12 league wins, a seventeenth placed Championship finish and 33 different players used. The 2020/21 season has definitely been one to forget as a whole. For a team who so cruelly missed out on the play-offs the previous season to nearly dropping into a relegation fight the following campaign, makes a very tough job for a journalist to grade player performances positively over the course of what has largely been a dismal year for the reds. However, with this I hope we can pick apart the strengths and weaknesses of this squad, where they have failed and where they have succeeded, and what needs to be done in the coming summer window to revive this team back into the promotion contenders that we all believe they can be. This is every member of the 20/21 Nottingham Forest FC squad: GRADED.
Brice Samba: (45 apps 0 goals) C
A thankless job sometimes, is that of a goalkeeper. In a season such as the one gone by, it would be easy to say that Samba has not hit the level of performance shown under Sabri Lamouchi in their first year in England. A few questionable moments, especially against Brentford and Reading, can easily have many fans questioning the keeper no matter how good their performance as a whole was. However, a penalty save against Blackburn and 13 further clean sheets helped solidify Forest’s move away from a treacherous relegation dogfight. In a season of misfortune, the problem doesn’t lie with the goalkeeping department, and Samba should be happy with his contribution ahead of next year’s club goals.
Jordan Smith: (1 app 0 goals) D
It’s difficult to grade a season that consisted of 3 appearances in all competitions, but as an understudy to a keeper who played every league game bar one, Jordan Smith did okay. A 2-0 loss against Norwich could’ve been much worse if it wasn’t for his performance in goal at the City Ground, but overall not a season of any particular highlight for Smith.
Abdoulaye Diallo: (0 apps 0 goals) U
If we are grading the players like we are back at school, then Diallo may as well get sanctioned for his attendance this season. 1 bench appearance, a solitary game for the U23’s and zero photos of him in training or anywhere near the club, you would be forgiven for thinking the Senegalese shot stopper was not a real person at all.
Cyrus Christie: (44 apps 0 goals) C
A slow-burner amongst the Forest team, the on-loan Fulham right-back did not get off to a lightning start for The Reds this season, with his performances in the backline a constant remark and blaming-point on the internet amongst fans. However, the turn of the New Year saw Cyrus settle, and so to came better performances for the Republic of Ireland defender. Ending the season with 5 assists across his 44 league appearances, Christie turned his season around enough to upgrade from a near F to a C, if only he had shown such good form throughout the duration.
Carl Jenkinson: (3 apps 0 goals) F
5 appearances all season, and none of them particularly any good. With no appearances in the league since a 4 minute cameo against Norwich in September of last year, the former Arsenal man has yet to show any of the Premier league heritage his former employers carry. Not a season to remember.
Loic Mbe-Soh: (7 apps 1 goal) C-
A difficult one to grade; the 19-year old former PSG prospect came with much hype around him when he arrived in the summer, but he has been limited to just 7 appearances in the league since. A scoring cameo against Middlesbrough did little for his starting time, and his game against Preston on the final day was his first full 90 since an impressive pair of performances in December. I have to grade him in a similar vein to Smith; he wasn’t bad at all this season, but was just limited on game-time far too often for his own good, and not by his fault.
Tobias Figueiredo: (32 apps 0 goals) C-
By no means the worst centre-back we have seen at Forest in recent history, but far from the best either. Spent most of the season being dominated in the air and in physical battles, including against a player who was over half a foot smaller than him in one particular game. Needs to improve if he’s to play a major part for Forest next season.
Scott McKenna: (24 apps 1 goal) A-
A fairly injury-hit season left Forest’s new signing from Aberdeen limited to 24 games in the league, but across those performances the big Scotsman was largely impressive. A formidable, left-footed centre-half, McKenna formed a strong duo alongside Joe Worrall, and I have little doubt that Forests performances this season would’ve been much better had they had the pair at their disposal for the whole time. A good foundation to build on for what will be a very trying and telling season for the Reds next season. Let’s just hope he stays fit.
Michael Dawson: (0 apps 0 goals) U
Diallo rules unfortunately apply for Dawson too; a club legend and a fantastic leader behind the scenes, should this be the last year in the game for Dawson he will no doubt be remembered fondly by Forest fans, but will be disappointed to have not played a single minute amongst his 12 bench appearances this season. Should he move into a coaching role at the club sometime soon, I have no doubt that he will be an unbridled success there.
Joe Worrall: (31 apps 1 goal) A*
Arise, Nottingham Forest’s player of the season. Premier League clubs have been taking more and more interest in Forests many-times talented group of players, with Matty Cash and Michail Antonio two definite successes in England’s premier competition at the moment, and with summer looming, speculation is now mounting over the 24 year old’s future at the City Ground, and how well deserved it is as well. Faultless pretty much all season long, seeing the Hucknall-bred centre-back develop into a really mature leader at the back has been an unbridled joy for Reds fans over the years, and his partnership with Scott McKenna, when the Scotsman has been fit, has got many of us excited to watch them next season. The next club captain? It seems likely should he stay, and in my eyes he more than deserves all the plaudits he has been receiving. A real bright spark for the season.
Yuri Ribeiro: (25 apps 1 goal) B-
Seemingly frozen out of the squad at the start of the season, Yuri Ribeiro proved himself after the managers’ changed, as a top quality left-back, and some strong performances across the span of the season proved him to be a success once again. A silly red card against Middlesbrough and a couple of equally underwhelming showings towards the back end of the season highlights a couple of inconsistencies in his game, but with time we have already seen what Ribeiro has offered and will offer going forward in this period of rebuilding.
Gaetan Bong: (10 apps 0 goals) D-
Ever since that absolutely torrid night against Charlton last season, Bong has seemingly been a lost entity to the Forest squad, although his career in the Midlands was handed a lifeline as his old Brighton boss came to town. He still didn’t play much, with 10 appearances this season to his name, but a few good showings in these 10 took us all by surprise, it’s fair to say. Still too tough to say whether it’s worth keeping him, but decent to see him playing nonetheless.
Nicholas Ioannou: (5 apps 0 goals) F
The Cypriot former Manchester United left-back showed an awful lot of promise as Forest undeservedly fell to defeat in a 2-1 loss to Bristol at the start of the season. Unfortunately though, this was all the promise he showed. Some painfully average games in the next 3 matches, despite not losing any of them, meant that the frozen-out Yuri Riberio was brought back in, and a torrid game and red card against Luton brought an end to his Forest season, as he was loaned out in January.
Tyler Blackett: (14 apps 0 goals) D+
Another free transfer with a Premier League heritage, Tyler Blackett was, let’s be frank, dreadful in his first 3 appearances for the club, before an unfortunate hip injury kept him out of contention until January, and it took him until March to play more than 10 minutes in a game, with a full 90 in the 2-0 loss to Norwich showing some improvement to his torrid start. A full 90 minutes in the next 5 out of 6 games saw this improvement carry on, with some very strong performances indeed at left-back and centre back aiding his cause. After such a poor start, it’s great to see Tyler playing well, and hopefully he can carry on his second half form into next year.
Jack Colback: (17 apps 0 goals) D
Injury in the first half of the 1-0 home loss to Swansea practically brought an end to what had been a fairly impact-less campaign for the former Newcastle man. When it was announced that he would be leaving Tyneside on a free transfer, it seemed a no brainer to re-unite Forest fans with the midfielder who performed so well for them the season before last. However, a year with no minutes played for the Toon in professional football showed its impact on Colback, and it was clear to see the tough-tackling hard-working midfielder from yesteryear wasn’t quite there at this moment. Worth keeping around, because we know how good he can be, but needs to show improvement.
Fouad Bachirou: (1 app 0 goals) F
The Comoros defensive midfielder arrived on a free transfer after a pretty impressive season with Ostersund in Sweden, but a hamstring injury and subsequent match sharpness issues meant he missed the first 25 games of the season, before replacing Samba Sow for the last 32 minutes of a 0-0 draw with Barnsley. Unfortunately though, he looked hugely off the pace, and didn’t appear in a single league squad for the rest of the season. Mix in two underwhelming performances in the cups, and you have yourself a pretty underwhelming signing. Unfortunate, but entirely lacking in impact nonetheless.
Luke Freeman: (23 apps 1 goal) D-
When on-loan Sheffield United man Luke Freeman smashed home Forest’s first goal of the season in a 2-1 loss to Bristol, you would have been forgiven for thinking The Reds had found themselves a star turn in the side. Unfortunately though, that was Freeman’s only goal contribution for the entire spell in Nottingham, and he returns to The Blades with a string of unimpressive performances in his trail. A decent player, no doubt, but in turn with Nottingham Forest as a whole this season, looked hugely off it.
Cafu: (31 apps 0 goals) B+
A gift from the Marinakis-Forest-Olympiakos love triangle, the Greek clubs thank-you present for Tiago Silva’s services was surprisingly well received. Many people probably would’ve expected the legendarily-named Portuguese midfielder to be another Tachtisidis or Ariyibi, but he surprised us all with some really impressive performances in the centre of the park, especially in that ever-so-vital run of just 2 defeats between December and February which steered Forest away from relegation trouble. A Rolls-Royce in the midfield at the peak of his powers sometimes this season, and someone that I personally am eager to see back next year.
Samba Sow: (15 apps 0 goals) D+
Samba Sow, whilst he holds particular value to me in the world of Twitter, is an incredibly frustrating player to have at the club. And that is simply because he is absolutely brilliant, but is always injured. Injury kept the Malian midfielder out of playing since January, as match fitness took its toll as he recovered. Some impressive performances at the start of the season showed us again just how good he is, but with speculation mounting over his future, it could be a sad end for a player who looked to be an absolute destroyer when scarcely available in Garibaldi.
Ryan Yates: (34 apps 2 goals) C+
Never have I seen a player like Yates divide a fan-base so perfectly. A love-him-or-hate-him midfielder, the Lincoln-born Red has been covered by me before, so I don’t need to go too deep into what he offers and what he lacks, but the general consensus is that he isn’t a pure enough footballer to help the team build up and play, but what he offers in physicality and effort is unmatchable amongst most of the leagues midfielders, with the highest recoveries-to-retentions rate in the Forest squad this season. A player with potential to improve, who already offers a key part to Hughton’s system, it’s been a strong season to build from for Yatesy.
Filip Krovinovic: (19 apps 1 goal) C
Forest fans first memory of the Croatian midfielder would’ve been at the Hawthorns, where Matty Cash absolutely wiped him out when he was at West Brom on loan from Benfica. A second, but this time unsuccessful loan spell in the Premier League with the Baggies followed, before the deal was handed over to Forest in January. Since then, a single goal to snatch a point out of Brentford and a line of decent performances since signing helped steady a topsy turvy ship as Forest looked to run away from the red zone. Not a bad signing, could’ve had a bit more impact but did what he was brought in to do effectively.
Anthony Knockaert: (34 apps 2 goals) C-
A player with a big reputation at this level, the Frenchman was another former Brighton player brought in by Hughton to improve the squad, and he frustrated the life out of many fans, but was understood by many others. The way it seemed to me is that the Frenchman tried his best to be the star turn in the team, always trying to spice things up from the flank and bring something different to the cause, but ultimately just getting lost in the system and too often seeing some games see him by. A very talented player, without a shadow of a doubt, but we never really got to see the best of him this season, maybe giving a brief glimpse as to why Fulham fans were so happy to see the back of him in the summer.
Harry Arter: (13 apps 0 goals) D
Another big name player at this level, the Republic of Ireland midfielder arrived with much excitement around his signing following his release from Bournemouth. A legend on the South Coast who had enjoyed spells at Cardiff and Fulham before that, we never saw those sort of levels from Arter in red this season. A calf injury in January was aggravated in a game with the U23’s, and that was that for Arter’s season. With the squad allegedly due to be trimmed in the summer, the 31 year olds name is likely to be one of many circulated. Another player who promised so much, but largely delivered so little.
Sammy Ameobi: (32 apps 3 goals) B+
If at any point in the last 5 years you told anyone that at a point, Sammy Ameobi would be getting regarded as Nottingham Forest’s best player, you likely would’ve been laughed out of the room. Some fans like to pick holes at his first touch and his awkwardness on the ball, but even they would’ve been able to appreciate him this season. A constant threat on the flanks and a real physicality to deal with, the former Bolton man did very well indeed this season, heralded by 2 fantastic goals against Millwall in a MOTM display. If this is his last season, with his contract up at the end of the season, then we can look back on Sammy Ameobi’s time in red very fondly indeed.
James Garner: (20 apps 4 goals) A
Watford fans laughed at us when it was announced that we were to bring in Manchester United midfielder James Garner on loan for the rest of the season. By the end of the year though, it was us who were laughing at them. Well, not quite, because they got promoted and we finished 17th, but you get the gist. Some absolutely amazing performances across his half-season stay and a goal against Derby amongst his 4 for the club makes Garner a must-sign target for the Reds next season. Unfortunately, it’s likely that United will try and find a bottom-end Premier League club for their academy talent. A humungous shame that we may never see Garner play for us live in person, but still an absolute joy to watch on our screens, with the best passing accuracy in the whole squad whilst he was here, consolidated by our likely goal of the season in the final game against Preston.
Lewis Grabban: (28 apps 6 goals) C-
Captain for the season in the absence of Michael Dawson, the performances of Lewis Grabban this season were nowhere near the level we have seen from him in his previous years in Nottingham. With just 6 goals to his name this season, it’s definitely been one to forget for the Jamaica-declared striker, with many games passing him by completely up front, and leaving it no surprise that Hughton opted to bring in another striker in the winter window. We know his quality however, and hopefully it can be a very different story next season, much more like ones gone by and not the one just experienced.
Lyle Taylor: (39 apps 4 goals) D-
Starting to become quite common theme this, isn’t it? Again, signed in the summer off of an impressive, if controversial, season with Charlton with much fanfare to the signing attached. Ended up spending most of the season horizontal. Enjoyed complaining more than scoring at times, it seemed, and didn’t really add anything else either. A nice little run of 4 goals in 5 games in October and November, including THAT penalty against Coventry seemed to show what a player Forest had secured the services of, but he didn’t score again for the rest of the season, and has one of the lowest shots-to-shots-on-target conversion rates in the Championship.
Alex Mighten: (24 apps 3 goals) B
Ever since that cup match against Chelsea, Forest fans have been crying out for the American-born youngster to get some proper game-time. Thankfully, that’s exactly what he got this season, with 24 appearances, 3 goals and an assist to his name in his break-out year, we have a lot to look forward to in the next few seasons with Mighten in the team. Fast, dynamic, and explosive, the academy appears to have spat out another gem.
Joe Lolley: (28 apps 1 goal) D-
A low grade for the player that I absolutely did not want to grade low at all. We all know how good Lolley is, he’s been unstoppable on his days since joining from Huddersfield all that time ago, but this season has shown barely a shadow of what Lolley can truly do. He scored the winner to secure Forest’s first win of the season against Blackburn, but failed to find the net for the rest of the season before injury unfortunately brought an abrupt end to a torrid campaign where he lost his usually cemented-on starting spot in the side in December, and never got it back. I think I speak for every Forest fan when I say we want nothing more but to see Lolley playing at his best when he’s fit again next season.
Glenn Murray: (16 apps 2 goals) D
It’s difficult to grade strikers positively, in all honesty, because all of them were pretty average this year. However, having some experience at the helm to try and steady the ship a bit, was still very impactful for Forest, and with 2 goals on his full debut, Murray did just that. He didn’t score outside of that full debut (we thought he did against reading, but it was an own-goal in the end) but he was a decent player to feed off in attack and did his job well well called upon.
Overall, not a season to look back on that fondly at all, but with every cloud, there is a silver lining, and our red-tinted one is that we have a young squad foundation with potential and talent that was not reflected truly over the last campaign. Ahead of what is certain to be an incredibly busy summer for the Reds, we can start to get excited about next time, because all of us know, truly, that we are so much better than what we were shown on our screens this time around.
*Article provided by Louis Wheeldon (Football Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFC the Forest players celebrate during a tough season.