Following the addition of 10 new players at a cost of almost £70m, Nottingham Forest have had a busy summer. But with the new Premier League season kicking off in just over two weeks, there is still work to be done
It’s been obvious for some time now that things are different at the City Ground. Ever since Dane Murphy walked through the door just over a year ago, the club has implemented a similar philosophy to the one he oversaw at Barnsley.
Last summer, of course, was very different to this summer. But the same principles apply: for a sustainable recruitment policy, signing players under the age of 26 is a strategy so simple we should’ve been doing it for years.
As Steve Cooper says: “It’s nice because it means they’re hungry. We wouldn’t bring anyone in who wasn’t hungry and sometimes that comes with younger players who still have a lot to prove. It’s a nice thing to know we can keep growing players.”
Importantly it means they have resale value and for a club that has stayed afloat over the past decade by selling, this is a huge part of the sustainability aspect. A smart recruitment strategy continues to maximise players’ transfer fees while having ready-made replacements already in the ranks.
The main difference in our recruitment is that not only are we scouting widely, but we’re using analytics and data, researching players’ character, assessing how they fit into Cooper’s plans and, crucially, seeking value. It’s no surprise that head of data and analytic recruitment George Syrianos, and formerly of VfB Stuttgart, has identified the Bundesliga as somewhere to go shopping.
Nobody’s really discussed our wage structure but, to hazard a guess, the top salary is unlikely to be much over £50,000 a week. (Dean Henderson is on loan and therefore being paid a Manchester United salary, so let’s rule him out of this.) In comparison, the likes of Lewis Grabban, Harry Arter and Lyle Taylor were believed to be earning in excess of £30,000 a week last season. Even if all the promotion-winning players had their salaries doubled, we should be safely keeping the wages-to-turnover ratio in check for at least one season.
According to the Professional Football Scouts Association, a couple of years ago the average wage of a Premier League footballer was just over £60,000 a week; in the Championship it was £4,000. The Bundesliga average is closer to £40,000 a week — so not only is there relative value in transfer fees, the same applies to salaries.
Whether or not we blow our wage structure on Jesse Lingard remains to be seen, but we need to sign an attacking midfielder or two to replace Philip Zinckernagel in the number 10 position. And if we don’t break our transfer record again on Morgan Gibbs-White — who Wolves want in excess of £25m for — then maybe throwing caution to the wind and bringing in a proven Premier League player might be a gamble worth taking.
While we’ve spent almost £70m, nobody can argue with the quality or the value of the 10 new signings. And we’re not done yet — with another wing-back, two or three midfielders and a forward still likely to follow. Midfielders Orel Mangala, Amadou Onana and Aster Vranckx have all been linked, as has Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis and Burnley’s Maxwel Cornet, while both the James Garner and Keinan Davis situations seem unresolved.
That should offer Cooper two players for every position, completing the 25-man squad — with the Under-21 players not counted, the likes of Dale Taylor, Oli Hammond and Aaron Donnelly make get a chance. Given the departures of five loan players as well as Brice Samba, Lewis Grabban, Tobias Figueiredo, Gaeten Bong, Jayden Richardson and Carl Jenkinson, that’s 11 out and 10 in — with Brandon Aguilera immediately loaned back to Guanacasteca.
Jonathan Panzo, Will Swan, Tyrese Fornah, Riley Harbottle, Finn Back, Ethan Horvath and Mohamed Dräger are all out on loan, and it’s likely that Richie Laryea, Nicolas Ioannou, Braian Ojeda, Nuno da Costa, Lyle Taylor and Harry Arter will all follow one way or another, while Xande Silva and Joe Lolley could depart permanently. And it remains to be seen whether Alex Mighten and Loic Mbe Soh remain as squad players or go out on loan for further experience.
The sensible focus is assembling a squad that can compete in the Premier League this season, and hopefully for seasons to come, but with half an eye on how relegation looks — can we keep the core of the squad with a view to immediately returning, and is it affordable?
In all honesty, we don’t know how this season will go — we’re hastily assembling a new squad whilst correcting mistakes of years gone by. What we do know is that Cooper will stick to his values and beliefs, and he’s already shown that introducing new players to the team doesn’t need to be problematic. It might take time, but there is no doubt that Evangelos Marinakis means business. Whatever happens, nobody can say we haven’t turned everything around in the space of 12 months.