‘Nottingham Forest defender can carry on proving me wrong’

Tendayi Darikwa stops Pablo Hernandez in his tracks during Nottingham Forest's draw with Leeds United at Elland Road this season
Tendayi Darikwa stops Pablo Hernandez in his tracks during Nottingham Forest's draw with Leeds United at Elland Road this season

Tendayi Darikwa has performed brilliantly of late for Nottingham Forest and is fast proving me wrong after I wrote him off earlier this season.

The Nottingham-born Zimbabwe international has been a little hit and miss since arriving from Burnley last season, dividing opinions of the supporters in the process. I think it’s fair to say that in the beginning his offensive play was far superior to his defensive prowess.

In a piece a wrote earlier this season I said that he hadn’t really pushed on since the departure of Eric Lichaj, his main competitor for the right back jersey. I also alluded to his defensive frailties, which in my opinion, were caused by a lack of positional discipline.

However, Tendayi’s form since the Middlesbrough game has been outstanding and extremely well disciplined as a matter of fact. Has this been triggered by the arrival of Saidy Janko or just coming of age in his professional career?

Whatever the reason, he looks like a completely different player right now. And, as I said at the outset, he’s proving me to be wrong! It’s funny really, because when you trawl through social media you’re greeted with a plethora of heated debates and opinions over the strengths and weakness of the Nottingham Forest players.

Some resort to pure unpleasantness and trolling, whilst others calmly unveil their reasons for their admiration or disapproval. There’s almost an apprehensive element of shame for some when the player they’ve dismissed turns the tables on them, but rather than warm up a piece of humble pie, they refuse to compromise. The fact of the matter is that we all see the game differently.

Personally, I’m extremely fortunate to have the local media as a platform from which to express my views, hence the reason why I actively encourage the counter opinions of my readers, regardless of whether they agree with me or not.

So, I wanted to make certain that I acknowledged the recent brilliance of a player who I wrote off a couple of months ago. The transformation has been unbelievable, and for my money, has indeed been spurred by the arrival of Saidy Janko, who had his very own purple patch soon after signing for the Reds. The fact that the Swiss full back performed in such an accomplished manner so soon after signing makes it even more impressive that Darikwa has been able to keep him sidelined of late.

I mentioned earlier that Darikwa’s defensive duties needed attention, but he’s done exactly that. The 26-year-old isn’t giving the opposition the space that he once did, and he now seems to be the right side of his man on a regular basis.

Regarding the issue of denying space, I took some screen shots on my phone of the goals that Forest were conceding early in the season. I pointed out to a colleague that Darikwa was allowing too much distance between himself and the wide men crossing the ball, which I attributed to him being out of position following his attacking runs in the opposition territory.

But, despite his new found ruthlessness, refreshingly, his attacking game is still just as strong.

I’m certain that Aitor Karanka, given his esteemed career as top European defender has had a substantial influence on his right back’s advancement. When you’ve been part of a side that kept a clean sheet in the Champions League final, it’s fair to say that as a manager, the back line will certainly benefit from your experience.

Incidentally, that same back line has conceded just once in the last 360 minutes of Championship football, which was an illegal handball come to think of it.

Normally, it’s unfair to lay the plaudits at the door of just one defender during such a run, but, given that I singled Tendayi Darikwa out for criticism earlier in the season, it’s only right that I bestow upon him the praise he now deserves. He’s been the stand out player in recent weeks and I hope he continues to prove me wrong for the remainder of the season.