2019 summer has felt rather familiar. Take a trip back in time to one year ago, summer 2018. Kieran Trippier smashing in that free-kick in Moscow, pints flying everywhere- only for the nifty Croatians to shatter English hearts (Kane should have squared it to Sterling). It was the beginning of Southgate’s revolution. However, rather more close to home, another revolution was unfolding. “Viva la revolución,” read the banner earlier that year in the Lower Bridgford Stand upon Aitor Karanka’s inauguration as Nottingham Forest manager, simply translating to “Live the revolution”.
Cause for optimism was in abundance. Aitor Karanka was a proven promotion-winning manager, far above the level Forest had had to contend with in recent years ; and then there was Evangelos Marinakis. Unlike certain previous owners, the Greek shipping merchant was not afraid to splash the cash, and brought an unforeseen ambition and drive to the club.
A summer of transfer activity ensued that Forest fans couldn’t have dreamed of. Taking a leaf out of Wolves’ Portuguese-inspired, promotion-winning campaign the season prior, Forest scooped up three promising, young Portuguese talents. Namely, Gil Dias, Diogo Gonçalves and our record, £13m signing Joao Carvalho, with the former two on loan. These three, along with the signing of proven Championship goalscorer Lewis Grabban, a renewed loan for Jack Colback and the addition of the classy centre-half Tobias Figueriedo had many Forest fans setting their eyes on promotion already. After all, Forest had spent a colossal £25m on transfers. But football doesn’t, and didn’t work like that.
In this stat-driven era of football, we often dismiss ‘soft’ aspects of the game, like the time for foreign players, particularly those taking their baby steps in their footballing career, to acclimatise to the intensity of the English leagues. We turn our noses up at intangible notions such as chemistry, a value that may have been missing in that Forest squad with 14 new faces added to the dressing room that summer. Top 10 was a reasonable, more measured goal- but try convincing an entire fanbase that they’re misguided, and try convincing a brash billionaire owner that has been through 12 managers in 7 years at Olympiacos to allow Karanka more time. Forest finished the season in 9th, not disastrous by any means, but choked a relatively easy chance to sneak into the play-offs under the second manager of the season, Martin O’Neill. And- yes, this is a naff perspective- but come on, should Aitor have remained at the helm, would Forest have finished as low as 9th? Deep down, every Forest fan knows the answer to that, but it hurts to admit it.
So we have to learn our lessons this time around. Sabri Lamouchi’s early moves have been a sweet refresh from the grey clouds of O’Neill’s reign, but what O’Neill had was experience under his belt, and experience in this league, something which Lamouchi does not have, and something he may pay for. Does he know how to combat your Cardiffs, your Prestons and your Blackburns ? Not many teams play this direct and compact in France. As a fan, though, you can’t help but get excited with these new signings. Tiago Silva is like a turbo-charged Carvalho, Adomah’s pace on those flanks could cause all sorts of problems, Aro Muric is arguably the best goalkeeper in the league and while we haven’t seen much yet of Yuri Ribeiro and Alfa Semedo both are very highly rated from their days at Benfica, with the latter valued at £25m and striking uncanny similarities with Paul Pogba. And we can’t forget Joe Lolley. On paper, Forest have one of the best, if not the best squad in the league behind Fulham probably. It will, however, take time for it all to gel together so please, please don’t call for Sabri’s head if results are wayward early on.
Pre season+transfer report
Pre-season has been, on the whole, positive. A superb victory against Atromitos on our tour of Greece was capped off by another thunderbolt from that wand of a left-foot of Joe Lolley’s, while Tiago Silva dazzled under the City Ground lights in the 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace. However, on a more sour note, talisman Joao Carvalho picked up a serious injury against Alfreton Town, ruling him out for the first couple of months of the season along with Tendayi Darikwa, who was at the forefront of Sabri Lamouchi’s plans at right-back. Lamouchi has been lining up in a 4-2-3-1, though not necessarily a Karanka style 4-2-3-1. Karanka’s system was more about shutting the opposition out and counter-attacking, whereas Lamouchi has shown clear intentions to play out from the back. As we build up, the wing-backs push very high, almost to the halfway line, and Watson has dropped back to make it three at the back so we can outnumber the opposing attackers as we build up. Our press has been intense, holding a very high line. So no place for Dawson in the defence, unless we purposefully want to lose. In terms of transfers, the rest of the window should be focused on shifting players out. The likes of Murphy, Bridcutt and Hefele are lingering like bad smells. Get them off the wage bill.
Recommended team to face WBA
(4-2-3-1) Muric, Cash, Milosevic, Worrall, Robinson, Yacob, Semedo, Tiago Silva, Lolley (RM), Adomah (LM), Grabban
Top six predictions
- Leeds United
- West Brom
- Bristol City
- Nottingham Forest
- Stoke City