A Season In Review: Nottingham Forest

In this series of 20 articles, we take a look back at the Premier League season, focusing on each team individually. We take a look at transfer window activity, managerial changes, and key points throughout the season.

Transfer Windows

Nottingham Forest were, by far, the busiest team in the transfer windows this season. With the majority of their promotion-winning squad leaving, Forest had a massive rebuild to plan, and execute, whilst trying to bed them into the first, and make sure they survive in the Premier League.

In terms of outgoings, Brice Samba left for a free to Lens, whilst Joe Lolley, Figueiredo, Nuno Da Costa, Lewis Grabban, Carl Jenkinson and Silva all left the club as free agents. The only other player to leave the club was Josh Bowler, who was bought in the summer, before being subsequently loaned out to Olympiakos, before being recalled and sent back to Blackpool on loan.

It was the incomings where Nottingham Forest were laughed at, and it is easier to look at the incomings for each position. In net, there were 4 additions throughout the season. Dean Henderson arrived from Man United on loan, Adnan Kanuric and Wayne Hennessy arrived as free agents, and Kaylor Navas also arrived on loan, this time from PSG.

A total of 6 fullbacks joined, as Renan Lodi made the move from Athletico Madrid, and Omar Richards transferred from Bayern Munich. Biancone arrived from Troyes, as Serge Aurier joined as a free agent. One Premier League player made the switch, as Neco Williams joined from Liverpool. Forest also dipped into The Championship, as Harry Toffolo arrived from Huddersfield.

The defensive signings did not stop there, as 4 central defenders also joined. Willy Boly made the switch from Wolves, as Moussa Niakhate joined from Mainz. Forest went to Athletico Madrid again as they signed Felipe, and Loic Bade arrived from Rennes on loan.

It was the midfield area where Forest made the majority of signings, with 9 joining their ranks. Kouyate, Gustavo Scarpa and Jesse Lingard all arrived as free transfers. Remo Freuler arrived from Atalanta and Orel Mangala joined from Stuttgart. Danilo was the last midfielder to join from a foreign club, as he signed from Palmeiras. Forest then looked to the English leagues, as Gibbs-White joined from Wolves, Jonjo Shelvey from Newcastle, and Lewis O’Brien from Huddersfield.

All that was left was for Forest to improve their very limited attacking options. Andre Ayew arrived at the club as a free transfer, and Dennis made the step up from The Championship after leaving Watford. Taiwo Awoniyi left Union Berlin to join the Premier League club, as Li-Jo Hwang joined from Bordeaux and Chris Wood arrived from Newcastle.

After two hectic windows for the club, it is hard to judge whether they were a success or not. Yes, the players they signed kept them in the Premier League, but some of them could have performed much better. Did they have to panic buy a few players because they were so short? Did they get all their first options? It will be interesting to see how many of these players leave the club within the next season or two.

Key Games

There were two occasions where Forest really turned their season around, for a short period anyway. They signed off for the winter World Cup break with a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace, and all eyes were on whether they could build off that win when they got back. They did not, as they lost against Man United, but it was their game against Southampton a few games later that raised eyebrows.

Both sides went into the game desperately needing points to move away from the bottom of the table, and it certainly played out that way. It was a scrappy game, with only one goal to separate the two sides. Taiwo Awoniyi scored the only goal, giving Nottingham Forest not only a priceless 3 points but a first away win of the season.

It was such an important game to win, as it gave them confidence going into their next few games, as they also beat Leicester and Leeds in their next 3 games, with both of those teams subsequently getting relegated at the end of the season.

Their other important game was more towards the business end of the season. With 6 games to go, Forest was far from safe, after a long string of negative results. They hosted Europe chasing Brighton in what turned out to be a big game. After Brennan Johnson missed an early penalty, and Buonanotte gave Brighton the lead, it looked like it was not going to be Forests’ day.

A Brighton own goal in first-half stoppage time drew them level, however, and in the second half, Danilo gave the hosts the lead, before Gibbs-White scored a 91st-minute penalty, helping Forest on their way to a priceless 3 points. That result gave them confidence in their remaining games, as they recorded a huge 4-3 win against Southampton, and a shock win against Arsenal, to help guide them to safety.

Some clubs’ seasons rest on these moments, and Forest certainly benefitted from that Brighton own goal. If that had not gone in, they probably would have gone on to lose that game, and potentially lose their next few as well.

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Cup Competitions

Carabao Cup

Forest entered the Carabao Cup in the second round with an away tie against Grimsby. Forest made light work of their League Two opponents as they ran out 3-0 winners, courtesy of goals from Yates, and 2 from Surridge, clinching them a place in the next round.

Their third-round opponents were slightly more difficult, with Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur travelling to The City Ground. Lodi opened the scoring after 50 minutes to give the hosts a surprise lead, and Lingard doubled that lead just 7 minutes later. Orel Mangala received a second yellow card, reducing Forest to 10 men, but they held on for a shock win, advancing into the fourth round.

Forest were drawn away against Championship side Blackburn Rovers in the next round, and they made light work of their opponents. Brennan Johnson opened the scoring for the visitors, but Scott Wharton equalised for the hosts just before halftime. In the second half, Forest ran away with it, as goals from Lingard, Awoniyi, and another from Johnson gave Forest a 4-1 and a spot in the quarter-finals.

A home game against Wolves awaited them, and Forest took the lead through a former Wolves man. Boly gave the home side the lead after 18 minutes, but Wolves hit back through Jimenez with around half an hour to play. There was no late drama at The City Ground, as the tie went to penalties. Ruben Neves missed the decisive penalty, as Forest advanced into the semi-finals after winning 4-3 on pens.

A two-legged fixture against Man United awaited Forest, and it was always going to be a difficult ask for them to get into the final. They had the home advantage in the first leg, but could not make it count, as United ran out 3-0 winners after goals from Rashford, Weghorst and Fernandes.

With a strong aggregate lead going into the second leg, United took it easy and did the damage late on, with goals from Martial and Fred handing Forest a 5-0 aggregate loss.

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FA Cup

Forest entered the FA Cup with a third-round tie against Championship strugglers Blackpool. They were absolutely humiliated at Bloomfield Road, as Marvin Ekpiteta gave the hosts the lead after 17 minutes. Poveda doubled that lead with 23 minutes left to play, and CJ Hamilton made it 3-0 7 minutes later. Jerry Yates made it 4-0 minutes before full-time. Forest did get on the scoresheet however, as Ryan Yates pulled one back in stoppage time.

It was an embarrassing showing from the Premier League side, especially against a team fighting, and struggling, to avoid relegation. But ultimately, Forest got knocked out at the first time of asking.

Season Overall

Premier League survival was the aim for Forest, and they achieved it. Maybe not as comfortably as they would have hoped for, but they achieved nonetheless. The aim for them now is to avoid being part of the relegation fight in the coming season.

Forests’ participation in the domestic cups was indifferent. A semi-final appearance in one, getting knocked out in the first round in the other. They need to do better next season in the FA Cup, they cannot be getting knocked out by lower league sides.

They need to be smart in the transfer window now. They need to not spend money on another 15 players to add to their squad. They need to trim down what they have, and they need to improve on it. They need to bring in a striker capable of keeping them clear of the relegation zone, but that will cost them.

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