Nottingham Forest have a good squad – stay up and they can make it even better

Many outsiders chiefly associate Nottingham Forest with a recruitment campaign that has seen the club invest around £250million ($320m) in 42 signings since being promoted to the Premier League in 2022.

Forest’s motives for this spending spree were simple: to build a squad capable of retaining top-flight status.

And now, in March of their second season back in the Premier League, it is apparent that if Forest can avoid relegation again they will be presented with a genuine opportunity.

If Nuno Espirito Santo’s team can overcome whatever punishment they are hit with by the ongoing hearing over their breaching of profit and sustainability regulations (PSR) and stay up, they will have a chance to build again.



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With nine players out of contract and five of the current squad only at the club on loan, there is an opportunity for positive change at the end of the season.

Forest would need to add depth in most positions, so it could be another relatively busy summer.

Despite this, Nuno would start the process with a pretty handy potential starting XI and a squad packed full of youthful potential. It is an exciting group of players that could grow and evolve together.

The front four — made up of the dominating presence of Taiwo Awoniyi, the pace and directness of Anthony Elanga and Callum Hudson-Odoi and the creative brilliance of Morgan Gibbs-White — has looked impressive at times this season. The prospect of watching these relationships develop is an enticing one.

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Gibbs-White has shown flashes of brilliance this season (Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Gibbs-White cannot be far off earning international recognition with England. If Hudson-Odoi can fulfil the potential that he showed at Chelsea — earning himself three England caps in the process — he can still be a major asset. Elanga has five goals and seven assists in 26 Premier League games this season and might have had more, amid some explosive, brilliant and, well, occasionally frustrating performances.

Forest would still have four strong midfield options, with an array of different qualities, in Ibrahim Sangare, Danilo, Nico Dominguez and Ryan Yates. Sangare should improve as he finds his feet in England, just as Danilo and Dominguez have done. Yates, meanwhile, is continuing to prove his doubters wrong.

In defence, Murillo is one of the most exciting prospects Forest have had in their ranks for years, with the 21-year-old Brazilian already attracting admiring glances with his performances. The fact that he has been in the top two per cent of his positional peers over the past 12 months for clearances and successful take-ons of an opponent per 90 minutes demonstrates the kind of player he is.

He can read the game, defend without fuss and get the team on the front foot with his range of passing and desire to carry the ball. If he can continue to improve aerially, he will be the complete package.


Andrew Omobamidele has also suggested he is capable of making the step up in recent times, after waiting patiently for his opportunity since signing from Norwich last summer. Moussa Niakhate has demonstrated that his qualities stretch beyond merely being able to pump throw-ins into the box.

Neco Williams continues to evolve into a full-back who is capable of having an impact at both ends of the pitch — and on either flank. Similar is true of Ola Aina, who looked to be one of the most astute signings of the summer in the opening months of the campaign, whether he was operating at right-back or left-back.

Harry Toffolo remains a steady influence on and off the pitch, even if it would be unwise to leave him as the only natural left-back on the books. But it would not be a proper summer unless Forest needed to sign a left-back, would it?

Nobody will need reminding about the number of goalkeepers Forest have on their books. Matz Sels, who is pushing to be Belgium’s No 1 at Euro 2024, heads up a group of international keepers that also includes Matt Turner (USMNT) and Odysseas Vlachodimos (Greece).



Confident, good on the ball and incredibly quick off the line – analysing Matz Sels

At least one of Turner or Vlachodimos will likely be allowed to move on in search of the regular game time they crave. It is also possible that Nuno — himself a former goalkeeper — will want to delve into the market again, to strengthen his options.

If Forest do stay up and secure themselves the luxury of planning for another Premier League season, they can do so from a strong starting point.

Nottingham Forest squad depth

If they are relegated, the harsh reality is that the vultures would be circling over Gibbs-White, Murillo and Elanga, hoping to prise them away from the City Ground, albeit for decent money, with Forest unlikely to part with their prize assets cheaply. Relegation would prompt a rebuilding project of a different kind.

But, whatever happens, there will be a chance to restructure in a few months.

Wayne Hennessey, Willy Boly, Felipe, Cheick Kouyate and Chris Wood are out of contract, as are Scott McKenna, Jonathan Panzo, Loic Mbe Soh and Hwang Ui-jo, who are out on loan. Wood, who has made a positive impact when fit, could be offered a new deal, but he and Boly are expensive options. Felipe has suggested he plans to retire, while Hennessey and Kouyate have only been peripheral figures.

Even the long-forgotten figure of Harry Arter will finally see his contract expire, three years after he last made a first-team appearance for Forest.



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Nuno Tavares, Gonzalo Montiel, Divick Origi, Giovanni Reyna and Rodrigo Ribeiro will all see their loans at Forest elapse. Forest have options to buy Tavares, Montiel and Origi but are unlikely to activate any of them. Ribeiro has also only appeared as a substitute but he was always regarded as a signing for the future and his move will be made permanent.

The situation might change if Tavares and Origi continue to make a positive impression, as they have done since Nuno took charge, but the finances involved in signing Origi permanently would also be a factor, with the AC Milan forward’s wages in the region of £100,000 a week.

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Origi’s wages could be prohibitive to a permanent signing (Stephen White – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Montiel won the World Cup with Argentina in 2022 and has had moments in which that level of quality has been apparent — but he has only started nine games in all competitions for Forest. Tavares was regarded as a key signing by Steve Cooper, who envisaged the Portuguese’s pace and attacking instincts being vital to Forest, but he and Montiel have both started only five Premier League games, Origi has started three and Reyna has only made appearances off the bench since joining from Borussia Dortmund in January.

Forest do have a group of players who are out on loan who would be regarded as surplus to requirements in the top flight and should not be too difficult to move on.

Besiktas have the option to make Joe Worrall’s loan move permanent, although he is yet to establish himself as a first-team regular in Turkey.



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In the meantime, if the worst does happen and Forest are relegated, players out on loan such as Josh Bowler (Cardiff City), Emmanuel Dennis (Watford), Lewis O’Brien (Middlesbrough) and Alex Mighten (Port Vale) could, in theory, be useful options in the Championship. Omar Richards (Olympiacos) would be an asset in either division if he can properly shake off his long-standing injury problems.

Everyone at Forest will wait with great anticipation to find out what the punishment will be for the PSR breaches, with the hearing, headed up by a three-person independent panel, set to continue today. That process must be completed before April 15, with Forest also required to submit any subsequent appeal by that date. The backstop for any appeal to be heard is four days after the end of the Premier League season.

Forest’s task, between now and then, is to secure enough points to ensure survival on the pitch, regardless of what decisions are made in a meeting room. The club have the foundations in place on which to build for a brighter future — if they can just stay in the Premier League.

(Graphic: Rhodri Cannon)

(Top photo: Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)

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