In the space of one week Nottingham Forest welcomed three new arrivals through the doors of the City Ground, in the form of Jack Colback, Tyler Blackett and Lyle Taylor.
The three signings, all free transfers, represents good business by the Reds; appearing to fulfill their number one goal of this transfer window. Bringing in established and experienced Championship players. It’s hoped that bringing in valuable experience, scattered throughout the whole squad, will add to what is already a competitive roster of talent.
But what else is needed, if Forest are to make amends for the disastrous end to the 2019/20 season?
Firstly, if Sabri Lamouchi is to continue with the 4-2-3-1 formation which he used most commonly last season, there are a few glaringly obvious areas that require improvement.
Last season Joe Worrall and Tobias Figueiredo were a mainstay in the Reds’ defence and for the most part were outstanding performers, earning rave reviews. In recent weeks, however, interest in Worrall, from Burnley, seems to have intensified. Losing Worrall would obviously leave a whole in the centre of the Reds’ defence but by all accounts if a deal was to be struck between all parties, former Middlesbrough captain Ben Gibson would become a Forest player – already replacing the potentially outgoing Worrall. Veteran, and fan’s favourite, Michael Dawson also appeared a number of times before injury relegated him to the role of back up. After signing a new one year deal Dawson will be sticking around, although it feels it will be his off pitch work which benefits the club most greatly. “I’d give him a lifetime contract” – the words of Sabri Lamouchi, it’s clear Dawson offers so much in terms of his professionalism and experience but at 36 (37 two months into the new season) it is a sad reality that we won’t be able to offer as much on the pitch as he once could.
Therefore, the sensible move would be for Forest to bring in another centre back that can challenge whoever starts the season as first choice pairing. Other than the two current starters, Forest’s centre halves are all in the twilight of their careers. So for any incoming centre back, one factor should be huge – their age. It would be sensible if Forest brought in someone with not only the potential to play in the heart of the Reds’ defence for years to come but also, as a business point of view, someone with resale value. A name that seems to tick all those boxes is Oxford United captain Rob Dickie. The 6” 24 year old has made almost 100 appearances for The U’s, gaining plenty of experience within the football league. Depending on the price, this could be a great piece of business by Forest, or indeed whoever may sign the former Reading man.
With the return of Jack Colback, for his third spell at the club, Forest are well stocked when it comes to defensively minded central midfielders. Where Forest are lacking is in midfielders with an attacking, goal contributing mindset. Tiago Silva occupied the most advanced midfield role for the most of last season, although that only resulted in 8 goal involvements in 47 appearances. With both Silva and, record buy, Joao Carvalho linked with moves away, it is essential for Forest to bring in someone who can lift the burden on Joe Lolley to provide the spark when nothing else is on and also lift the heavy weight on the shoulders of Lewis Grabban for goals. The link to Sheffield United’s Luke Freeman just won’t go away and on paper it seems a particularly shrewd move. In his last season at QPR, the ex Arsenal man registered 8 goals and 6 assists. If Forest could get him through the door, or someone of his ilk, to produce those sort of numbers it would bring more balance to the side which has had an over-reliance on a select few of the squad.
Nottingham Forest duo Sammy Ameobi and Joe Lolley had the joint highest assist stats between them last season (16 between them) and both have proved to be highly valuable members to the team. However, after those two the options on the flanks are very limited. Albert Adomah never managed to show any of the form he produced at Aston Villa, nor could Adama Diahkaby prove the doubters, from his time at Huddersfield, wrong. One option out wide is Nuno Da Costa, although he has yet to pull up any trees since his January arrival. One trait that is required for any incoming winger is pace. Someone who can get in behind and also take on his man and leave them in the dust is something Forest have missed recently. Ameobi and Lolley are more about tricks and flair, getting someone in with the simple instructions to use their speed could give Forest another outlet and a new dimension to what was, at times last season, a particularly predictable attack.
As all businesses try to overcome the financial hurdles thrown in front of them, by the Coronavirus, Forest will have to explore all varieties of transfers as they look to bolster their squad. Often loan signings are used as a low risk solution to problems within squads, however the last few seasons have seen a change in the way loan deals are being used. If you are prepared to up the risk, slightly, the rewards could be huge. Last season all three promoted teams benefited from incredibly astute and clever loan signings. West Brom brought in Matheus Pereira and Filip Krovinivic, Leeds secured Helder Costa and Ben White whilst Fulham signed Ivan Cavaleiro, Anthony Knockaert, Harry After and Harrison Reed. Most of these players were signed with pre arranged transfers, should their loans be successful; a road Forest should look to go down. It is a cost effective and low risk way of bringing serious talent through the doors. The Premier League is full to the brim of talented players, in fact it’s overflowing and Forest should pounce to take some talent off the elite’s hands. If Forest can avoid wasting loans on flops and instead bring in committed, hungry and most importantly effective players then why can’t it have a similar result, like it did for West Brom, Leeds and Fulham?
Forest have to be clever, in this current climate where everyone is suffering. So it wouldn’t be the worst idea to use the contacts and links they have been building up since Evangelos Marinakis bought the club. Connections with Jorge Mendes and Portuguese giants, Benfica, seem to result in yearly transfers from Lisbon to Nottingham. The latest link is with Portuguese central midfielder, David Tavares. A move for Tavares seems as though he could effectively replace outgoing Alfa Semedo. But with a whole new influx of Portuguese coaches added to Sabri Lamouchi’s backroom team, let’s hope they can ease their compatriots acclimatisation and allow him to flourish.
*Article provided by Joe Freeman (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
Main image @ojogo Benfica midfielder David Tavares has been linked with Forest this summer.