Nottingham Forest could save millions this summer by considering this bargain striker transfer option
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It would not exactly be the boldest prediction to make if anyone was to suggest this summer will be less hectic for Nottingham Forest than the one they embarked on ahead of their Premier League return 12 months ago.
Amid a flurry of quite frankly bizarre speculation suggesting Steve Cooper’s future was under consideration, a staggering 21 players came through the doors at the City Ground as the two time European Cup winners prepared for their return to the promised land.
Among their number were several eye-catching with Wolverhampton Wanderers attacking midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White, Manchester United attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard and Atletico Madrid’s Brazilian star Renan Lodi all completing moves to become part of Cooper’s squad.
There was little surprise when the former Swansea City manager struggled to mould his side into an effective unit, with a 1-0 home win against West Ham United representing their only maximum in their opening 11 games of the season. Concerns over an immediate return to the Championship were further heightened by the end of the January transfer window as a plague of inconsistency hampered any attempts to move away from the relegation zone.
Although not quite a final roll of the dice, Forest had moved back into the transfer market by adding Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas, Palmeiras midfielder Danilo and Newcastle United duo Jonjo Shelvey and Chris Wood to their ranks - with the latter now a permanent member of their squad after making an initial loan switch in the first month of the year.
The addition of the latter swelled Forest’s striker options as Wood came into competition with Sam Surridge and summer additions Emmanuel Dennis and Taiwo Awoniyi. But going into this summer’s trading there is still a sense improvement is needed at the top end of the pitch if Forest are to avoid being dragged into a second successive relegation battle.
Of the quartet, only Awoniyi reached double figures, with the Nigerian international’s tally helped by what turned out to be a crucial return of six goals in the last four games of the season as his strikes in wins over Southampton and Arsenal and in draws against Chelsea and Crystal Palace ensured his side will compete in the Premier League once again during the coming season.
Wood found the net just once in seven appearances before a hamstring injury curtailed his season and Dennis and Surridge contributed just five goals between them in all competitions. A striker that can provide a most consistent return in front of goal and enable the likes of Brennan Johnson and Morgan Gibbs-White to thrive is believed to be high on the agenda for Cooper this summer.
A number of frontmen have been linked with a move to the City Ground, with former Rangers star Alfredo Morelos and Flamengo striker Pedro both mentioned as possible targets - but one suitable addition could be far closer to home, just 51.1 miles away to be precise!
A move for Coventry City’s in-demand striker Viktor Gyokeres would provide Cooper with a frontman that possesses all of the attributes required to fit into this Forest side and bring out the best in the influential players around him. The Sweden international has been in fine form over the last two seasons, scoring 40 goals and providing 17 assists in 97 appearances in all competitions for the Sky Blues. That gives him an impressive return of a goal involvement in every 1.7 games and his form has firmly secured his place in the Sweden squad, with Gyokeres earning nine of his 13 senior caps over the last 13 months.
Comparing the Swede with his would-be team-mates at the City Ground can be challenging given his has spent the last year competing at a lower level in the Championship - and the fact he is untested in the Premier League should be taken into account.
But the 25-year-old has produced some remarkable stats, having more average shots on target per 90 minutes than the Forest quartet and producing a higher average of goal-creating actions, shot-creating actions and touches in the final third than all four members of Cooper’s current squad. He also fares better than three of his four possible team-mates when it comes to xG, with only Surridge improving on Gyokeres’ 1.38 tally with a rating set at 1.61. Intriguingly, the Sky Blues star’s hard work is shown in the expected goals against, with Coventry’s coming in at 1.16 during his time on the pitch, compared to Surridge’s 2.33 with Forest.
There is significant interest in Gyokeres, with several Premier League clubs and Portuguese giants Sporting CP said to be closely monitoring the striker as he moves into the final 12 months of his current deal with the Sky Blues. Speculation over the weekend has suggested Sporting are currently leading the race for his services, despite falling short of Coventry’s reported £20million price tag for the striker.
Further talk in Sweden over the last seven days has stated Gyokeres is keen for a summer move as he looks to boost his hopes of providing competition for Newcastle United striker Alexander Isak and Tottenham Hotspur’s Dejan Kulusevski in the national team.
Even though Gyokeres is untested in the top tier, there is more than enough evidence to suggest he can cope against high calibre defences and provide both a goalscoring threat and valuable assistance for his team-mates if Forest were willing to make a move to secure what feels a modest fee for a player that has ‘no ceiling’ according to one opposition defender that faced him over the last two seasons.
Because of the level of interest in the striker, any Forest move would have been swift and decisive - but there is some sense in bringing in a striker that has proven his worth in the intense environment provided by the Championship and will be keen to test his undoubted ability by making the step up into the Premier League.