Awoniyi Absence A Forest Concern

Nottingham Forest’s Striker situation faces yet another stumbling block.

Just yesterday, Steve Cooper revealed in a mid-week press-conference ahead of Saturday’s fixture against Brighton, that top-scorer for this season, Taiwo Awoniyi, would now miss 3-4 months of action following an injury – just weeks after his return from a previous issue. So what happens now, with Forest losing their biggest source of goals?

Why is losing Awoniyi a serious problem for Nottingham Forest?

There are three main reasons that makes Awoniyi’s absence from Forest’s squad list a big issue: Timing, Replacements & Dependability.

The timing of the injury comes at an awkward time for Steve Cooper’s Forest; big games ahead, games in which Forest could quite possibly take a good number of points, but now losing their main source of goals. Awoniyi, as statistics tell us, scores or assists approximately every 123 minutes in the Premier League – 4 goals & 2 assists in 10 games so far this season. 

Awoniyi’s replacements while good strikers, who fans should place more faith in, in my opinion, are not of the same profile as Taiwo Awoniyi. Chris Wood is a player capable of scoring many goals – as he proved against Luton – but the team must play more to his strengths: Balls over the top, crosses into the box, perhaps a through ball – he doesn’t necessarily have the pace, but he can finish, regardless however, he isn’t a like for like replacement for Taiwo. Origi, while a cult hero at Liverpool, and undeniably a hero of their most recent Champions League triumph, isn’t, again, a like-for-like replacement for Awoniyi – his showing against West Ham off the bench showed glimpses of promise, but still much left to be desired. Both players [Wood & Origi] may not be the same as Taiwo, but are definitely capable, and fans should absolutely support them, but the need for a striker in January is of paramount importance – can Forest find a solution, soon?

Forest’s dependence on Taiwo Awoniyi is somewhat of an issue; of course, Forest perhaps didn’t expect Awoniyi to have quite the injury record that the Nigerian has had since moving to Nottingham, but questions over whether recruitment to replace/provide depth in the position are being raised – are Origi & Wood too similar? Can/Could  Forest afford another top Striker? All valid questions, hoping for an answer in January’s winter transfer window.

Currently, it’s unclear, at least to me, what Nottingham Forest can spend in January’s transfer window – a new Striker is what Forest need, and a crucial ‘roll of the dice’ must be took. A major challenge for Forest’s recruitment department – finding a cost-effective forward, ready for the Premier League, in simply a matter of months.

Losing a player that has scored/assisted nearly half (6/14) of all Nottingham Forest’s goals this season, is quite a serious issue – Forest’s response will be crucial, it is a huge loss. Awoniyi is due to return – providing there is no further issues – around the period of March/April 2024.

Who could Nottingham Forest look at in January?

I’m definitely not a scout, or a recruitment analyst, but everyone has a “shopping list” of players that they would love to see at their club. Of course, what I’d like to see, and what is financially feasible, could very much differ.

Marcos LeonardoThe young talent from Brazil, currently playing for Santos, is no stranger to Premier League scouts watching him play; Nottingham Forest have reportedly held interest for a while, but no concrete moves made. 13 goals & 2 assists last season in Série A, a dynamic forward with bucket-loads of potential, at just 20 years of age. However, although he has some similarities, he doesn’t fit the physical profile of Taiwo Awoniyi, and perhaps other Forest forward options – but his pace & creativity certainly makes his style one that could aid Forest, but he would need to ‘hit the ground running’ in the Premier League, which is a huge task in itself.

Serhou GuirassyAnother name that isn’t stranger to mention from Nottingham Forest fans is that of Stuttgart striker, Serhou Guirassy, otherwise referred to as one of Europe’s “hottest” strikers this season, with 15 Goals & 1 Assist in just 9 games. The forward is believed to have a release clause of around £15.2m (as per 90Min), but has many suitors – reports say that Fulham, West Ham, Newcastle United & other top European clubs are interested in securing his signature, but no official move has been made yet. The Guinean striker would be a good signing for the Reds, who have preciously recruited well from the Bundesliga with the help of former Stuttgart Chief Analyst, George Syrianos, who returned to Nottingham Forest on a consultancy basis in the summer.

Timo WernerPerhaps I’m alone on this thought, but Timo Werner could be an option for Nottingham Forest in January. A striker who certainly has goal scoring credentials, but needs a side to bring out the best in him – with Opienda & Sesko ranking higher at his current club, RB Leipzig, there is potential for the German forward to secure a loan/transfer back to the Premier League. A different profile to that of Awoniyi in regard to physicality, but nonetheless, a good Striker who needs a team that’ll give him a chance to show what he can really do. The drawback for me would be his wages – a heavily subsidised loan would be ideal for Forest, but if it were to be a permanent deal, should Forest make such a move, questions over wage-cuts may well be asked.

Armando BrojaMaybe the most rogue option out of all mentioned, since his return from an ACL injury, Broja has been once again tipped for big things. A successful loan at Southampton before his injury saw him gain interest – including from the Reds – in the summer of their return to the Premier League, but the Albanian forward stayed at Chelsea. I feel like, if he could keep fit, it could be a good loan option until the summer – of course beneficial for Forest’s FFP situation with no permanent transfer fee involved. His fitness, however, is a concern – January is Forest’s only chance to find a reliable striker with a different style to Wood & Origi – but Broja, an option, I reckon (should Chelsea let him leave).

Hugo EkitikeThe young PSG Striker has been reportedly told he can leave the French Giants in the Winter, amid interest from Premier League clubs. Similar to Marcos Leonardo, Ekitike is a young striker with no Premier League experience, so it would be a gamble, but the odds of it paying off seem fairly probable, to an extent. A creative, fast forward, with bags of potential – his price tag, however, alongside substantial wages for a young player, could make him a perhaps less attractive candidate.

Joshua ZirkzeeLastly, I suggest Joshua Zirkzee. A Dutch forward currently in contract with Bologna, in Serie A – a former teammate of Nicolas Dominguez. So far this season, Zirkzee has amassed 4 goals & 2 assists in 12 games, with an average rating (as rated by FotMob) of 7.21. Good in the air, and not afraid of a shot, Zirkzee is a brave forward that could offer something different to Forest’s front line.

These are some suggestions for forwards that Nottingham Forest could look at in the Winter transfer window – mostly cost-effective options, with potential for loan or permanent transfer, all with FFP taken into consideration.

What now, then?

The only thing Forest fans can do? ‘Get behind the lads.’ Chris Wood & Divock Origi, while not my preferred option up front, are the options available – and despite my “preference” statement, Wood is one of the top scorers with three goals this season, not bad for a player with just a couple of starts. Origi, when substituted, looks like he wants to get involved in the game, perhaps a goal will change his recent lack of fortune.

As a wise somebody once said: “Next man up” – January isn’t far away, and I feel that Wood & Origi, if Forest play to their strengths, can be a success. Losing Taiwo Awoniyi is no doubt devastating, but this will test Forest’s depth – a Premier League side can’t be reliant simply on one player for goals.

*Article provided by Jamie Martin (Head Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFC Awoniyi’s goals have been crucial in the Premier League for Forest.

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