Nottingham Forest - Returning to the Top


Nov 26, 2019
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After a 23 year wait, Nottingham Forest finally achieved a return to the Premier League, following a 1-0 win against Huddersfield in the EFL Championship Play-Off Final. It was a monumentous moment for a club that had long been stuck in the wilderness of the second tier, and they wasted no time in recruiting in an attempt to achieve survival in the Premier League. Forest broke all kinds of transfer records as they signed over 20 players in the summer window to bolster their squad. Of course, key loan players such as James Garner and Djed Spence had departed and moved on to new teams, so reinforcements were necessary. However, with so many new signings, the squad is quite fresh and therefore will likely need time to gel with each other.

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Prior to their relegation in 1998/99, Forest had actually been a successful English club. Across the 70's especially, they were one of the best sides in the division, winning the Premier League (then known as Division One), and the Champions League in the late 70's. However, their success since then has been a far cry from what it once was. Ending a 24-year barren spell of trophies will take time, but the building blocks are being put into place for a successful future.

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With the club having a fairly decorated past, it's up to us to ensure that the future is equally as prosperous. The board's aspiration for this season is for us to attain survival. It's an expected goal, and the aim over the next 5 years is to work towards establishing ourselves as a Premier League team. I believe we've got the tools to be able to achieve that.​
As aforementioned in the previous post, Nottingham Forest spent big in the summer window and, as a result, they have quite a large squad. That's a good thing, though, because fixtures are especially cramped this campaign with the World Cup being during the season. Therefore, we'll need contributions from just about everyone to ensure our safety.

Let's take a look at some of our key players.

GK: Dean Henderson
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Undoubtedly, one of the most important is goalkeeper Dean Henderson. After a successful spell on loan at Sheffield United, he'd been a bit restricted to a minor role as back-up to David De Gea at Manchester United, but he will most assuredly will be our starting goalkeeper and a very important player for us.

CM: Remo Freuler
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The Swiss international Remo Freuler scored at the World Cup and had been linked with bigger clubs before joining Nottingham Forest. He immediately is our best midfielder on paper and will be instrumental with to this team. Hard work is vital for any team, but especially those battling relegation, and Freuler's work rate and stamina fits that hard-working mould perfectly.

RW: Brennan Johnson
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As one of the key players to Forest's promotion, Brennan Johnson will continue to be crucial for us. At just 21, he has a bright future ahead of him, but his value also comes in the fact that he's been with the club his whole career. He offers a bit of stability and longevity as, despite his young age, he is one of the longer serving players still at the club.

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Prior to the opening matchday, we've only sold off players, as we don't have a lot of money given Forest's spending already this summer. We've gotten rid of some of the deadwood who weren't likely to be registered anyway, with Jack Colback, Lyle Taylor and Cafu all finding new homes in the Championship.


When watching Forest this season, I've found them to look most effective when on quick counter-attacks and fast transitions from back to front. Players such as Brennan Johnson and Morgan Gibbs-White have linked up well and proven to be adept at such a system. Therefore, I felt a Gegenpress tactic would work best for us, as I feel we are best off pressing the opposition and attempting to generate as many counter-attack situations as possible.​
EPL Matchday 1: Nottingham Forest vs Brentford
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At the beginning of last season, newly promoted Brentford recorded a 2-0 opening day win, at home to Arsenal. We do exactly the same, this time going up against the Bees themselves, and getting ourselves a very good win to open the season. It could've been 3 should Emmanuel Dennis have scored from the spot with just over 10 minutes remaining.

EPL Matchday 2: Leicester vs Nottingham Forest
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We follow up that win with a solid away point away to Leicester. We created a fair amount of chances, specifically in the second half, but weren't able to find a winner. Just about every point is a good point for us at this level, so we'll take it.

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We then made our first signing and possibly our only one, given that the money put towards signing 18-year-old Yaser Asprilla took up pretty much our entire budget. We have depth in most positions, but on the wings, only Emmanuel Dennis is a natural back-up. Therefore, the young Colombian comes in as an exciting talent with real potential.

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Asprilla has the ability to become a future star, but will also be helpful in the now, as he can play anywhere across the front line and will be an important back-up who should only get better.

EPL Matchday 3: Everton vs Nottingham Forest
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It was back-to-back goalless draws for us, this time against Everton. Everton were the better team for the opening hour, but the game changed after Neal Maupay was sent off in the 63rd minute. Even though we weren't great for most of the game, it felt like a bit of an opportunity missed to take three points.

Carabao Cup 3rd Round: Everton vs Nottingham Forest
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We then faced Everton away once more, this time in the Carabao Cup 3rd round, but they managed to beat us 2-0 and send us out of the competition. I rotated the line-up for this one because I feel the Premier League should be our main aim.

EPL Matchday 4: Nottingham Forest vs Southampton
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Southampton had lost every game coming into this one, and we compounded their misery, running out 4-0 winners after a spectacular performance. This game was the perfect execution of our system, as we moved forward with pace and precision, winning this one in style.

EPL Matchday 5: Wolves vs Nottingham Forest
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It wasn't as pretty as the Southampton win, but to come out of a hard-fought, tight game with three points away from home is just as rewarding. Wolves put us under pressure late in the game, but we were able to withstand their attacks and come away with a 1-0 victory.

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Unfortunately, match winner Scott McKenna was injured in the second half, and that will see him miss the next 6-7 weeks of action.


Right-back Neco Williams has turned in some impressive performances this month, and earnt the Young Player of the Month award.

Player of the Month

5 clean sheets from 5 Premier League games is not a stat I was expecting us to begin the season with, but, one way or another, we've managed to go through our opening month of football without conceding a single goal. Dean Henderson is a massive part of that, already proving just how valuable he can be to this team.

League Table
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EPL Matchday 6: Nottingham Forest vs West Ham
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We continued our fantastic start with another win and another clean sheet, this time managing a tight 1-0 triumph over West Ham at home. An early Morgan Gibbs-White goal made all the difference, and we were able to hold on to our advantage for the rest of the match.

EPL Matchday 7: Newcastle vs Nottingham Forest
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Unfortunately, we concede our first goals of this campaign and suffer our first defeat, losing 3-1 to Newcastle in a game where all 4 of the goals came in the second half. We weren't totally awful, but conceding seemed to undo our defensive gameplan and, as a result, we lost the match.

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Unfortunately, in training, key midfield man Remo Freuler picked up an injury that will see him out for close to two months.

EPL Matchday 8: Nottingham Forest vs Crystal Palace
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We rebound with a 3-1 win of our own against Crystal Palace, with two goals in the final 15 minutes securing victory. Being able to win games against the teams that will likely be in and around us in the table will be vital to securing safety - and we've won 5 matches already which is fantastic.

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We have a daunting run of fixtures coming up in October, as we face 5 of the 'Big 6' back-to-back. It makes these early victories all the more important, because you would imagine we won't be winning too many of the above games, if any.

Player of the Month

Gibbs-White didn't play against Newcastle, but in the other two matches this month, he scored in both and was instrumental in creating chances for others. He suits the system we play extremely well, and it's great to see it reap some rewards over the past few games.

League Table
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EPL Matchday 9: Manchester City vs Nottingham Forest
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We began our difficult run of fixtures with a 3-1 defeat away to Manchester City. I went into the game not expecting anything, and the players were much improved in the second half, but Erling Haaland's 34 minute hat-trick did the damage in this one.

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Jesse Lingard will miss the next month and a half or so. He hasn't hit the ground running for us exactly, but has still been an important player for us this season.

EPL Matchday 10: Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal
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We looked set to stun Arsenal 1-0 at home until Fabio Vieira rattled home a 95th minute free kick to ensure that the points were shared. It's a disappointing way to concede, but it is a solid point that I would've been more than happy with going into the game.

EPL Matchday 11: Nottingham Forest vs Chelsea
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Another late goal sees us drop points here, and this time it results in a defeat. Ben Chilwell scored from distance with around 10 minutes remaining, and we were unable to produce a response in a game that we played quite well in. Once again, positive signs and nothing to be too disappointed about.

EPL Matchday 12: Liverpool vs Nottingham Forest
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Liverpool at Anfield was never going to be an easy task, and after they went up 2-0 after 24 minutes, it looked like it could get a lot worse. However, we withstood their pressure from then on and the match dwindled out into a 2-0 defeat.

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Emmanuel Dennis broke his ankle in training and subsequently will miss the next 4 months in all probability. He's been a useful bench option for us as he can play anywhere across the front, so hopefully we can find a spark off the bench from someone else.

EPL Matchday 13: Nottingham Forest vs Manchester United
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We then got a very respectable draw up against Manchester United. Serge Aurier scored a banger just before half-time, and, to be honest, we could've beaten United in this one as they were flat and produced few chances. Still, this is a definitely a good result for us.

EPL Matchday 14: Bournemouth vs Nottingham Forest
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With Renan Lodi suspended and Neco Williams, who usually rotates to left-back when Lodi is unavailable, Harry Toffolo got his first minutes in a Nottingham Forest shirt in this one and was the match winner, scoring a terrific finish from outside the box and playing brilliantly througout. This was the one game for us this month where we could be considered favourites, and we got an important win, breaking a run of 5 games winless.

Player of the Month

Although he missed the United game due to being on loan from them, Dean Henderson was once again Player of the Month for us. He has been superb between the sticks and produced a number of fine saves to keep some of the scorelines down or help us earn valuable points against big opposition this month.

League Table
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EPL Matchday 15: Brighton vs Nottingham Forest
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We recorded a 2-1 comeback win against Brighton to leapfrog them into 7th place! Our first half was lacklustre, but the substitute Emmanuel Dennis proved the difference, levelling the scores from the spot before setting up Jesse Lingard's late winner.

EPL Matchday 16: Nottingham Forest vs Tottenham
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Unfortunately, our success against the big teams continues to be slight, as we slump to a 3-1 defeat at home to Spurs. We never really got going in this one, and Spurs took full advantage, comfortably winning this one.

With the World Cup break coming after just 2 matches this month, it made sense to roll November and December into one post.

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In between that, we had the exciting news that our youth intake was looking quality.

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And our very own Brennan Johnson went ahead and won the Golden Boot at the World Cup as Wales made it all the way to the semi-finals of the competition! He netted 7 times in just 5 appearances and comes back to the club in stellar form.

EPL Matchday 17: Fulham vs Nottingham Forest
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Our first game back and we managed to win it, 2-1 over Fulham. Brennan Johnson's World Cup form carried right over from the World Cup as he smashed in two goals. He looks a much more confident player and his finishing ability is much improved.

EPL Matchday 18: Nottingham Forest vs Leeds
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We then comfortably dispatched a struggling Leeds side who are on a losing streak. We only compounded there misery today as two well taken first half goals from Morgan Gibbs-White had the game firmly in our favour, a fact that was only confirmed in the second half through Taiwo Awoniyi's strike.

League Table
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What a season we've had so far!​
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January opened with the pre-arranged arrival of Gustavo Scarpa from Palmeiras. At 28 years old, he doesn't have too much room for growth, but he'll be a useful rotation option to have around the squad, considering we didn't have a ton of depth up front.

EPL Matchday 19: Nottingham Forest vs Aston Villa
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The new year begins with a solid enough 1-1 draw up against Aston Villa.

FA Cup 3rd Round: QPR vs Nottingham Forest
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We got the job done in the FA Cup, trouncing Championship side QPR 6-0 in the 3rd Round! The damage was done in the first half, as we scored 5 of the 6 in those first 45 minutes. Brennan Johnson got himself a hat-trick, and our entire front line got on the scoresheet.

EPL Matchday 20: Crystal Palace vs Nottingham Forest
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Crystal Palace rattled off 28 shots to our 9, but from the 3rd minute of the game to the 91st, it looked like we were going to escape with a narrow 1-0 win. However, Palace levelled the scores in the 92nd minute and then went on to get an even later winner. Disappointing to throw this one away.

EPL Matchday 21: Aston Villa vs Nottingham Forest
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After being on the receiving end of a late winner, we get one of our own in our second matchup against Aston Villa this month. Gustavo Scarpa got his first goal to get us underway, before Emmanuel Dennis came off the bench to score in the 87th minute and win us the game.

FA Cup 4th Round: Nottingham Forest vs Fleetwood
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We leave it late once again in the next round of the FA Cup against Fleetwood. A frustrating replay loomed for us, but thankfully late goals from Jesse Lingard and Yaser Asprilla took us through.

As for the transfer window, we had no money left to spend, and transfer listed players received no offers. Aside from 3rd chioce goalkeeper Jordan Smith leaving, nothing happened.

Player of the Month

Ever since he's come into the team after his return from injury to begin the season, Moussa Niakhate has been extremely solid for us at the back, but in this month he really excelled for us, commanding the backline and leading in defence.

League Table
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EPL Matchday 22: Brentford vs Nottingham Forest
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February begins with a lacklustre performance and a 2-0 defeat to Brentford, who close the gap between us to just two points. They've been in terrific form recently and that only continued today, in a match where we never really got going and they took full advantage.

EPL Matchday 23: Manchester United vs Nottingham Forest
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It was back-to-back 2-0 defeats as United eased past us as well. Although we offered a little bit more threat on the counter attack in this one, they had the quality in the final third which made all the difference.

EPL Matchday 24: Nottingham Forest vs Newcastle
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It was looking like it would be three games, three defeats to open up this month when veteran striker Luis Suarez put Newcastle in front in the 91st minute, however, moments later, Brennan Johnson thrashed home an equaliser to ensure that the points were shared.

EPL Matchday 25: Nottingham Forest vs Leicester
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In the final game of the month, we thrash Leicester 4-0 via braces from both Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson. We were absolutely ruthless in front of goal today and comfortably dispatched them in the end.

Player of the Month

It's back-to-back Player of the Month awards for centre-back Moussa Niakhate. He continues to get even better for us than he was last month and offers a real presence in our back four. Long may it continue.

League Table
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