Redskin

A guide to Nottingham Forest’s 15 new signings (and counting) after impressive home victory


It is no exaggeration to say the scale of Nottingham Forest’s summer recruitment has been so great that, at times, it has genuinely been hard to keep count of all the new additions.

It currently stands at 15, but could rise to as many as 16 or 17 in the coming hours and days.

Eight of those signings started against West Ham. Many of them will already have won over the City Ground faithful as Premier League football returned in dramatic fashion to Nottingham for the first time in two decades.

Taiwo Awoniyi scored Forest’s first top-flight goal in 23 years and 90 days, while Dean Henderson saved a Declan Rice penalty to help preserve a clean sheet that was earned through hard work, determination and a little good fortune.

We saw the return of the Steve Cooper fist pumps, as a joyous, noisy and colourful City Ground continued the celebrations that began with promotion back in May.

The biggest question Cooper has faced recently has been over how he will get so many new additions to gel and how he can replicate the team spirit and togetherness that was at the core of their promotion success.

Cooper hopes his experience with the England under-17 side — when he was also tasked with forging success in a short space of time with a group not used to playing together — will help. 

There are plenty of reasons why such intensive rebuilding was required, with five loan players having departed, along with key figures Brice Samba and Lewis Grabban.

Gaetan Bong, Carl Jenkinson, Nuno da Costa, Xande Silva and Nicholas Ioannou were all among a flurry of further departures, while Ethan Horvath, Richie Laryea and Braian Ojeda all left on loan.

Owner Evangelos Marinakis was in the stands to witness the new-look squad he has financed. He will have seen plenty of positives. 

Cooper again made a point of talking about how necessary Forest’s work in the transfer market was — and said more still needs to be done as they work to add to the £105million they have invested already. 

Neal Maupay and Houssem Aouar are Forest’s immediate targets, while the club are still keen on James Garner and Morgan Gibbs-White.

“I hope people look into why we have made so many signings and don’t just say: ‘Forest have signed loads of players’. There has been a real rationale behind it; a real necessity. We had no choice,” says Cooper. “There will definitely be more ins and outs.”

It is impressive how quickly this team gelled together on Sunday, but it is a theme that must be maintained.

How and where, in the long term, can we expect the new additions to fit in? 


Goalkeepers

The biggest question surrounding Dean Henderson will be over why, exactly, Manchester United were willing to let him go — especially after David de Gea’s mistakes on Saturday. Samba established himself as a firm Forest favourite with his play-off heroics. 

But Henderson will soon earn hero status of his own if he can maintain these levels. He saved a penalty to deny Rice and looks to be an assured presence whether it is coming for crosses or dealing with the ball at his feet. He had an excellent game in front of watching England manager Gareth Southgate.

The England international already looks to be a step up in class and Wayne Hennessey is an experienced back-up.

Dean Henderson (Manchester United, loan)

Wayne Hennessey (Burnley)

Right-backs/right wing-backs

While Djed Spence was in the travelling party that Tottenham took to Chelsea, he could not force his way into the squad. He may have to be patient for his chance in the capital. His replacement at Forest, Neco Williams, is not the same raw, explosive talent that Spence was during his loan (from Middlesbrough). 

But the Wales international has different qualities. He is a more cultured, refined and rounded wing-back. The quality of his delivery from the right flank has been a feature of the first two games in the top flight. 

One cross to set up a header for Awoniyi was sublime and, defensively, he has looked solid against difficult opposition. 

Neco Williams (Liverpool, £17m) 

Central defenders

Of the three players in the starting XI that were at the club last season, it tells a significant story that two of them — Joe Worrall and Scott McKenna — were defenders.

They, along with Steve Cook, were the foundation on which Forest’s play-off push was built. McKenna’s determined attitude is, at times, a simple pleasure to witness. Worrall has earned the captaincy.

Moussa Niakhate has quickly looked to be a valuable addition. The 26-year-old started ahead of Cook and justified that decision with another commanding performance. Niakhate has strength, speed, power and can read the game. He is extremely comfortable on the ball. 

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Niakhate has made a solid start to his Nottingham Forest career (Photo: Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images)

With Giulian Biancone signed as cover as a right-sided central defender and as a right wing-back, Forest have given themselves depth in a key area.

Moussa Niakhate (Mainz £10m)

Giulian Biancone (Troyes £5m)

Left-backs/left wing-backs

It would not be Forest without the club having to deal with some kind of mini-crisis at left-back. This time it came in the form of a hairline fracture suffered by Omar Richards, which will rule him out for a minimum of another month or so.

It is a position Forest might still strengthen in before the end of the window. But in the meantime, Harry Toffolo has been steady enough, without having quite the spectacular impact that Williams has had on the opposite flank.

Jack Colback did a fine job playing on the left side for much of last season when Sheffield United loanee Max Lowe was injured. But asking Colback to repeat that in the top flight would be a big ask, even if he does provide a useful fallback option.

Omar Richards (Bayern £8.5m) 

Harry Toffolo (Huddersfield £10m joint-deal with Lewis O’Brien)

Central midfielders 

Lewis O’Brien, who was a key figure for promotion rivals Huddersfield, has quickly acclimatised at Forest. He might prove to be one of those players who often sees his work underappreciated. However, he will also face an immediate fight to hold on to his place.

Orel Mangala is both quick with the ball at his feet and quick to spot a pass. Cheikhou Kouyate will add experience and physical presence — and his versatility will also make him an option in the centre of defence. 

The signing of Freuler could be one of the most significant pieces of business that Forest have done. The 30-year-old is a quality all-round player but his influence at Atalanta saw him allow the attacking players around him the freedom to create.

Cooper was keen to add some physical presence in the middle and, on that front, Forest still have Ryan Yates to come back from injury. They are also hopeful of signing Garner from Manchester United. Colback and Cafu ensure that Forest are never likely to be short of options.

Lewis O’Brien (Huddersfield £10m joint-deal with Toffolo)

Orel Mangala (Stuttgart £12.75m)

Cheikhou Kouyate (free agent)

Remo Freuler (£7.5m Atalanta)

Brandon Aguilera (On loan with Guanacasteca)

Attacking midfielders 

The signing of 29-year-old England international Jesse Lingard raised eyebrows, but it also involves rather less risk than many might believe. On a basic wage of £110k a week  with significant add-ons, Lingard will cost Forest much more if he is a success.

If the worst happens and they are relegated, he is only on a one-year deal and there is no long-term financial commitment. But, equally, if he does well, there is a good chance they will stay up. 

Transfer targets Aouar and Gibbs-White would add valuable competition in this area. 

Jesse Lingard (free agent)

Forwards

Awoniyi will have scored far more impressive goals, but the Nigerian won’t care about that after getting off the mark for his new club.

Industrious and a real physical presence, few teams will enjoy playing against Awoniyi. Particularly not when coupled with the pace and trickery of Brennan Johnson. 

New recruit Emmanuel Dennis scored 10 goals in a poor Watford side that fought unsuccessfully against relegation and will provide another interesting option.

With Sam Surridge, who impressed during the promotion push, Forest have plenty of forward options and are likely to add yet another with Brighton’s Maupay. 

Emmanuel Dennis (Watford, deal potentially worth £20m)

Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin £17.5m)

(Top photo: Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images)





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