When Nottingham Forest were sat bottom of the Championship after seven games of the 2021/22 season, you’d have got a giant price on them signing a youngster from Liverpool for £16m. Fast forward ten months and Steve Cooper’s mesmerising Reds are now in the Premier League, and in this transfer window they are flexing those newly-found financial muscles.
Neco Williams’ arrival for £16m may seem like a hefty price to pay for a player with such little Premier League experience, but he showed on loan at Fulham last term that he has all the attributes to impress in the top flight. He’s 21, already a fully-fledged Welsh international that is likely to play at the World Cup and should retain that transfer value even if Forest get relegated this term. But with the signings they have made, they are already having a right good go at it.
Taiwo Awoniyi has joined from Union Berlin for £18.5m and should give Forest a dangerous presence up front as he scored 15 goals in 31 appearances in the Bundesliga last term, as his unfancied side finished 5th - one point away from the Champions League places. His signing is one that has gone under the radar for the rest of the Premier League, but for Forest, it is quite the coup that they have managed to get him through the door.
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Forest have been targeting the European market for their signings this summer and Moussa Niakhate joins from Mainz for £10m. Its clear that Steve Cooper has realised that the team that got them up, would not keep them up, and has quickly moved to make additions that should strengthen the team.
Having been unable to tempt Djed Spence to join on a permanent deal, Williams is likely to be first choice, but they have also spent £9m on Giulian Biacone from Troyes. At 22 he should retain or increase his transfer value but the real gem could come in the form of Omar Richards. The 24-year-old joins from Bayern Munich for £7.5m having failed to break through in Germany, but he was the next big thing during his time at Reading and could be an incredible purchase for their left wing-back position.
Dean Henderson’s arrival and Brice Samba’s exit may be the only questionable piece of business so far, but the England international has the potential to be a long-term success at the City Ground, should his loan move become permanent. That’s all the spending so far, and there are clearly gaping holes in central midfield given James Garner does not look like returning, but if they are successful in their hunt for Huddersfield’s Lewis O’Brien that would be another smart piece of business.
The issue Cooper has with less than a month to go before the dawn of the new campaign, is bedding all of these players in quickly. Forest cannot afford to be disjointed in the opening few weeks and must pick up as many points in those early fixtures as possible.
As we saw with Fulham when they spent £100m to revamp their promotion-winning side, spending does not always equal success. Forest have the bedrock of a successful side as we saw last season and given they could have six or seven new signings in their starting XI come August, it could disrupt the balance of the side.
But it is a risk worth taking. Forest have the money to spend and Cooper is the right man to spend it, with all the ability to succeed in the Premier League. As Norwich proved last season (and the time before that, and the time before that), being frugal is just as dangerous when it comes to competing with the big boys.
However, Brentford stayed up having spent £33m last summer. Leeds United stayed up having spent £96m in their first season and Villa spent a huge £133m in one summer to establish themselves in the Premier League.
Money doesn’t guarantee success, but when spent smartly, it can be enough to keep newly-promoted sides from the drop. Forest aren’t done yet, but they’ve already made inroads into securing their survival in this Premier League campaign.
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