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Premier League 2022-23 preview No 16: Nottingham Forest | Football

Guardian writers’ predicted position 15th (NB: this is not necessarily Will Unwin’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)

Last season’s position 4th (Championship)

Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker) 1,000-1

Prospects

The owners have big ambitions, especially after shelling out heftily on players over the summer, but the reality is that the Premier League is a huge jump for any club, regardless of investment levels. Evangelos Marinakis spoke of going for trophies after securing promotion but the club will, ultimately, be happy if they finish 17th.

They certainly have the players to go a few places higher but it could take a little while for the team to gel into a unit considering the overturn in playing staff. They lost a number of the promotion squad including the popular goalkeeper Brice Samba, who was allowed to leave and replaced by Dean Henderson, while club captain Lewis Grabban decided against signing a new contract.

Ready for the Premier League 2022-2023: Nottingham Forest – video

Recruitment has been precise to give Steve Cooper the resources he demands to make his team competitive in a division that is new to the majority of his players. Jesse Lingard was signed to make a statement and add experience. It is a young side, which should help with fearlessness at the top level but might mean they lack the nous required to get through the tough moments and how will they react if they go on a poor run, not something they experienced under Cooper last season.

They will look to be aggressive and press constantly to make sure no one, regardless of stature, takes points off them easily over the course of the campaign. The City Ground has received an upgrade over the summer and the club will be hoping it will be where they pick up the majority of their points on the way to safety.

The manager

When things were going incredibly wrong at the start of last season under Chris Hughton, chief executive Dane Murphy quickly earmarked Cooper as the man to improve Forest. Few could have anticipated going from one point in seven matches to beating Huddersfield in the playoff final but that was the effect the former Swansea head coach had on the team. Within the club, the main thing Cooper brought to the squad was “belief”, as Joe Worrall confirmed at Wembley. The team became more aggressive under his stewardship and was finally a cohesive unit. He turned Brennan Johnson from a forward on the periphery of the team to their most-lauded asset in the space of a couple of months. He knows what he is doing with young players thanks to a background working in academies and with England youth teams. He will relish his first season as a Premier League manager.

Dean Henderson (left) has joined for the season on loan from Manchester United and will contest the No 1 shirt with Wayne Hennessey (right).
Dean Henderson (left) has joined for the season on loan from Manchester United and will contest the No 1 shirt with Wayne Hennessey (right). Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Transfer coup

It has been another smart summer in the transfer market for Forest. The Bundesliga has been a key target for the club where they know they can get value for money. They broke their transfer record to make Taiwo Awoniyi their first arrival of the summer for £17.5m from Union Berlin. The Nigeria international began his career with Liverpool but spent his time there out on loan before moving to Union last summer. He scored 15 goals to help his team to fifth in the table and European football but decided to give it up for a shot at the Premier League. He met Cooper and, despite interest from elsewhere, decided the project at the City Ground was the one for him.

World Cup impact

It should be a month off for most of the players. Dean Henderson will be hoping first-team football will get him into the England squad, while Neco Williams and Brennan Johnson are certainties to be part of the Wales setup, barring injuries. The other player likely to be in Qatar is Canada’s Richie Laryea but he is earmarked to spend the season out on loan.

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Alternative attractions during World Cup

There is no shortage of attractions in Nottingham. There are The Caves, which are, surprisingly, a massive network of caves, a good place to hide from the realities of the world if Forest are in the relegation zone come November.

Leading the shirt sales

Brennan Johnson is the local hero. After signing a new contract this summer his popularity has been boosted even further. Everyone likes an academy product doing well and Johnson certainly is that. His father, David, had a decent five-year spell with the club at the turn of the millennium and his legacy lives on 16 years after his departure. He faces a big step up, considering he was playing on loan at Lincoln in League One two years ago, but everything suggests he has the capabilities to be a Premier League player in the long term.

Social climber

Last season Djed Spence and Brice Samba were the main social players. The good news is that they are now in the Premier League when it comes to the TikToks, the Instas and the other things that keep the kids amused, because they have snapped up Jesse Lingard. A top-flight player with the following to match. He has more than a million fans on TikTok alone because he loves to dance.

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If Forest were a Netflix doc …

Nottingham Forest: Back in the big time. What could possibly go wrong at the City Ground? They have worked hard to return to the Premier League, it has only taken almost a quarter of a century and involved three seasons in the third tier. Fans would just be hoping it is not a depiction of someone losing hope over the space of nine months.

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