Forest Vs Derby County- tactical analysis tactics
The Lineups of both teams.

Forest’s Central Midfield

A really interesting development throughout this clash was the role of the two more advanced Nottingham Forest central midfielders. In this particular match it was Tiago Silva and Ryan Yates. When not in possession of the football, they would go and press against Derby’s two holding midfielders. This was a clear tactical usage, as Derby’s central midfielders often have a huge influence on the game. Making sure they had a lesser influence on the game was therefore of great importance. This was evident right from the start of the game and it caused Derby problems when trying to get a grip with the game. Both of Forest’s midfielders are incredibly agile and have a great ability to press due to the energy they possess.

Therefore, this meant Derby had major problems when trying to create situations from deeper positions and it further allowed Forest the chance to potentially counter-attack if the ball was won back in a dangerous area. As we can see below, a good example of this press came in the opening minutes. Both midfielders are locked in pressing the two Derby central midfielders. This was crucial to Forest’s game off the ball.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Nottingham Forest Vs Derby County- tactical analysis tactics
An example of the Forest central midfielders pressing exceptionally well against the two Derby holding midfielders.

As mentioned, this was common throughout the game and it was a clear tactical usage in order to prevent Derby having lots of possession. Derby average around 54 per cent possession, therefore this pressing option used by Forest was to make sure that this possession was not hurtful and in harmless areas. This was highly effective for Forest and Derby never really got control of the game like they do usually. This can be attributed to the excellent tactical usage of this pressing.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Nottingham Forest Vs Derby County- tactical analysis tactics
Another excellent example of this press.

Forest’s Back Four

Another excellent aspect of Nottingham Forest’s game in the game vs Derby was their ability to keep a defensive shape. In the game against Luton Town, the emphasis of analysis was on the midfield shape that Forest kept against the highly effective diamond that Luton operate with. However, due to the pressing tactics discussed earlier the crucial aspect of Forest in a defensive shape was their back four. Matty Cash, Yuri Ribeiro, Tobias Figueiredo and Joe Worrall kept a magnificent structure of defensive organisation throughout the match. The clean sheet that they managed to get was hugely deserved.

This again was a tactical usage by manager Sabri Lamouchi to keep out Derby and their pace from wider positions. It also was a critical way in order to implement a low-block so that Derby couldn’t get through. Cash and Ribeiro would only go forward when it was acceptable and would never let themselves be exposed. Below is a great example of this. Derby are unable to find a pass through due to the excellent defence structure in place.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Nottingham Forest Vs Derby County- tactical analysis tactics
Forest’s defensive shape was excellent and it prevented Derby getting many chances on goal.

This was once again a trend that was seen throughout the game. Forest were excellent in the counter attack, as will be mentioned later, and having a strong defensive base most certainly helped. The defenders Forest put out on the day clearly worked on keeping in shape as they were rarely out of position. Derby rarely got in behind and had minimal chances on goal. They were always in control of Derby’s attacks and as we can see below once again there was barley any space behind them as they played such a deep line.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Nottingham Forest Vs Derby County- tactical analysis tactics
Another great example of the Forest defensive line.

Derby’s two striker transition

Despite Derby not making much of the game in terms of making chances, a development that occurred was that at times during the game they would operate with two strikers. In the Lineups, it was seen that Chris Martin would be operating in the central attacking midfield position. Instead, him and Marriott operated as a front two. In order to cause problems for the rigid Forest defensive line. By having two strikers it meant that Derby could explore different avenues of play. More importantly, it allowed them to press much more effectively. Having two players pressing against the Forest backline meant that they were more likely to make mistakes when playing out with the ball.

Below is a great example of this press. Both strikers were in line with each other so they could prevent Forest playing into Ben Watson, who usually dictates the game from deep. Forest were unable to dominate possession and were forced into counter attacking as a result of this press.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Nottingham Forest Vs Derby County- tactical analysis tactics
Derby transitioned into playing with two strikers in order to create more chances.

As mentioned earlier, this could be seen when Derby had the ball aswell. Especially in the second half when they were chasing a goal. Having two strikers meant they could go slightly more direct and play longer balls into the two centre forwards. It further allowed them to push onto the two centre backs which would allow other players to come into the game. Despite the result not going in their way this tactic clearly had its benefits. Forest’s defensive line was pushed right back. Therefore, this tactic could be implemented further to develop Derby into a more pragmatic team.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Nottingham Forest Vs Derby County- tactical analysis tactics
Another example of the effectiveness of having two central strikers for Derby.

Forest Counter Attacking

The final development of the match which should be analysed is the counter-attacking ability of Nottingham Forest. Derby had 56 % of possession in this East Midlands Derby, which meant that Forest had to counter-attack with pace. Forest set up with a 4-1-4-1 which meant that when they got the ball off Derby in attacking positions their attacking players needed to be effective in getting forward with speed. They did this exceptionally well and caused Derby huge problems. Overall, it was quite a passive performance from Derby in terms of their play on the ball. Lots of sideward passes and a real lack in cutting edge. This therefore gave Forest an opportunity in the transitions to break forward.

Below Is an excellent example of this. Forest break forward from a corner and get bodies forward quick to cause Derby problems in the counter-attacking transition. This created a numerical advantage for Forest when getting forward. Derby could simply not deal with this when defending against the fast movement in behind the lines.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Nottingham Forest Vs Derby County- tactical analysis tactics
Forest were dangerous on the break and caused Derby problems in defensive areas.

Below is perhaps one of the best examples on view of Forest getting forward with exceptional pace. In the image, three Forest attackers are making direct runs at the Derby goal. With the right pass at least one of them will have the chance to score, which highlights the effectiveness of the tactical setup. Furthermore, going forward this tactic seems to be something that Forest will embark on. Possession in deeper areas is of course likely due to the likes of Ben Watson as his excellent defensive ability. However, when playing in the bigger games where other teams like to keep the ball, using the counter-attack will most certainly benefit them. More importantly, using a counter-attacking system is much more suited to the players that they have.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Nottingham Forest Vs Derby County- tactical analysis tactics
A great example of Forest getting forward with exceptional pace.


To conclude, Forest edged out in this game despite Derby dominating the ball. Derby were quite passive for such an intense rivalry. Forest counter-attacked exceptionally well and used the spaces that were available very effectively. There was good intensity from Forest also and they generally deserved to win the match. Moving forward, Forest should take many positives from this and use the tactical set up forward when playing the better teams in the division. As for Derby, a high amount of possession was their downfall as they did not manage to deal with the counter-attack well enough. Creating clear cut chances was also a problem, which is something they must improve on going forward.


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