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Why are Notts Beginning to Struggle?


After Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Brentford, the boo’s that immediately followed from around the ground after the final whistle were noticeably loud. Having seemingly copied the same script from when they last played Rotherham; Notts dominated with slick passing football, and definitely deserved their first goal. However, it was unsurprising that Notts capitulated again after only 30 minutes and parked the bus only for it to be driven away by a committed Brentford, worthy winners of all 3 points.

What was most worrying about the loss to Brentford was the sluggish, almost disillusioned body language that came across from the Notts players. The lack of marking, lack of creativity and most importantly a lack of a goal threat after the half hour mark saw the worst Notts performance in League One all season. But what is going wrong? This article attempts to factor in the numerous issues that seem to be surrounding Notts at the moment. Many fans have a number of concerns and we hope to come to a conclusion about why, after a fantastic start to the season, Notts are beginning to drift into a worrying slump.

One of the most mysterious issues surrounding the club at present is the Lee Hughes saga. The news broken by Colin Slater pre-match on BBC Radio Nottingham stating that Hughes had provided a sick note ruling himself out till January raised many eyebrows. Keith Curle’s defensive demeanour in his post-match interview suggests that something is not quite right behind the scenes, including reports of Yoann Arquin leaving the ground during the match. Of course the facts of both these situations are unclear, it is unlikely we will find out exactly what is happening at Meadow Lane for some time, but nevertheless it does appear to be unsettling for both fans and players. What makes the situation even harder is that these two players have goals within them, and that is something that Notts are missing right now. All we can hope for is that the Lee Hughes situation is dealt with swiftly whether he stays or not, and that Arquin is back in the squad as soon as possible after apparently enduring an injury.

On the topic of players, the general consensus would agree that Notts do have very capable players. Notts have a completely different squad to the one that saw them run so close to the play offs towards the latter half of last season. Curle’s signings of Leacock, Liddle, Bialkowski and Boucaud have all been extremely consistent adding a much needed backbone to the Notts squad. The likes of Arquin, Zoko and Campbell-Ryce look to have real potential but have unfortunately been inconsistent and absent from games throughout the season. At times, the whole squad has blended very well and produced footballing master classes that have seen us put in some spectacular football and dominate whole matches. But with one win in the last seven, Notts have not looked anywhere near the mark of previous matches. There is less confidence, less structure and Notts’ played frustratingly slow backwards football against Brentford which ultimately turned into a long ball game, extremely “predictable” as Curle called it post-match. An over-reliance on Alan Judge may be turning our game into a one dimensional system, Notts certainly lacked a killer instinct yesterday and with only Iwelumo and Showunmi available upfront, both took it in turns (unsuccessfully) to be fed decent balls for which neither received.

So whilst holding a very strong squad, but suffering from a lack of a big goal threat, what is ultimately leading to poor results and very poor performances? Our discussion has ultimately led to Keith Curle. As we have already established the players have the ability and so it is up to Curle to be addressing our problems. It seems clear that fans agree that the passing game we have adopted is the right path to be pursuing. However most are ultimately displeased with the painful lack of threat that is present when Notts do obtain possession. Whenever Notts score, they drop further and further back, and with better finishing, Notts may have been demolished by Rotherham, Brentford and possibly even Yeovil. So Notts require something a bit different, something to change and it is down to Curle to provide that motivation and the impetus to improve. It was pleasing to hear his displeasure with our second half performance, stating that Notts did not play his ‘style’ of football and that much is certainly true.

Calls for Curle’s head are shocking, and totally misguided. The brand of football, the philosophy that Notts are pursuing is the best for over a decade and Curle has clearly an eye for talent with the players he has brought in and built upon this season. Bishop has already scored five goals this season and demonstrates the easily unnoticeable work by himself and his backroom team to change aspects of player’s games and improve Notts as a team. Curle needs our backing and with a tough Christmas period ahead, Notts need to attract more people down to the Lane by addressing our home results. Only 4,700 home fans attended yesterday’s game and although it is the run-up to Christmas, it remains slightly worrying. The real test for Notts will come in January; holding onto Judge is vital as is addressing Notts’ lack of goal prowess upfront and potentially a lack of width and a natural left-sided winger. Jeff Hughes who used to fulfil this role has taken an ever more central role under Curle.

Therefore, all should not panic. It is a bad spell, a slump and providing Notts can stem the rotten form, we will be fine. Notts are far from firing on all cylinders this season and providing they can maintain touching distance with the top of the table, Notts will continue to remain in a strong position, they are of course only 6 points from top spot. It is my opinion that whoever remains in touch with the top of League One and finishes the season strongest will win the league. So do an unnatural Notts thing and relax, read ‘The Mag’ and look forward to a hopefully active Notts in the January transfer market and let us get behind our lads.

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Good points, interesting article and the ending summary brings reflection to the recent events. I hope we use the January transfer window to add to the backbone, we have a have a very good squad but the team lacks alternative options.

We'll bounce back, Notts have a habit of making it harder. Just means we have to sit back for the ride a little.

Thanks UniPie!

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Pride of Nottingham

Pride of Nottingham is an independent fansite devoted to Notts County, the world’s oldest professional football club. Created in 2013, it has served as a source of Magpie news, features, match previews, reports, analysis and interviews for more than three years.

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