Premier League team guide: Nottingham Forest in the spotlight
Nottingham Forest are finally back in the big time — and last season’s Championship play-off winners are determined to stay there.
The two-time European Cup winners have finally returned to England’s top flight after a 23-year absence, and will be looking to make up for lost time in 2022-23.
Steve Cooper’s side have been busy in the transfer market and could be one of this season’s surprise packages, if Forest’s new signings can gel quickly and hit the ground running.
Last season: Fourth (Championship)
Cooper’s impact at the City Ground last term was simply remarkable.
Forest were propping up the Championship table when former boss Chris Hughton was relieved of his duties in September, having picked up just one point from their first seven matches.
But the Welsh tactician’s appointment saw an instant upturn in form, as the East Midlands outfit won four of their next five fixtures.
And things got even better in the second half of the season, with Forest racking up 14 victories and only suffering defeat on three occasions in 2022 — securing a fourth-place finish and play-off qualification.
They needed penalties to edge past Sheffield United in the semi-finals, before a Levi Colwill own goal was enough to beat Huddersfield at Wembley and seal promotion.
Forest have boosted their chances of Premier League survival by splurging on a host of signings this summer.
A total of 12 players have arrived at the City Ground, including a number of high-profile transfers.
Some of the most eye-catching deals include the arrivals of Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi, Bayern Munich left-back Omar Richards, Welsh full-back Neco Williams, Mainz centre-back Moussa Niakhate and a loan move for Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson.
But perhaps the most exciting addition is England international Jesse Lingard, who joins on a free transfer after leaving Old Trafford.
3-4-1-2: Henderson; Worrall, McKenna, Niakhate; Williams, Colback, Cafu, Toffolo; Lingard; Johnson, Awoniyi.
Forest travel to Newcastle for their season opener — and their team will be notably different from last term’s Championship play-off winning side.
Three Lions stopper Henderson will be protected by a back three of Joe Worrall, Scott McKenna and Niakhate, while former Huddersfield full-back Harry Toffolo and Williams will provide width on the flanks.
Expect Cafu and veteran Jack Colback to sit deep in midfield, with Lingard, Awoniyi and Brennan Johnson providing the goal threat in the final third.
Star man: Brennan Johnson
Wales international Johnson will be key to Forest’s survival hopes.
The 21-year-old enjoyed a breakout campaign while on loan at Lincoln in 2020-21, when he amassed 16 goal contributions as the Imps reached the League One play-offs.
That form earned him a place in Forest’s first team last term and Johnson has not looked back — firing the Reds to promotion with an impressive 16 goals and 10 assists.
The versatile forward will now be looking to take the next step, by reproducing that form on the Premier League’s global stage.
Up-and-comer: Loic Mbe Soh
Loic Mbe Soh has plenty of potential — and is hoping for a chance to showcase his talents in the months ahead.
The French centre-back arrived at the City Ground from Paris Saint-Germain in September 2020 but has struggled for game time, making just eight league appearances over the past two campaigns.
Time is certainly on the 21-year-old’s side, though it may take a loan move for Forest’s No6 to really make an impression and force his way into Cooper’s long-term thinking.
A France Under-19s international with a powerful 6ft 2in frame, Soh could still have a big part to play in Forest’s future.
The boss: Steve Cooper
Cooper’s reputation continues to go from strength to strength, having enjoyed success in each of his managerial postings.
The 42-year-old started his coaching career in England’s youth set-up, where he won the 2017 Under-17 World Cup with the Young Lions.
A move to Championship side Swansea followed in 2019 — and Cooper was lauded for leading them to consecutive play-off finishes, despite a limited budget.
Having finally achieved promotion to the Premier League last season with Forest, it will be intriguing to see just how far the former defender can take his current charges in 2022-23.
All information correct as of 1pm, July 29, 2022