How Good Is Brennan Johnson?

In our latest series of opinion polls on Nottingham Forest players, this week our very own Callum Castel takes a statistical look Brennan Johnson as he asks via his twitter poll, how good is he? For more of Callum’s recent articles on Reds players click here.

Brennan Johnson is yet another exciting prospect of the Nottingham Forest Academy. As a Nottingham born player, Johnson has been knocking at the door to get a consistent run in the first team for his home club. After short runs in the Forest first team, an outstanding season on loan in League One at Lincoln City has gained the 20-year-old his chance in the Championship, playing in all 20 of the reds’ league games so far this season.

In his time at Lincoln, Johnson scored 11 goals for the Imps whilst laying off five assists. It was clear that the youngsters’ pace, acceleration, technical ability, and sharp, dynamic movement caused a lot of problems for League One defenders, proving to Chris Hughton and now Steve Cooper that Johnson was ready for the step up. As well as this, Johnson had also worked his way up from the Wales youth setup to now becoming a regular in the Wales senior squad, making seven appearances for the national team so far.

So far this season for Forest, Johnson has produced three goals and four assists during his first season as a regular starter for the Championship side. To put this into perspective, only Lewis Grabban has more combined goals and assists for the club (9) than Brennan Johnson and Philip Zinckernagel on seven. Additionally, only Zinckernagel has more shots per game (2.1) than Johnson (1.7) whilst the two wingers both put 0.6 of their shots on target, highlighting that Johnson has had slightly better accuracy.

In terms of creativity, the Welsh international has produced the most ‘big chances’ for Forest (5) ahead of Zinckernagel (3) and Max Lowe (2). This also puts him third in the Championship for players under 21, behind Morgan Gibbs-White (7) and Ryan Giles (11). Johnson also completes 10.5 passes per game with a 71% success rate, also creating one key pass per game.

It is Brennan Johnson’s raw pace and ability to get in behind though, that sets him apart. Most notably, the 20-year-old’s assists for Lyle Taylor against Coventry and Lewis Grabban against Huddersfield showed Johnson’s ability to outpace and expose defenders before laying the ball on a plate for the striker in the middle.

This is highlighted by the fact that Djed Spence has the most completed the most successful dribbles for Forest this season (1.7) ahead of Zinckernagel (1.5) and Johnson (1.4), but it is Johnson who has the more successful in his attempts (51%) ahead of Spence and Zinckernagel who both completed 48% of their attempts.

Johnson’s protean ability to create a chance out of nothing through ball carrying into space can earn his side anything from a corner to a penalty, assist or a goal. Last season at Lincoln City, Johnson won a total of seven penalties that were a result of defenders not understanding how to take the ball from the pacy winger once his acceleration had picked up and he was still manipulating the ball. Johnson’s natural ability makes it easy to evade challenges or draw contact regularly to earn his side those penalties.

This has been seen for Forest also this season, however referees haven’t given many of the penalty calls from fouls on Johnson. Forest have only had two penalties this season though, and with Spence winning one against Bristol City, it was Johnson who won the second against Preston. However, it wasn’t his pace and dynamism that won this penalty, it was his ability to manipulate the ball and get in front of the defender first before being tripped over.

Though Johnson has been involved in scoring and creating goals, he has been accused of going missing from time to time by Forest fans. When you look back to the game against Barnsley, the 20-year-old scored one and assisted one, having successfully completed 2/2 dribble attempts, 12 accurate passes and getting 30 touches on the ball. However, for the most recent games against Reading, Luton and West Bromwich Albion, Johnson has had less of an impact.

Most recently, against West Brom, Johnson didn’t have any goal involvements, completed 1/3 dribble attempts, had seven accurate passes, and touched the ball 26 times, similarly to the games against Reading and Luton. Nevertheless, having only just left his teenage years behind, Johnson is surely allowed to have big games and quieter games, having shown a massive amount of potential already. After all, his numbers weren’t spectacular against West Brom, but he was the only Forest player on the pitch to have a shot on target.

Brennan Johnson has been a shining light for Nottingham Forest and with Brentford attempting to lure the youngster to the Premier League on several occasions during the most recent transfer window, it is clear that the forward has an abundance of potential – consistency will come with time.

With Johnson’s potential and consistency levels in mind, a poll was put out on social media to ask “Brennan Johnson, how good is he?” receiving 117 votes.

68% of voters selected ‘So much potential’ whilst 17% of voters already believe that Johnson is a ‘Key player’. Only 15% of fans opted for ‘Too inconsistent’, showing only a small minority of fans already expect to see Barnsley level performances week in week out, although I’m sure 100% of fans would love to see that too.

At the start of his tenure as Nottingham Forest manager, Steve Cooper stated, “I like the fact that Brennan can offer different types of attack. He can run in behind, he can play in between lines, he can go one-v-one. His job is just to keep believing in himself. He has had a good start to the season, but it is just a start. The challenge with Brennan and a lot of the young players is just to focus on what they have control of.”

Cooper went on to say, “He has to understand why he has done so well, so far, and continue to use the same process. I am not worried, because I see a boy who loves his training, loves playing and is interested in how he can improve. We just have to support him and challenge him in the right way, to ensure he kicks on.”

Though most fans can see the overwhelming potential that Brennan Johnson has as a footballer, a minority of fans still await higher consistency levels. Nevertheless, at just 20 years of age, consistency will come with time and if Johnson can reach the heights we’ve seen over the course of his career so far, it will be difficult to keep the youngster in the Championship, should Forest not get promoted themselves.

*Article provided by Callum Castel (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFC Brennan Johnson has stepped up to the plate during his first full season as a Red.

Leave a Reply