Nottingham Forest are putting together their best case for promotion since 2014.
As they move into the January transfer window, Sabri Lamouchi’s Reds have amassed 43 points from 25 games, with a game in hand on the sides above them.
The last time they were anywhere close at the same point was in January 2014 when Billy Davies’ side had 41 points. Last season they were seven points worse off after 25 games before Aitor Karanka departed in mid-January.
The former Auxerre and France midfielder has brought the feel-good factor back to the City Ground, which Forest fans can only hope will expand with the club’s iconic stadium itself, which will soon be redeveloped to seat 38,000 with a new, state-of-the-art Peter Taylor stand.
Lamouchi boasts a 50% win percentage from his time at Forest so far, and an impressive 48.99% throughout his managerial career. Their trip to Reading on January 11 will be the 48-year-old Frenchman’s 200th game in a managerial career that took in the Ivory Coast national team, El Jaish (Qatar, dissolved 2017) and Rennes before he arrived Trentside.
Forest will repeat their FA Cup 3rd Round from last season on January 5, as they travel to Chelsea for the second consecutive season. Two goals from Alvaro Morata sent the Blues through in 2019 but Lamouchi’s side come into this encounter buoyed by three straight wins over Hull City, Wigan and Blackburn.
Frank Lampard’s men, however, have picked up four points from their last three, with a loss at home to Southampton, an away victory at Arsenal and a point away at Brighton.
A goal from Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban’s brace secured the points for Forest on New Year’s Day as they overcame Blackburn Rovers 3-2. Lamouchi was impressed with the performance of his players:
“Of course the players were a little bit tired but they deserved this victory. Congratulations to them because they deserved this victory and for our fans to start the year with this victory is very positive.
“It’s a fantastic league but so tough for everybody. Mentally we need to be ready and my team, my players today; they won. They wanted the victory more than the opponent and I’m so happy for that because it’s positive for the rest of the season. Keep going.”
Much has been made of Forest’s search for a striker to challenge Lewis Grabban for his place up top, as Wolves loanee Rafa Mir has yet to find the net. Dwight Gayle’s name has been ever-present since it became clear Mir wouldn’t be providing the goals Forest need to mount a proper promotion push.
Gayle would apparently be likely to command wages outside Forest’s reach and a transfer fee as high as £15m. Brighton’s Glenn Murray and Southampton’s Che Adams have also been linked with a move to the City Ground, but a new name has recently emerged.
Adams joined Saints from Birmingham City in the summer of 2019, and current Blues striker Lukas Jutkiewicz is now being spoken about as a potential Forest acquisition this month. Interestingly, Southampton-born Jutkiewicz began his career in his local club’s youth setup before making many appearances Swindon Town, Coventry City, Middlesbrough and Burnley among others.
Grabban has, however, played 20 more games in his career than Jutkiewicz and scored 44 more goals than the man touted to challenge him for his place in the team.
“It’s a fantastic league but so tough for everybody. Mentally we need to be ready and my team… wanted the victory more than the opponent and I’m so happy for that because it’s positive for the rest of the season.”Sabri Lamouchi, Nottingham Forest manager
Lamouchi said after the win over Blackburn “Two or three players can make the difference and help the team to perform much better; to achieve our goals.”
Meanwhile, former Forest loan favourite Jack Colback has been ruled out of what might have been a popular return to the City Ground by a knee injury which will keep him out for around four months, running to the end of his reported £50,000 per week contract at Newcastle United.
Forest still have plenty of challenges to overcome in the second half of the season, with a reverse trip to 3rd-placed Brentford to end January.
They face the top two in Leeds and West Brom in February, fellow playoff-chasers Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday in March, Derby County away and Fulham at home in early April, and end their campaign with a home reverse against relegation strugglers Stoke City.