Nottingham Forest Transfer Mini-Series: Defenders

 James Warrell

Forest’s frenetic spending has encompassed all areas of the pitch. In this article, James Warrell continues his analysis of the window and shifts the focus to defensive reinforcements, with the backline an area which so far has been less busy compared to other departments in the squad. Four singings in any other team would be ground-breaking, but for Forest in this manic transfer window it is the norm. 

The Nottingham Forest defence needed an overhaul after it became apparent that Djed Spence wanted to go to Tottenham instead of make the permanent switch to Forest. Jack Colback’s makeshift stint at left back was far from ideal; action was necessary. Furthermore, although Steve Cook had a wonderful half of a season in 21/22 and boasts Premier League experience, at 31, he is not the future of the defence. Furthermore, his CV details a relegation with Bournemouth who had a horrific defensive record.  

Let’s start at left back, with Omar Richards and Harry Toffolo coming in from Bayern Munich and Huddersfield respectively. Omar Richards brings with him a wealth of experience from Bayern. Although he did not play much last season (a limited sample size of only 494 minutes), his stats are still quite something to behold: 


Omar Richards’ stats – data via fbref

I will just a highlight a few of his more notable values. A higher score in the percentile aspect (represented in green on the chart) means the player ranks well compared to similar footballers. Both his progressive carries and progressive passes rank extremely highly which is indicative of a player who drives the ball forwards and starts attacks which could possibly lead to goals.  

Another two standout statistics are pressures and tackles. Pressures show how many times a player presses an opponent, for which Richards ranks in the top level in all of Europe, demonstrating his elite pressing ability. His tackling numbers, at over five per 90 minutes, are incredible for a side which controls 60%+ of the ball per game.  

Cooper’s side are getting the complete package

However, this data needs to be caveated with the fact the defender has only played 494 minutes thus the statistics are quite skewed. The numbers still reflect Richards’ abilities around Forest’s own penalty area and the opposition’s one – Cooper’s side are getting the complete package. 

On the other hand, in Harry Toffolo, Forest are bringing in a player who played forty-two games last season contributing six goals and seven assists. This highlights an immense creative and goalscoring output for any player, let alone a fullback. Forest are getting an extremely talented player who has a real eye for goal. This could potentially add a different dynamic at left back by forcing teams to close Toffolo down, opening up more space for the attacking players.  

Moving onto the right back slot, two players have been brought in, namely Neco Williams from Liverpool and Giulian Biancone from Troyes. Most Forest fans already know what Williams can bring after a stellar loan with Fulham, where he was integral to their attacking play. 

The ex-Liverpool man has already tantalisingly linked up with Brennan Johnson for Wales – perhaps this relationship could fill the void Spence has left

Hopefully Neco Williams can replace Forest’s previous player of the season Djed Spence. There is a quiet optimism that not only can he replace the full back, but that he can offer more. The ex-Liverpool man has already tantalisingly linked up with Brennan Johnson for Wales – perhaps this relationship could fill the void Spence has left. 

Giulian Biancone is clearly second choice but does not mean he is a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. At only 20, there is a lot to improve on, however he had a very positive season with Troyes in Ligue 1. Considering other European league right backs, Biancone compares very favourably in attacking measures, frequently appearing beyond the 95th percentile (

This paints the picture of an extremely progressive player who dribbles frantically. Additionally, Biancone is an extremely disruptive presence to the opposition, ranking in the 97th percentile. The disruption measure factors in pressures and other such measures. There is clearly a lot to work on with the link up and recovery statistics being far from ideal, but as a back-up the Frenchman offers something very different to Neco Williams.  

The final area that I will examine is centre back where very little action was required. Moussa Niakhate is thus far the only addition to add to defensive stalwarts Joe Worrall and Scott Mckenna in the defensive line.  

Someone who enables Forest to play through that press and start attacks from the back is key

Niakhate in truth does not add so much defensively, but what he lacks in that department he makes up for in ball progression. His progressive passes rate extremely highly into the 90th percentile. This attribute cannot be underrated with the high press that Forest will be subject to from certain teams in the Premier League. Someone who enables Forest to play through that press and start attacks from the back is key. With Niakhate, Forest have a third member of the back three who’s main offensive job will to be get the ball forward safely allowing attacks to start. 

Moussa Niakhate’s stats – data via fbref

In conclusion, Forest have made a whole host of defensives signing which are clearly necessary for them to have a chance of remaining in the league. Each of these signing offer something different which is indicative of a well thought approach to transfers. All of Niakhate, Toffolo, Williams, Biancone, and Richards have the potential to add a new dimension to both Forest’s attacking and defensive play. So, from this point of view if they all stay fit, they are wonderful new additions. 

James Warrell

Featured image used courtesy of rchappo2002 via flickr. No changes were made to this image. Image use license here. 

In article images 1 and 2 created by James Warrell. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes made to these images. 

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