Since suffering defeat on the opening day of the season, Nottingham Forest have performed modestly, with no loss attained since.
Sabri Lamouchi’s side are placed in 10th position in the Championship table, having picked up points against the likes of Leeds United, Swansea City and Fulham to name but a few.
Overall, the team appear to be progressing nicely under their new boss, including 34 year-old Ben Watson. The English midfielder isn’t the most popular figure among fans, but his work beneath the surface has been highly beneficial so far, and it’s providing a platform for Forest to attack.
Lamouchi seems to favour 4-1-4-1 based on the formations he’s used so far this season, with Watson deployed as the team’s defensive midfielder ahead of the defence, but behind the midfield, as shown below.
In that role, Watson is largely tasked with playing quite simply in possession by taking very few risks, while offering a defensive proficiency without the ball. The midfielder has to remain disciplined and is one of the more industrious players in the team, and that shows up in his underlying performance numbers.
It’s difficult to judge accurately at this stage as only seven matches have been played, but nevertheless, a gauge can be attained regarding Watson’s output in comparison to the rest of the division.
So far, 35 central midfielders have amassed at least 500 minutes in the Championship this season, with Watson included in that group having accumulated 625.
Defensively, his numbers are strong.
In terms of the number of defensive duels that players engage in per 90 minutes, Watson is 6th from the list of 35 midfielders. In addition, his success rate is 4th best, as he wins 67.7 percent of his battles.
His output isn’t as strong aerially, as he engages in much fewer while winning roughly 50 percent, but Watson is 10th on the list for tackles per 90, and 4th for interceptions per 90.
The experienced midfielder is also 4th for shots blocked per 90, and these statistics indicate that as a central midfielder, Watson is performing as one of the most active in the league when focusing on the defensive side of the game.
In the recent match versus Swansea for example, Watson made a notable eleven interceptions, which was matched by only one other midfielder in Barnsley’s Toby Sibbick.
Generally, over the course of a full campaign, around seven interceptions per 90 would be enough to be one of the league’s top performers, which further emphasises how strong Watson’s figure of eleven was at the Liberty Stadium.
An example of one of the crucial interceptions that Watson made is pictured below. The ball has just been played wide by the Swansea player, with three teammates entering the box, and Watson in a central area.
The ball is crossed low into the box towards the three Swansea players, but Watson is there to intercept and prevent the Swans from taking a shot on goal, shown below.
Ultimately, he may not always been appreciated, but Watson does silent work that is crucial to securing results, and based on this season, he’s one of the top performers of his type in the division.