Nottingham Forest’s Joe Lolley can rediscover magic after recent comments

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This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more… 

Nottingham Forest have begun the season well under Sabri Lamouchi.

He replaced Martin O’Neill out of the blue at the end of June after reports of a player revolt.

His first game in charge was a disappointing home defeat in front of the TV cameras to Midlands rivals West Brom, but since then the Reds have gone unbeaten with their most impressive result coming at the weekend, beating league leaders Swansea City on their own patch.

It was even more exceptional considering the Welsh side, at the time, were the highest scorers in the league and Forest had gone there and claimed their second league clean sheet of the season.

Lewis Grabban has since come out and praised their defence because it has allowed forwards like himself the opportunity to thrive due to the freedom further up the pitch, he said:

“We’ve been solid this season, in terms of our defensive line. That’s been a strong point.

“It also gives confidence to the forwards to go do what you want to do and it will be safe there.

“You do play with a bit more freedom because of that”

On the Chalkboard

Now Grabban has been able to make full use of that, netting four goals so far this season but one man that is yet to get going is Joe Lolley – and he could well be the team’s most influential man.

The 27-year-old scored and assisted 11 goals apiece last term, playing a part in all 46 Championship matches as Forest missed the playoffs by some eight points.

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After six appearances this campaign he’s only managed one in each department, but there is still plenty of football to be played and his teammate’s comments about ‘freedom’ should light up his eyes.

Lolley’s last two starts show some sort of progression in that sense, though, he could do with coming inside more often to fully get a grip as the team’s playmaking and goalscoring wing wizard.

Against Fulham, he managed just one shot and 39 touches of the ball with his heat map primarily being focussed on the flanks alone.

While the one below shows his performance a week later versus Preston North End, playing on the right-hand side of midfield again, where his touches increased to 55, and his presence is shown much closer to the penalty area.

That’s where you want him to be if he’s going to hit the heights of last season – he will only be buoyed by Grabban’s latest comments.

If Lolley can find the increased freedom the forward is talking about then it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he returned to form in the immediate future.

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