With Nottingham Forest remaining in a tight relegation battle this season, we examine four key signings made by the club.
Morgan Gibbs-White has shown himself to be one of Nottingham Forest’s biggest attacking threats this season. The midfielder has completed the most passes in this Forest side, with a pass accuracy of 69%, creating 1.69 chances per 90 minutes.
With only 19% possession at Anfield, Gibbs-White was a part of a Forest side that had five shots on target, only one less than Liverpool’s. The Tricky Trees showed an abundance of fight and the midfielder’s three shots on target, including one goal and one assist, kept Forest in a very open game.
When Forest signed Gibbs-White from Wolves for £42.5 million, it seemed premature for a player that hadn’t shown his full potential. Scoring 11 goals and registering nine assists on loan for Sheffield United in the Championship in the 2021/2022 season, Gibbs-White is yet to be called up by Gareth Southgate, unlike other young players of his age.
However, the Reds seem to have chosen the midfielder at the right time. He has shined in a No 10 role under manager Steve Cooper. Scoring three goals and assisting six in the Premier League, Gibbs-White has been involved in 34% of all Forest’s goals this season. He has played more through balls than any other Forest player.
Moreover, he has shown brilliant ball control, particularly in his goal that opened the scoring against Brentford, shrugging off four defenders.
Gibbs-White has also recently captained the England U21s, scoring against Croatia and assisting in a 4-0 win against France. In a season that’s been unsteady at times for Forest, the midfielder seems to be relishing the attention around his high price tag. He recently stated, “I enjoyed it. It meant more eyes were on me, I could show myself more. It wasn’t a pressure thing,”.
Felipe Augusto de Almeida Monteiro
The 33-year-old centre-back from Atlético Madrid was signed permanently in January.
Despite winning La Liga with Atlético and with Champions League experience, he is yet to be a part of a Forest side that has won or kept a clean sheet. This is largely down to who he has partnered with in defense. That is due to the fact Moussa Niakhaté is still recovering from a long spell out injured.
But out of all of Nottingham Forest’s signings, Felipe is a player who has settled in almost immediately.
At 6ft 3, Felipe has shown his aggressive quality for Forest. Particularly, against Man City when marking Erling Haaland, he stayed as close to the striker as possible, “touching him at all times” in order to take away his phenomenal pace. On his debut for Forest in a 2-0 loss against Fulham, the centre-back came on as a substitute and made five interceptions. He efficiently marked Aleksandar Mitrović, a striker who has proved incredibly difficult to push off the ball.
Against Man City, Felipe also made four interceptions and 10 clearances. His defensive stats have often bettered centre-back Joe Worrall, who is in the bottom 29% of centre-backs for interceptions.
Felipe also showed his quality against Man United, blocking Jadon Sancho with less than a minute gone in the game.
Equally, the former Atlético player’s distribution has been poor at times, including for his former side, with his progressive passes at 2.58 per 90 minutes, putting him in the bottom 30% for centre-backs.
Although Felipe’s aggressive style could seem too destructive for a centre-back in the Premier League, especially as he has admitted that his style can often lead to “mistakes in the heat of the moment”. His instinct to go into challenges, show desire and be a warrior, something that he learned from Diego Simone, will only help Forest continue to show plenty of fight as they did against Liverpool.
With Henderson in goal, Forest have kept six of their seven clean sheets this season. On loan from Manchester United, the keeper replaced Brice Samba who left for Lens last summer. Samba notably saved three of Sheffield United’s spot-kicks to take Nottingham Forest to the 2021/2022 Championship play-off final.
Henderson has made 55 saves for the side, two of which have been penalties. Both these spot-kicks came in crucial games. The first against West Ham, the Tricky Trees’ first home fixture back in the Premier League, denying Declan Rice. In their 1-0 win, Henderson also denied the Hammers from converting any of their five shots on target. The keeper kept Forest in the game against Tottenham Hotspur, as Harry Kane failed to convert what would have been his second of the game.
A particularly memorable fixture of the season was the sides’ 1-0 win against Liverpool. With just 25% possession at home, Henderson was key in earning the side a clean sheet and all three points. The keeper made one of the saves of the season. Virgil van Dijk had a free header in the box from a corner, which Henderson managed to keep out, diving low to his left to palm the ball away.
With four of Henderson’s clean sheets coming at The City Ground, he has played a crucial part in Forest’s positive home form. During his celebrations at full-time against Liverpool, he ran over to celebrate with the home fans. Throughout this season he has managed to channel the fan’s rousing energy and passion on the pitch and bring leadership to a side with an abundance of new players.
However, Henderson has not featured for Forest since he injured his thigh taking a goal kick in a 2-0 win against Leicester in January.
Keylor Navas has been brought in on loan from Ligue 1 giants PSG. The keeper got man of the match against Leeds at The City Ground, where he made four saves. This was Navas’ best game in a Forest shirt. Nonetheless, against a dominant Man City side, Navas was also influential in keeping his side in the game. He saved five of City’s shots on target before Forest went on to equalize late in the match. The PSG loanee was also the Reds player of the match against Man United, pulling off some incredible saves to keep the side in the game until the 32nd minute, saving six of the Red Devil’s eight shots on target.
Conversely, in the reverse fixture against Leeds, Forest’s number one saved a shot from Marc Roca, allowing Jack Harrison to place the rebound in the back of the net under Navas’ arm. This came just eight minutes after Forest scored the opener. This equalizer swayed the momentum in an important six-pointer where the Reds went on to lose 2-1 inside the first half.
Still, at 36 years old, Navas’ long career, which includes three Champions League titles, means the keeper has a wealth of experience that he can continue to bring to a newly promoted side. Although it may leave two experienced goalkeepers fighting for a no.1 spot, Henderson remains out with only a few games remaining. Navas seems a well-established replacement to try and keep Nottingham Forest in the Premier League.
Ultimately the success of Nottingham Forest’s signings will be determined by their Premier League status next season.