Nottingham Forest had a very busy summer transfer window, signing 22 new players at the City Ground to bolster their squad ahead of the Premier League season, but it hasn’t been the fairytale start that their supporters, manager and team would’ve hoped for.
The Reds are currently 19th in the table after seven games, with consecutive losses in their last four outings. That record must drastically improve as soon as possible if Steve Cooper has any chance of retaining the club’s top-flight status at the end of the campaign.
The influx of new signings could be one of the contributing factors to Forest’s tricky start to the season, with the manager desperately trying to establish which players work well together to build relationships and connections on the pitch to inspire positive results.
Although the club wasted no time or resources in delivering the depth needed in the squad following their promotion from the Championship, they appear to have lost their identity since losing a number of their key players who worked together to deliver the successes of last season.
Brice Samba, Lewis Grabban, Djed Spence, Philip Zinckernagel, Keinan Davis and James Garner all played an integral part in their positions to secure promotion via the play-offs and send Forest back to the Premier League after 23 years out of the top tier, but they have now all left the club.
Garner in particular was one player who stayed in the conversation to return to the City Ground throughout the summer transfer window. However, he eventually moved to Everton in a £15m deal on deadline day after Manchester United decided to sell the player, and there is no doubt that Cooper will be full of regret that club owner Evangelos Marinakis could not secure the player’s signature.
The 21-year-old former Red Devils talent – who was dubbed “really creative” by Martin Keown – had a fantastic season-long loan spell at Forest and played a massively influential role in the team throughout.
In 41 Championship appearances last term, Garner scored four goals, delivered eight assists and created seven big chances, making 1.4 interceptions, 1.8 tackles and two key passes per game. He also won the majority of his duels (53%) and completed the majority of his dribbles (58%), showing that he is a complete midfielder effective in both attacking and defensive play.
Cooper now needs him more than ever as this Forest team struggles to work well together to earn positive results. With so many new players occupying important roles in the team, the Reds manager could use some familiarity and experience in the system which thrived in the Championship.
The permanent signing of Garner would’ve provided some continuity in the middle of the park, offering the 42-year-old an experienced focal point around which to structure the team, as it is clear from last season’s statistics that the Everton midfielder works well under the manager and understands his philosophy.