Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
There are suggestions that Aitor Karanka could soon lose his job as Nottingham Forest manager – but if the board were to sack him, they would be making a very big mistake.
Karanka has done a lot of good work to ensure that a team that only mathematically rubber-stamped survival in late April last season is now challenging on the fringes of the play-offs.
Attendances up. A fan base re-engaged. A team that can compete with the best in the division home or away. After what this club has been through the fact the future of @Karanka is even being discussed is a joke. #NFFC #DontsackAitor
— Adam Edwards (@AdamEdw) December 26, 2018
Of course, a big part of that is the investment from owner Evangelos Marinakis – and Forest fans should be grateful for his willingness to fund deals for Joao Carvalho, Lewis Grabban, Jack Colback and Joe Lolley in the summer.
Beyond that quartet however, there are a lot of players in this Forest squad who are not necessarily a cut above everyone else in the Championship – therefore, it is questionable to assume that they should be in the top six throughout Karanka’s first full season in charge.
While December has not gone entirely to plan with five points from six, there is not a team in this division who has not yet endured a bad patch of form – and largely, the progress had been very positive.
It has been some time since Forest had a midfield that looked as balanced as the current trio of Jack Colback, Adlene Guedioura and Joao Carvalho, who compliment one another perfectly by bringing a wide range of qualities.
Forest had looked a very well-coached side with each player knowing their roles – Marinakis is seemingly about to throw all of that in the air.
The uncertainty regarding Karanka’s future has clearly unsettled the players for Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Millwall, where supporters showed unanimous support for the Spaniard.
Now the Reds finally have a proven manager, who has won promotion from this division, who has worked at the top of the game and is well-liked by fans – why throw all that away just because of one bad month?
Leeds United lost 2-0 at home to Hull on Saturday but there is nothing for them to be worried about just yet.
Yes, the Whites were not quite at their best in the first half but, in the second period, there is not too much more they could have done.
Academy graduate Jack Clarke, a half-time substitute, made a big difference through his energy and willingness to take on defenders.
Pablo Hernandez, for spells, was at his creative best and took five shots himself, midfielder Mateusz Klich, freed up by the discipline of Adam Forshaw, had as many as six efforts.
— Leeds United (@LUFC) December 30, 2018
In fact, Leeds took as many as 22 shots, 12 of which were from inside the area with right-back Luke Ayling seeing a header cleared off the line and Jamie Shackleton, another substitute, stung the goalkeeper’s hands with an effort from just outside the box.
After the break, there was not too much more that Leeds could have done to engineer a comeback and their display was not dissimilar to the one against Blackburn three days previously – the only difference being that on this occasion, they were denied by heroic defending.
With automatic promotion rivals Norwich and West Brom also failing to win at home, this can be looked upon as a missed opportunity, rather than a particularly worrying or damaging result.
Leeds have won seven of their 12 away league games and should be capable of both bouncing back from Saturday’s defeat – and capitalizing on the sense of crisis on Trentside.
Tip: Leeds to win – 29/20