Alexander Milosevic was dropped from the matchday squad by Martin O’Neill between mid-March and mid-April, with the Nottingham Forest manager saying he wanted the centre-back to learn how his side play before returning.
Milosevic admitted underperforming in his first few weeks at the City Ground, but he’s back being a regular at the heart of the backline and admitted in a recent interview that he had to adjust to English football.
The 27-year-old didn’t struggle with the physicality, however. Milosevic built up a reputation among Nottingham Forest supporters for being a no-nonsense defender, but he struggled on the ball.
He told Nottinghamshire Live in March: “I think that toughness; that no nonsense approach is important in this division. But I do not want to be known as the player who is just tough and kicks the ball away.
“I want to be more than tough; I want to play more football than I have been doing. I have to adapt to do that. The second part of my style will be to pass the ball more. The first part is to be a strong defender.”
In his first five appearances, Milosevic averaged 18 passes-per-game with an average completion ratio of 63%. He felt supporters didn’t see his true quality in possession and said in March that he was determined to put that right.
“I don’t think the fans have seen properly what I am like as a player, just yet. I want to get forward with the ball, I want to pass the ball more. I have been a little bit too much kicking it away and being cautious.
“The important thing is that you keep a clean sheet. But, more than that, I also want to show that I can be good on the ball. I want to improve as a player.”
O’Neill has handed the Swedish international consecutive starts in the Championship and has been rewarded for trusting him. In his last two appearances, Milosevic has averaged 31 passes with 82.3% accuracy – 42% more passes than in February and a 24% completion ratio improvement. The centre-back has made a total 11 appearances for Forest, scoring one goal.
He didn’t fare well playing in flat back-four but is thriving in a three-man backline, recently saying: “I do enjoy (playing three at the back). I played that way last season with my former club.
“I played on the right side, but I enjoy playing in the middle because you get a lot of more of the ball and you can dictate your tempo with the passing. You get more possession.
“I think we can go forward with this formation. I think as we learn and we train more with it, we will get even better. I enjoy it; I enjoy being on the ball and trying to get us moving forward.”
Milosevic has racked up 910 minutes of Championship football, made 65 clearances, won 24 aerial duels (49%), blocked six shots and averaged a tackle (7) or interception (14) every 43 minutes. He appears to have found his feet and could be a regular at the back next season which bodes well for Forest.