Is Brice Samba the best goalkeeper in the Championship? After earning a place in the PFA Championship team of the season in his first year at Nottingham Forest, it was fair to say that the Reds had a talented ‘keeper in their ranks.
Former Forest manager Sabri Lamouchi once claimed Samba to be the best goalkeeper in the Championship. He stated that he had no doubt the former Caen ‘keeper has the potential to play in the Premier League one day.
Samba’s quick reflexes, shot-stopping and one-handed claims are something to behold at this level, but his goalkeeping attributes aren’t the be all and end all of his game. The 27-year-old’s passing and distribution adds much more to Samba’s skill set.
In fact, former Nottingham Forest right back Matty Cash once joked that he believed his goalkeeper could transition into a midfielder.
“Brice has been really good. He is a brilliant goalkeeper. He is one of the best I have worked with. In fact, he is the best I have worked with. He is a great shot-stopper, and his distribution is just brilliant. Everyone can see it. He is a great guy as well, which you might not see.”
“He can pick a pass brilliantly. He does it in training every day. He picks out his man so well. He gives you that confidence when you are playing out from the back. You know you can play good football with him behind you. I think he could honestly play in midfield if he wanted to.”
Despite showing the capability of an all-round goalkeeper, Samba hasn’t been without his dips in form. However, it was Chris Hughton’s final game in charge of Nottingham Forest that saw Samba dropped to the bench – at risk of losing his starting spot. Nevertheless, Ethan Horvath struggled as Samba’s replacement during a 2-0 loss to Middlesbrough and Samba was restored by caretaker boss Steven Reid.
It would be difficult to claim that the Forest ‘keeper has put a foot wrong since returning to the starting eleven. In fact, Forest have only conceded more than one goal in a game on two separate occasions since Samba was restored, against Fulham and Middlesbrough, respectively.
The ‘keeper has also kept eight clean sheets since the game against Middlesbrough, including the 1-0 FA Cup win over Premier League opponents Arsenal.
Brice Samba also brings a level of leadership to the squad. Though Lewis Grabban, Joe Worrall, Jack Colback and now Steve Cook bring a prominent level of experience and leadership, Samba is always at the edge of his box shouting instructions to his defence. The ‘keeper commands his back line vocally and is ready to receive the ball with his feet, giving that back line a comfort zone to fall back on.
When comparing the goalkeepers of the Championship that have appeared in half or more of their clubs’ games this season, it is clear that Samba falls into the top bracket ability wise.
Samba has the sixth highest saves per game percentage (72%) behind the likes of Huddersfield’s Lee Nicholls (77%), Fulham’s Marek Rodák (74%), Bournemouth’s Mark Travers (74%), Derby’s Kelle Roos (74%) and Reading’s Luke Southwood (73%).
However, of the aforementioned, Samba has made the fourth most saves per game (2.7) behind Southwood (4.1), Nicholls (3.2) and Roos (3).
Samba also boasts the fourth highest pass accuracy in the division with 67%. Only Ben Hamer (74%), Marek Rodák and Luke Southwood (69%) have better accuracy. Despite this, only Blackpool’s Daniel Grimshaw completed more passes per game (26.9) than Brice Samba (24.8). This is also highlighted with Samba having the fifth most touches per game (48) of the ‘keepers in the Championship, expressing just how much the Forest defenders trust their man between the sticks.
Samba has also made one clearance per game as well as not conceding any penalties or errors leading to a goal this season. However, Samba has faced three penalties so far this season, saving an important one from Luton’s Elijah Adebayo. The ‘keeper was particularly heroic throughout this game as he was forced to make an even more astonishing save from Kal Naismith’s strike at the end to earn the ten men of Nottingham Forest a point.
Four yellow cards may be Forest fans’ favourite statistic this season, though. Not because the thought of Samba missing games is anything to be excited about, but rather the way the yellow cards are received. Samba appears to be a professional time waster and Forest fans love it.
With the question at hand, a poll was put out on social media to ask Forest fans, “Is Brice Samba the best goalkeeper in the Championship?”
#NFFC fans, serious question. Is Brice Samba the best goalkeeper in the Championship?
— Callum Castel-Nuovo (@callumcasteln) January 18, 2022
A total of 367 Forest fans voted, with 84% selecting ‘yes’ showing just how highly the Reds supporters think of their goalkeeper. One fan even commented, “Yep!” as another claimed, “He’s in the top one.”
From looking into the statistics of the current Championship goalkeepers, it is clear that Brice Samba is amongst the top players in his position. He isn’t just a good shot-stopper or distributor, he is both. Samba is a leader, a risk taker, a resilient character, and an excellent time waster. All of which make for an exceptional all-round ‘keeper which might just make Samba the best in the Championship.
*Article provided by Callum Castel (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFC James Garner has shown recent glimpses of last seasons brilliant form.