Transfer trolley-dash, Nuno future, Sangare hype – key issues for Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest head coach Nuno Espirito Santo
Nottingham Forest head coach Nuno Espirito Santo -Credit:Getty

Nottingham Forest will be aiming to get the job done sooner rather than later as they prepare for their final two games of the season with Premier League safety on the line.

The Reds’ appeal against their four-point deduction has been rejected, meaning it is as you were in the Premier League table. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side remain three points above the relegation zone.

Ahead of Saturday’s final home game of the season, against Chelsea (5.30pm kick-off), there was plenty to talk about when Forest reporter Sarah Clapson held a live Q&A on our Reds Facebook page. Here is a look at some of the questions asked and the replies...

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Q: Will we need to sell any of our top players to balance the books?

A: Much of what happens this summer will depend on which division Forest are planning for. If the worst happens and they go down, the summer takes on a whole different complexion. Other teams always look to cherry pick the best talent from relegated clubs, and most of the time the selling club is unable to do much about it.

Hopefully, Forest are not in that situation, but there will need to be some sales in the summer regardless. The written reasons from the independent commission when Forest were first deducted the four points stated the club were taking steps to avoid falling foul of the rules for this financial year. They were projecting losses of £12m to £17m for the year to June 2024, and the whole thing pointed to player sales being required this summer. It doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a fire sale, but Forest do need to sell.

It would not be a surprise if the club’s resolve is tested for the likes of Murillo and Morgan Gibbs-White. They have their admirers because they have really stood out this season. Forest value them both highly, but it would be interesting to see what happens if somebody does come in with a lot of money for them. Any team has big decisions to make when that kind of thing happens.

Forest need to look at the squad again in the summer anyway. I hope it isn’t another summer where huge changes are made because I don’t think that’s required. But decisions will need to be made about quite a few players. Some are coming to the end of their contracts and quite a few have been out on loan - some with questions about their futures.

Q: Need to trim the squad. Bring the odd player in and allow a couple of the u21 players to come through.

A: Forest being in the Premier League does make it tougher for young players to come through. Nuno has given some a chance, but playing in the top-flight is a big step. That was the case under Steve Cooper, too.

I do think it is important the club still shows that pathway is there, though. There is some bright talent in the youth ranks. Hopefully pre-season can be an opportunity for some of them. There is always a really difficult balance to strike with young players, though, over deciding whether going out on loan is best for their development or keeping them around the first-team set-up.

Brandon Aguilera is going to be a really interesting one. Cooper, in particular, really rated him, so pre-season might be an opportunity to see what Nuno makes of him once he comes back from being on loan. Is he going to be ready for the first-team or is another loan best? He is one player Forest will need to make a big decision on because he has got quality and is highly regarded.

I agree about just bringing in the odd player. I don't think too much is required. Nuno made it clear in January that he wants to work with a small squad, so that will be the case again next season.

There will be incomings and outgoings. I think just a few new additions are required. I hope there isn’t a massive overhaul, because I think there is the basis of a really good squad in place. Forest have some good young players to build around in the likes of Gibbs-White and Murillo, if they hang on to them, and Anthony Elanga, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Neco Williams. They are all really talented young players with plenty of years ahead of them. The potential is there.

It's going to be a big summer. If Forest are hoping to progress and kick on next season, there's a lot riding on getting it right.

Q: Hope Taiwo Awoniyi will be fit to start.

A: It would be a surprise if he starts on Saturday because he’s only just come back from quite a while on the sidelines. Forest were treading carefully with him anyway before this latest injury; they had been managing him carefully after he had missed a chunk of the season after groin surgery. I’m sure they will be doing the same this time, too. They won’t want to risk any kind of setback right before the summer.

It was great to see him back against Sheffield United. He gives Nuno another option - someone he can turn to on the bench who is capable of coming on and scoring a goal. Without him, Forest were a little light on options in that department. Having Awoniyi back will make a difference in that sense.

A few weeks ago, I would have said he would be struggling to get ahead of Chris Wood in the starting XI because Wood was on fire. In the last few games, though, Wood has lost his touch in front of goal a bit. I hope he gets it back, because it would be a real shame - after that brilliant run he had - if his season ends with a load of missed chances.

At least Nuno has the option now of turning to Awoniyi, if Wood is struggling in the last two games. He came on pretty late last weekend, so I think it would be a stretch for him to start against Chelsea.

Even a few weeks after he had returned from the groin surgery, he didn’t look fully sharp. I’m sure Forest will be mindful of that this time around.

Hopefully he's got his rotten injury luck out of the way and next season he can have a real run in the team. When he's fully fit and sharp, he's a real handful and he gets goals.

Q: You can definitely see why we bought Ibrahim Sangare. There’s room for a strong No.6 to protect the back four, so I hope he comes good (if we stay up).

A: I feel a bit for Sangare because he came in amid a load of hype, as the club record signing and being brought in to be a game-changer. Forest saw him as a player who could help transform the style of play. He was seen as a big part of the team trying to progress this season.

But he has clearly struggled to adapt to the Premier League and English football. Not that he is alone on that front. Time is so valuable for a lot of players - not just at Forest. You can go back through the years, look at different clubs and find examples of players who needed time to adjust.

Orel Mangala looked better in his second season at Forest, before he went out on loan. He needed time to get used to the physicality and the speed of the Premier League. Taiwo Awoniyi took a while to find his feet.

Some players settle into a new league and a new country quicker than others. Some need time. I think Sangare falls into the latter category.

I still believe he is a quality player and that he can come good. His confidence is probably going to be pretty low at the minute because he's not in the team and even getting minutes from off the bench is proving tricky. At a crucial time in the season, he's not been involved, and I'm sure that will probably hurt. He will have wanted to come to Forest and get regular game time and be a big performer, so he will no doubt be disappointed with how it’s gone. Forest will have to be mindful of the mental side of things.

Pre-season can hopefully be really beneficial for him. He can have a chunk of time working to get his fitness to the right level and working with the manager and his teammates on the training pitch. Hopefully that will benefit him and next season we see the best of him.

His position can be so key, it's just a case of getting him going. Midfield has been a real problem area, hasn't it? Nuno still hasn't found the right balance there. He has chopped and changed a fair bit, so there is a big opportunity for someone to stake a claim next season.

Q: Do you think Nuno will still be manager next season?

A: Nuno has had a lot to deal with during his time in charge. Losing players to AFCON, all the refereeing decisions and the points deduction saga - he has had a lot on his plate.

But managers and head coaches get paid to deal with whatever situations get thrown at them. Most bosses have at least some issues to contend with. Forest and Nuno’s situation has been kind of unique, though.

I do think there has been some improvement under him. But it is debatable how much.

Forest are generally playing better and have been more attacking, but results haven’t always followed. Some of that is down to the refereeing decisions, but equally, Forest have chucked points away by their own doing a few times. You can point to a number of games where they were masters of their own downfall.

Personally, I think Nuno deserves pre-season to have a proper chance to work with the team, have almost a clean slate for next season and the opportunity to bring a few players in. And then see what happens.

That is dependent on Forest staying up. If the worst happens, the summer would take on a whole different complexion.

If Forest survive, though, Evangelos Marinakis is sure to want next season to be about progression. That was supposed to be the case this year, so I can’t imagine he will envisage a third season of being involved in a relegation battle.

Rightly or wrongly, Marinakis has made it really clear he wants Forest to be higher up the table. I think it will take time for that to happen, but the owner is a very ambitious man and he wants progress.

Improvement will be required next season; Forest will be trying to kick on. For me, Nuno deserves time to have a go at that.

What have you made of Nuno's time in charge? Have your say in the comments below