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03rd Feb 2023

Nottingham Forest: Sensible signings or real life Football Manager?

Callum Boyle

Nottingham Forest have signed more players this season than anyone else in Europe.

When Nottingham Forest were promoted to the Premier League for the first time in 23 years, owner Evangelos Marinakis made a vow to back Steve Cooper.

Speaking to The Telegraph after their play-off semi-final win, Marinakis said: “Now is the time to give Steve all the ammunition he needs, to be able to not only survive but bring some good results. We have to invest more.”

Oh boy did he stick to his word.

Nottingham Forest

Two transfer windows later and Forest have had quite the makeover. No fewer than 29 players have come through the door in those six months – more than anyone else by some distance.

Of course, it’s worth noting that there was work to be done on the side. They were losing their goalkeeper, Brice Samba, who returned to France to join Lens.  James Garner and Keinan Davis all returned to their parent clubs while others needed to be upgraded.

Marinakis wasn’t messing about either when it came to recruitment. Big names such as Jesse Lingard, Renan Lodi, Dean Henderson and Serge Aurier all came to the City Ground alongside talented and exciting prospects, including Lewis O’Brien and Taiwo Awoniyi.

Nottingham Forest

A player turnaround as big as that was always going to mean teething problems initially. Come October and off the back of a 4-0 defeat to neighbours Leicester City, Forest were bottom of the table and there were talks of Cooper being sacked.

After the overwhelming pleads from Forest fans to do the right thing and let Cooper implement his style on a new crop of players, it seems Forest’s decision to stick with the Welshman has paid off after a great improvement in form which saw them reach the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup and rise to 13th in the Premier League.

As January rolled around, there were a couple of positions that ideally, Forest would have liked to improve. A striker to help ease the burden on Awoniyi, who is currently injured, and a defensive midfielder.

They identified one of those, bringing in talented prospect Danilo from Palmeiras – the same place they also signed Gustavo Scarpa before Chris Wood joined on loan from Newcastle, filling the criteria of a much-needed improvement.

Forest weren’t done there though. On deadline day, three big names arrived: Jonjo Shelvey, Atlético Madrid centre-back Felipe and the standout, Keylor Navas. A penny for Dean Henderson’s thoughts on that last one.

To top it all off they decided that one more should come to the club as Andre Ayew moved to the City Ground to be reunited with Cooper.

It’s obvious that Cooper has the final say on all transfers – it’s his squad he works with day in and day out. Yet, given the owner’s well-documented involvement in first-team affairs in Forest in the past, it would be no shock if some of these arrivals were players he told Cooper to sign, as opposed to Cooper wanting them in the first place.

The club are now in a position similar to where they were at the end of the first transfer window: a bloated squad with plenty of new faces to gel.

In fact, they now have so many that players who joined in the summer like Harry Toffolo who have been loaned out while O’Brien – off the back of a failed deadline day move to Blackburn Rovers – is no longer in the 25-man squad, meaning he won’t be playing a minute of senior football for the remainder of the season.

Nottingham Forest

What Forest can’t afford is for any of these players not to hit the ground running. Such is the Premier League, they are still very much involved in the relegation battle and time wasted missing out on picking up points because players aren’t familiar with the style could come back to haunt them.

However, it may be a stroke of genius. Nearly all of those arrivals this winter either have significant top-flight experience or are serial winners (see Navas and Felipe).

During that interview with The Telegraph, Marinakis also said: “We need to be careful how we spend and make the right choices.”

It’s a bold approach, but their position in the table come the final day of the season will truly determine if they spent carefully and made the right choices.

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