Saturday, 5 September 2015

Glimmer of light as transfer window slowly creaks shut

Oh Forest, look what you've done to us now. Not content with putting us through a rollercoaster transfer window under an embargo, the club has now delivered news of signings three days after the window was supposed to have, as cliche would have it, slammed shut. From now on we're not even going to be able to relax once a transfer window closes - there will be the thought in the back of our minds 'What if we're going to announce it in a few days like Nelson Oliveira?'.

In all seriousness though, the announcements at the end of the week - which seemed to be delayed out of an understandable post-Hamer caution - were at least a welcome end to the window and were a welcome shot in the arm after losing our most potent (fit) attacking threat when Michail Antonio finally made his move to West Ham.

I can't find it within myself to be too tough on Michail. He's a London lad who came up from non league and has earned his shot at the big time. We've made a tidy profit on him and can't really stand in the way of his Premier League ambitions.

Still, you can't argue he won't be missed. His pace, power, goals and assists have been a potent threat ever since he made the switch from Sheffield Wednesday. He regularly came up with 'lift you from your seat' moments of explosive play (I do worry slightly for sanity of those who yearned him to tame this side of his game and instead 'track back').

There's a theory that we were too one dimensional with Michail in the line-up - and there may be some truth in that. The trouble is that this happened because whenever we ran out of ideas or struggled to get a foothold in a game we knew that we could give him something to run on to - or could rely on his strength to battle and hold on to a ball. Our play will probably need to be more precise now but we will also need to try to find other ways of hurting teams with pace and power too.

Which brings us on to the new signings. First in the door was Chris O'Grady. Slightly boringly we actually conformed with tradition and announced this on deadline day.

O'Grady has had something of a journeyman existence throughout his career and his time on the south coast with Brighton hasn't gone well. But, he had been an awkward customer for Barnsley in the Championship and, let's face it, Brighton fans didn't really like Gary Gardner did they? (Ok, that's maybe clutching at straws).

Yes, O'Grady isn't another Assombalonga but he's a Nottingham lad and returns to his homeland with a point to prove after his Seagulls move turned sour. He can be an attacking focal point that holds the ball up and brings our midfielders and wingers in to the game and probably suits Dougie's formation. With Blackstock continually struggling for fitness O'Grady could well be a useful member of the squad and adds some of that power we're otherwise lacking without Antonio. He certainly deserves a chance if nothing else.

Then came the tantalising tweet that kept us all in suspense - and hitting refresh - for the rest of the week.

The names of the targets were fairly common knowledge but, as all Forest fans have learned, it's never best to presume that something is certain with our club. In fact, post-Hamer, it's now the case that even seeing someone in the shirt for an announcement isn't a guarantee. They like to keep us on our toes. At least it's never dull right?

Then, just when many started to be convinced by the doom-mongers that the deals weren't going to happen someone at the Football League finally found the rubber stamp down the back of the settee and signed off on the deals to bring in Nelson Oliveira and Ryan Mendes on season long loans.

The FA then conspired to lose the stamp again and is yet to clear the deal to bring in Jonny Williams from Crystal Palace. The fact the player has been training with the club at least suggests we're confident of getting him in the door.

It's hard to make a sensible judgment on just how good that late business could be for Forest. It's certainly true that the club needed to do something to fill the gap left by Antonio. In fact the departure of Jamie Paterson to Huddersfield meant that we lost our top goalscorers from the past two seasons on the same day. (Antonio shared the accolade with Assombalonga, Paterson edged out Reid in the scoring charts in 2013/14 - so injuries are also robbing us of our next most prolific players in recent times.) It also seemed, from the Cardiff display, that an injection of fresh energy might help to lift some flat displays. Tyler Walker certainly needed a little help to lead the forward line.

Given the embargo, new signings were always going to be tough to come by yet there are promising signs. As discussed, O'Grady needn't be as bad an acquisition as some might think and the remaining trio are all players with a decent pedigree. Williams, of course, has experience of this level and looks a class act but all three are players with talent who - either due to injury or lack of opportunity in their respective top flights - now have a point to prove. In all honesty they wouldn't be here if they had achieved their potential but, on the flip side, we might be able to benefit from them reaching that potential.

Oliveira has 14 Portuguese caps and was, apparently, snatched from under the noses of Valencia. Some fear his goal record isn't spectacular but t's harsh to judge him on numbers alone. For a start, how many people who looked at his Wikipedia page appreciated how many of his 'games' were actually as a sub?

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13 goals in 82 league games...or 13 in 26 starts. You can spin statistics if you want, the point is he's attracted interest of a fair few clubs that are at a much higher standard than we are at the moment.

Mendes follows Matthieu Louis-Jean into the small 'Forest and Le Havre' club and has the potential to inject the pace on the flanks that Michail used to good effect.

With Mendes, Oliveira and the earlier signings of Pinillos and Ebecilio we will need to be patient. They'll need time to get used to English football and, in some cases, regular adult football.

It's also important - at the other end of the excitement spectrum - that we don't get carried away with the arrivals and cast aside some existing members of the squad too readily. We would all do well to be wary of YouTube highlights after Rafik Djebbour and Lars Veldwijk.

The likes of Ben Osborn, Tyler Walker and Oliver Burke deserve the chance to prove they shouldn't be usurped by these imports. I'd certainly be reluctant to move Ben down the pecking order - his energy and midfield thrust are quickly becoming the heartbeat of this side and that should be embraced.

There's certainly promise and pedigree in the ranks - and options for Freedman to try to forge into an effective Championship side. What Dougie and the players needs now is patience. It will take time to settle on a new way of playing and a new first choice side. That might mean a few scratchy performances along the way - and maybe some defeats on the telly in tough games coming up - but hopefully there's enough raw material to work with going forward.

Freedman has got lucky in one sense. His first couple of targets when it came to new strikers - Michael Frey and Lukas Jutkiewicz - have both gone down with serious injuries since their moves fell through. Nicky Maynard also picked up an injury in his first trial game after we chose not to snap him up. Let's hope his luck now extends to those players we've actually signed...

The transfer window:

Out: Majewski, Mackie, Abdoun, McLaughlin, Paterson, Veldwijk, Harding, Collins, Halford, Antonio

In: Mills, Ward, Pinillos, Ebecilio, O'Grady, Oliveira, Mendes, Williams (hopefully)

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