Nottingham Forest ended their pre-season last night with a 0-0 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt. Here’s a review of the pre-season and the main points to take away from it before kicking off next Saturday’s Premier League season with a trip to the Emirates Stadium to take on Arsenal.
The club has played seven pre-season games, winning two, drawing one and losing four. Here are the key points from each of these games.
Game 1: Notts County 0-1 Nottingham Forest
For Nottingham Forest’s first friendly game, it was clear they were getting all key players into the game to build fitness, work on positioning, work off the ball, and play out from the back more. It was a typical pre-season friendly, with key players missing, and the squad itself was a mixture of first-team and youth players who had the chance to impress. Forest created very little throughout the match, and it was a slow match getting players prepared for their trip to Spain.
Game 2: Valencia 1-0 Nottingham Forest
Another game where you could tell it was to build sharpness for first-team players and to test certain players in new roles and styles. The Reds looked livelier this game creating more chances, and regular starters like Danilo and Yates looked sharp. Forest lost the game 1-0, but there were positives to take from this performance and some youth players showing their worth.
Game 3: Levante 1-2 Nottingham Forest
Forest had to work hard and dug deep in this game after a promising start with Yates playing in a more advanced role scoring a goal and linking up with Danilo for the second Forest and overall played some nice football. After a very unusual red card for Taiwo Awoniyi, Forest showed great determination and strong signs of improvement defensively to hold on to their lead.
Game 4: Nottingham Forest 0-2 Leeds
With no Gibbs-White or Johnson and Awoniyi coming off at the break, Forest had no real attacking threat throughout the game, and you could tell they were missing their key players. Steve Cooper’s side made sloppy errors throughout the game and constantly looked off it. The positive takeaway from this game would be new signing Elanga, who showed his hard work and blistering pace immediately.
Game 5: PSV 1-0 Nottingham Forest
Similar to the Leeds game, no attacking threat and playing out from the back was too slow and sloppy, leading to errors and pushing us further back continuously. But there were also some positives from this game, with Ola Aina impressing on his debut and Josh Powell performing in pre-season again.
Game 6: Nottingham Forest 0-5 Stade Rennais
Abysmal performance, which has rightly come with some pessimistic responses, is another game where we could not get the attack involved at all. Forest was questionable at best defensively, and this performance proved signings were needed in several departments before the start of the season. The only positives were Josh Powell (again) and seeing Giulian Biancone return.
Game 7: Eintracht Frankfurt 0-0 Nottingham Forest
Probably one of the best performance of the pre-season. Nottingham Forest looked stronger defensively. Albeit Forest had some moments, they cut out a lot of silly mistakes and created some more chances. This game has proven the team still have work to do, but there are many more positives to take from this one, moving forward.
Pre-season is majorly for fitness, trialling new ideas and bringing in players. But with that being said, these friendly performances have shown Forest need to sign players as Tey are missing quality in multiple areas. There have been some positives, though. Nottingham Forest have seen the talent of some young, exciting prospects who have proved themselves constantly. With players like Giulian Biancone and Omar Richards returning from injuries, they could feel like new signings and add to the squad depth Steve Cooper’s side heavily need.
Stand out players:
Josh Powell: Probably the main positive of pre-season. At just 18 years old, Powell has consistently performed, never looked out of place, and reads the game well. It will be interesting to see if he stays and gets minutes for the under 21’s as well as in the Papa John’s trophy and potentially cup games for the first team.
Brandon Aguilera: Another player Steve Cooper has utilised in pre-season is Costa Rican midfielder Brandon Aguilera. The midfielder has caught the eyes of fans and Cooper, who has shown his talents and skill on the ball while having the desire to press his opponent and force them into errors. Definitely ready for a Championship loan move.
Ola Aina: Aina joined Forest this summer on a free transfer, and the Nigerian has put in shift after shift on the left side. Talented with both feet, quick to get forward and can defend on top of that, Rolls Royce footballer.
What does the team lack?
Nottingham Forest are lacking in goalkeepers badly. It is looking likely that Forest will fill this void by bringing in two keepers, Matt Turner from Arsenal and Dean Henderson from Manchester United, which shows Steve Cooper is not taking a risk with Hendersons’ injury and wants to sign a quality backup who can also push for the number one spot.
Another area where Nottingham Forest lack depth is left-back. With Omar Richards not playing in a year and Harry Toffolo awaiting a decision from the FA over a ban, Forest are currently left with no senior left-back but have yet to pin down a number-one target for this spot. There have been reports of AS Monaco’s Ismail Jakobs, but it seems Forest are not willing to pay the price set for the defender.
With injuries to Moussa Niakhaté and Felipe, Steve Cooper has found himself needing another central defender to improve the back three, which Nottingham Forest are likely to play. From the reliable reports, the club is after a younger defender who is comfortable playing out from the back, which they have not seen so far in pre-season. The two names floating about have been Roger Ibañez and Josip Šutalo, who will both add needed quality.
The final area where the squad is lacking is in midfield. Nottingham Forest need a strong ball winner and someone who can help transition the ball forward in a composed manner. So it makes sense to see Forest prioritise Ibrahim Sangaré of all players for this position as he ticks the boxes of what Forest need in a midfielder. It remains to be seen if Forest can get this one done with the huge price tag and more clubs starting to have an interest in the Ivorian.
Nottingham Forest now have a week to continue their preparations for the forthcoming Premier League season, with a trip to the Emirates Stadium awaiting the club to face Arsenal on Matchday 1.