Following on from Impact Sport’s recent analysis on potential defensive targets; this week we look at the Midfielders and Attackers who would fill the gaps further up the pitch, and help Mark Warburton’s side challenge for a top six finish.
Nottingham Forest’s midfield is full of quality, that is for sure. It is the least of Mark Warburton’s worries this Summer. However, Forest need to properly replace Henri Lansbury and sign a playmaker who can make things happen. Forest need to add some depth in terms of wingers and potentially a young central defensive midfielder, but this would not be my immediate priority in the Summer transfer window.
In terms of an attacking playmaker who would be an ideal replacement to Henri Lansbury, there is one name who springs to mind. Brentford’s Jota has the ability to unlock defences with one pass and; if given the chance, will not shy away from finding the back of the net himself. Jota spent the first half of the season out on loan at Eibar, where he struggled to find his best form. However, once recalled in January it was evident that Brentford had themselves a gem.
Jota scored 12 goals in 23 appearances upon his return to the South London side and was applauded off the pitch by Forest fans in a match which saw him lay waste to their lacklustre defence. Jota was also signed by Warburton when he was Brentford manager back in 2014, so they could both be keen on a reunion on Trent-side. Jota has 23 goals in 57 appearances for Brentford, averaging 0.4 goals per game. When Lansbury was sold in January 2017 the goals dried up for Forest. Jota could be the perfect man to create opportunities for the strikers.
Forest may possess some outstanding quality on the wings in Ben Osborn, Jamie Ward, Mustapha Carayol and Zach Clough – but I feel Forest need to sign one winger this Summer. Clough is better utilised more through the middle and Warburton will surely not want to use him on the wings. Carayol hasn’t played an awful lot and we need to see more evidence that he can play week in week out for Forest on the wing.
Therefore, Forest should look to sign Bakary Sako from Crystal Palace. Sako has been linked with a move to Forest in the past when he played for Wolves. Since moving to Palace, however, he has struggled. This season the Mali winger only played 8 games for Palace under two different managers.
Sako possesses real pace and the ability to beat his man when the time comes. He is two footed and able to cross with either foot. Sako may look to stay another year at Palace and hope to show Sam Allardyce’s replacement that he should be in the starting eleven week in week out. Forest should still try to convince the winger that he is better off trying to recapture his form in the Championship.
Forest need to add another central defensive midfielder to their squad, if they are to have sufficient depth in this position for next season’s squad. Mark Warburton regularly relied on Chris Cohen and David Vaughan to play as the two defensive midfielders to cover the back four, to allow the wingers/full backs to bomb forward in attacking situations.
Vaughan and Cohen are good players and have a vast amount of experience in the Championship between them. However, they both have two similar problems which are unlikely to go away. Vaughan is 34 whilst captain Cohen is 30. Age is catching up to these players, and this could be a problem for Mark Warburton if he is looking to have two defensive midfielders who can play twice a week.
Secondly, both players have had their fair share of injuries and neither have gone through a season at Forest without sustaining a long-term injury (2+ months out). Yes, Mark Warburton may have Michael Mancienne and Thomas Lam at his disposal but I do not think they are the sort of players he will want playing in a promotion push. Therefore, I believe Mark Warburton will look at signing a young CDM who has regular Championship experience.
A fan favourite on Trent side, Gardner would be most welcomed back to the club. He made a total of 38 appearances for Forest in two loan spells and notched up 6 goals. Gardner found regular starts at Aston Villa this season hard to come by and only made 24 appearances this season. Villa were taken over by a heavyweight Chinese multi-millionaire in the Summer of 2016 and it is likely he will give Steve Bruce funds to spend on new players this Summer, as Villa look to challenge for promotion in the 2017-2018 season.
However, Villa spent in excess of £30 million last summer while performing poorly. Therefore, they will have to watch their spending (unless they sell players), as they could fall short of Financial Fair Play. I believe that Bruce is not 100% convinced Gardner is his man and Villa might look to sell him this Summer.
Gardner boasts a wealth of Championship experience, having played for Forest and Brighton on loan. He is known for his ability to pass the ball, to break down attacks and also for his long range shooting. If Forest can get him then this would be a perfect signing by Mark Warburton and the Forest board.
Fans will hope that Marinakis does not sell their best players, as became the custom under the Al-Hasawi regime. Keeping Britt Assombalonga and Ben Brereton is a must – and the latter recently signed a new contract. The addition of Jason Cummings looks to be an exciting replacement for the seemingly Olympiacos-bound Apostolos Vellios.
If Assombalonga is to be sold this Summer, then an ideal replacement is Lasse Vibe. Forest have already added to their strikers this summer with the addition of Jason Cummings, but Vibe’s stats suggest that there is an ideal partner waiting for him should Britt or Brereton leave.
Vibe scored 16 goals in 36 games this season and was influential in the way Brentford played. Vibe is a dynamic forward and does not mind having to chase back to win the ball from opposing midfielders. Vibe also likes to interchange with other players and occasionally move to the wings – unearthing and confusing opposition defences.
Vibe would also be the perfect partner to strong physical players such as Brereton and Britt and would be able to play off them. His Brentford connection means Mark Warburton and Frank McParland might fancy their chances of acquiring the Dane’s services.
Who Mark Warburton decides to bring to Forest in the Summer depends on a number of things:
1) Which positions he chooses to vacate and make room for,
2) How much money he is given by Marinakis to build his side,
3) Where the Manager wants to finish by the close of 2017/2018 season.
Naturally, people may not agree with these recommendations, as Forest may well not be challenging at the top end of the table next season. However, I feel that is exactly what Mark Warburton will be looking to achieve. For this, I think he will be given money to spend. Mark Warburton is a man who does not like paying too much for a player and likes to get value for money, an achievable objective should he pursue the signatures of any of these targets.