Premier League 2022-23 Preview No. 16: Nottingham Forest

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Guardian writers’ predicted position 15. (NB: this is not necessarily Will Unwin’s prediction, but the average of our writers’ tips)

Last season’s position 4. (championship)

Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker) 1000-1


The owners have big ambitions, especially after splashing out on players over the summer, but the reality is that the Premier League is a big jump for any club, regardless of the level of investment. Evangelos Marinakis spoke of going for trophies after securing promotion, but the club will ultimately be satisfied if they finish 17th.

They certainly have the players to go a few spots higher, but it may take some time for the team to coalesce into a unit considering the turnover in the roster. They lost a number of their promotion squad including popular goalkeeper Brice Samba, who was let go and replaced by Dean Henderson, while club captain Lewis Grabban decided not to sign a new contract.

The recruitment has been precise to give Steve Cooper the resources he requires to make his team competitive in a division new to the majority of his players. Jesse Lingard was signed to make a statement and add experience. It’s a young side, which should help with fearlessness at the top level, but could mean they lack what it takes to get through the tough moments and how will they react if they go on a bad run, not something they experienced under Cooper last season.

They will look to be aggressive and push constantly to ensure that no one, regardless of stature, easily takes points away from them during the campaign. The City Ground has been given an upgrade over the summer and the club will be hoping it will be where they pick up most of their points en route to safety.


The boss

When things went horribly wrong at the start of last season under Chris Hughton, chief executive Dane Murphy quickly earmarked Cooper as the man to improve Forest. Few could have predicted going from one point in seven games to beating Huddersfield in the play-off final, but that was the effect the former Swansea boss had on the team. At the club, the main thing Cooper brought to the squad was “belief”, as Joe Worrall confirmed at Wembley. The team became more aggressive under his leadership and was finally a cohesive unit. He turned Brennan Johnson from a forward on the fringes of the team into their most touted asset in a matter of months. He knows what he is doing with young players thanks to a background working in academies and with England youth teams. He will enjoy his first season as a Premier League manager.

Dean Henderson (left) has joined for the season on loan from Manchester United and will battle it out for the No.1 shirt with Wayne Hennessey (right).

Dean Henderson (left) has joined for the season on loan from Manchester United and will battle it out for the No.1 shirt with Wayne Hennessey (right). Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Transfer coup

It has been another smart summer in the transfer market for Forest. The Bundesliga has been a central goal for the club where they know they can get value for money. They broke the transfer record to make Taiwo Awoniyi the first arrival of the summer for £17.5m from Union Berlin. The Nigeria international began his career with Liverpool but spent his time out there on loan before moving to the Union last summer. He scored 15 goals to help his side to fifth in the table and in European football, but decided to give it up to try the Premier League. He met Cooper and, despite interest from elsewhere, decided the project at the City Ground was for him.

WC influence

It should be a month off for most players. Dean Henderson will be hoping that first-team football will see him into the England squad, while Neco Williams and Brennan Johnson are certain to be part of the Wales set-up, barring injury. The other player likely to be in Qatar is Canada’s Richie Laryea, but he is earmarked to spend the season on loan.


Alternative attractions during the WC

There is no shortage of attractions in Nottingham. There is The Caves, which surprisingly is a huge network of caves, a good place to hide from the realities of the world if Forest are in the relegation zone in November.

Leads shirt sales

Brennan Johnson is the local hero. After signing a new contract this summer, his popularity has been further enhanced. Everyone likes an academy product to do well, and Johnson certainly is. His father, David, had a decent five-year spell with the club at the turn of the millennium and his legacy lives on 16 years after his departure. He faces a big step up, considering he was on loan at Lincoln in League One two years ago, but all indications are that he has the ability to be a Premier League player for the long term.

Social climber

Last season Djed Spence and Brice Samba were the most important social players. The good news is that they are now in the Premier League when it comes to TikToks, Instas and the other things that keep kids entertained because they have snapped up Jesse Lingard. A top player with the following to match. He has more than a million fans on TikTok alone because he loves to dance.

If Forest was a Netflix doctor…

Nottingham Forest: Back in the big time. What can go wrong at the City Ground? They have worked hard to get back to the Premier League, it has only taken almost a quarter of a century and involved three seasons in the third tier. Fans would just hope that it’s not a depiction of someone losing hope over the course of nine months.

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