Is it time for Nottingham Forest to drop Eric Lichaj?

Forest City Ground

Eric Lichaj has been played at left-back frequently this season - and he has failed to impress.

The United States international is primarily a right-sided defender, but, due to injury to Danny Fox, he has featured heavily at left-back for Stuart Pearce’s side this season.

However, he looks remarkably uncomfortable in his current position, and with Forest falling to their first league defeat of the season to Cardiff on Saturday, it may be time for Lichaj to lose his place in the starting line-up.

Fox is set to return from injury in the coming days, and he may be available for Tuesday night’s game at league leaders Watford, while Dan Harding is still available despite his lack of appearances this season. Fox is certainly the strongest option available, but, with the Hornets possessing arguably the strongest attacking force in the Championship, it could be unwise to start him if he has not returned to full fitness - with pace at an abundance throughout the Watford ranks.

The advantage that both Fox and Harding have over Lichaj is that they are comfortable in the left-back position, with it being their natural placing on the field. The 25-year-old former Aston Villa man is a right-sided defender, and his bad positioning in his current role has cost the team points. He was at fault for Cardiff’s opening goal on Saturday, as well as being culpable for the points dropped in the 2-2 draw with Ipswich at the beginning of October.

However, if Lichaj is removed from the left-back position, he would be able to strengthen the team elsewhere, with current right-back Jack Hunt falling from form in the past weeks. The Crystal Palace loanee is said to be wanted by Forest on a permanent deal, but he has only managed a string of average performances since the 1-1 draw with local rivals Derby County in September, and Lichaj’s increased experience could level the defence in the absence of the 23-year-old full-back.

Hunt is also an increasingly attacking full-back, and his inclusion against Watford could cost Forest victory, with the Hornets willing to sit deep and counter-attack the empty space left when Hunt overlaps the midfield. If Slavisa Jokanovic sets his team up with the three striker system used for the 3-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, Lichaj’s desire to sit deep and defend first-and-foremost would be key to nullifying the attacking threat - whereas Hunt would just exacerbate the problems.

Stuart Pearce has a number of problems to solve at the City Ground with Forest slowly falling down the Championship table - and the decision of who to play at left-back is the hardest. If the coach makes the right call for the Watford game, and the player he chooses directly contributes to the Reds stealing three points off the league leaders, his decision will be lauded - and it may be the event that kick-starts Forest’s faltering league campaign.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch