Martin Keown: Forest can survive if Nuno puts faith in to back three
Source: Dailymail

Published: 17:34 EDT, 3 May 2024 | Updated: 18:14 EDT, 3 May 2024

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]]]]>]]>Nuno Espirito Santo finally switched lanes last weekend, reverting to his old back-three system which he might now realise he can use to drive Nottingham Forest into the sunset of safety.

Nuno became known as a back-three specialist when he got Wolves to the Premier League and kept them there with extraordinary ease, even qualifying for Europe in their very first season.

That set-up was the foundation for his success, used in 100 of his 114 top-flight games as he alternated between a 3-4-3 and 3-5-2.

But since leaving Wolves three years ago, Nuno has snubbed the system which helped him succeed. When he took over at Tottenham, he used a back four. When he went to Forest, he focused on a four again. Until last weekend, that is.

The visit of Manchester City was the first time since May 2021 that Nuno had started a match with a back three.

Nuno Espirito Santo finally switched lanes last weekend, reverting to his old back-three system Nuno Espirito Santo finally switched lanes last weekend, reverting to his old back-three system Nuno Espirito Santo finally switched lanes last weekend, reverting to his old back-three system

Willy Boly showed every ounce of his experience after coming in alongside the outstanding Murillo and Moussa Niakhate in a three-man defence and, though Forest lost 2-0, they will have taken great confidence from their positive performance.

They looked particularly strong on the left-hand side, with Ola Aina and Callum Hudson-Odoi taking it in turns to charge at Kyle Walker, who was made to look uncharacteristically uncomfortable.

By turning to this new system, the wing-backs were able to play high up the pitch, with Murillo doing what Conor Coady used to do for Wolves by sending long, diagonal passes into their paths to spark attacks. Forest flew forward, got bodies in the box and managed more shots than City which is a rare statistical feat.

All they lacked was someone to put the ball into the net as the usually- reliable Chris Wood failed to take his chances.

The wing-backs were able to play high up, with Murillo doing what Conor Coady used to do The wing-backs were able to play high up, with Murillo doing what Conor Coady used to do The wing-backs were able to play high up, with Murillo doing what Conor Coady used to do

Yet overall, Forest troubled one of Europe's best teams so comprehensively that maybe only injuries would prevent Nuno from sticking with this set-up for the remainder of the season, starting on Saturday at Sheffield United and with games to follow against Chelsea and Burnley.

Boly and Murillo had to be substituted against City and it would be a big blow to lose them from this relegation race.

Saturday is a defining day for Forest as they head to the home of a club already confirmed as down after last weekend. I'm sure Chris Wilder will be calling on his team to channel their dejection and take their opponents down with them, with only 40 miles separating Bramall Lane and the City Ground.

Forest will need to be ready for that response. But if they can approach this clash as fearlessly as they did against City and take the chances that come their way to secure victory, then Nuno will sense they are very much on the road to survival.