After the disappointing 2-0 defeat to Fulham at the weekend, which ensured a third consecutive defeat across all competitions, shouldn`t Nottingham Forest be entering the period where Aitor Karanka`s impact on the side is taking shape?
Approaching a month since his appointment, Karanka has so far led the side to just one victory in five matches, a superb 2-0 win over Championship leaders Wolves , but Forest are yet to find consistency under the guidance of the manager. Early days for him I know but nevertheless, we are not only losing ground to the chasing pack, we`re also slipping towards the fight no one wants to be in, at the bottom of the table.
Whilst Karanka himself insists he has seen signs of progression, having been pleased with his side`s performance at the weekend despite the scoreline, questions remain as to whether the side have genuinely improved since the former Middlesbrough boss was handed the job at the City Ground.
Forest have now won just two of their past 12 Championship games, with their only win in that spell prior to Karanka`s arrival being a 3-2 win over Bolton near the start of December, so one win in four under the guidance of the Spaniard is obviously statistically better.
On the field though, any signs of improvement might be more difficult to identify but they are there. Costel Pantilimon didn’t show himself in the best of lights at the weekend, as he should have done better for Fulham`s opening goal, but he did make some impressive saves as well.
More inspiring though was the performances of Adlene Guedioura and Jack Colback, who both made a move to Forest in January and slotted seamlessly into the side in this weekend`s game, both putting in a lot of effort and showing signs that they can be the figures to build a new-look Forest side around.
Keeping Joe Worrall at the club during the mid-season window was undoubtedly the biggest success as the 21-year-old has been an integral part of the Forest side this season – and hopefully will continue to be so throughout the rest of this season.
Overall then, Karanka has led to some improvements in the side but he still has a lot of work to do, with the most challenging task being partnering Forest`s younger talents with the more experienced players who can lead the side through difficult times.
Pantimilon, Colback and Guedioura are certainly three players who will be crucial to that, with the likes of Worrall, Joe Brereton, top-scorer Kieran Dowell and Ben Osborn being members of the squad who could, and indeed must, shine further in the months ahead.