As we come into the final straight of the Championship season, Nottingham Forest have several big decisions to make regarding player personnel.
The club’s recruitment has been mixed at best and now they find themselves having to decide the future of 12 first team players.
However, given the size of the Forest squad, this could potentially be a blessing as it gives a chance to have a reset of sorts ahead of a full Chris Hughton pre-season.
Here, we look at the 12 players and give our view on who should stay and who should go…
Luke Freeman – go
One of the most exciting deals of the summer was Freeman on a loan signing from Sheffield United, but it’s fair to say it hasn’t worked out.
Freeman has been plagued by injury in fairness to him, but a return of one goal and no assists in 20 games in all competitions is very poor.
This is a shame as Freeman’s record in the Championship is very good, but it just hasn’t happened for him at Forest.
While he has been playing a lot more recently, it’s just as likely this is due to a clause in his loan contract that he has to play x games than it is Hughton actually wanting to play him.
Supposedly there is an option in Freeman’s contract to buy him, but this just doesn’t make any sense – financial or otherwise – whatsoever and Forest should move on when his loan ends.
Michael Dawson – keep (as a coach)
One of the most popular players ever to graduate from the Forest academy, it sadly seems as if Dawson has played his last game in a red shirt.
The centre back is fifth in line as admitted by Hughton and hasn’t played this season due to a mixture of that and injury problems.
It therefore makes very little sense to offer Dawson an extension, but it would make sense to retain him as a coach.
Last season, Dawson was lending his experience to others and constantly barking orders when not playing, suggesting he may wish to stay in the sport in that capacity.
While he’s doing punditry now as well, it would make sense to keep him as a coach and fans will be hoping his affiliation with Forest isn’t over yet.
James Garner – keep
It’s potentially going to be an uphill battle, but Forest should be doing all they can to keep the 20-year-old in Nottingham next year.
The Manchester United midfielder has already established himself as a key player and is a crucial part of how Hughton’s side play.
In hindsight, Forest should’ve tried to capitalise on his indifferent loan spell at Watford with an option to buy, but whether this would have been accepted is another matter.
While it appears United wish to loan Garner to a Premier League side next year, it’s not a given they’ll find a taker.
As such, Forest need to be on hand to pounce as Garner’s importance to the team is growing with each passing game.
Glenn Murray – go
Murray has been a risk free, decent acquisition and should be on more than two goals, but we all knew this was a short term fix.
The 37-year-old has led the line well and is actually Forest’s most accurate shooter (10 games or more), but the Reds need to be looking forward.
Above anything else, it seems very likely that Murray could retire at the end of the season anyway and focus on his punditry.
It was a transfer that was worth a go and he does offer things Lewis Grabban and Lyle Taylor don’t, but Forest should be looking to the next few years rather than just next season.
Michael Hefele – go
This isn’t even a debate and is a further example of how poor the Forest recruitment has been at times.
Hefele hasn’t played for the club since January 1 2019, when he started against Leeds United in a 4-2 win, but is still there.
As such, Forest have essentially been burning money on Hefele, who has been in the infamous bomb squad for years.
Thankfully for all parties involved, his contract is up and he surely won’t be retained – allowing him to play football elsewhere and Forest to put that money elsewhere.
Samba Sow – go
It is with a heavy heart, but the time is now probably right for the popular midfield enforcer to depart the club.
One thing Hughton has done is that he’s found a way to get Forest to win games without Sow, which seemed borderline impossible at one point.
Sow’s impact on the team when he plays is huge, with Forest losing just nine of the 40 Championship games he has played in – winning 18.
However, that is the key phrasing – when he plays. Sow’s injury problems mean that as good as he is, you’re only likely to get 25 games from him.
At 31 as well – and much like Murray – it’s probably right for Forest to look to the future and wish a fond farewell to the Mali international.
Anthony Knockaert – keep (if possible)
A lot of this is dependent on the budget Forest get, but given his relationship with Hughton and his impact on the side, it would be foolish to not try and retain Knockaert.
The Fulham winger has been desperately unlucky at Forest, with just three goals and one assist to his name.
However, with 31 key passes in 29 games, it is scandalous that he just has the one assist, with his creativity really highlighting Forest’s profligacy.
With Fulham looking to flog as well, it makes a lot of sense to try and keep him – if the deal is right for Forest.
Yuri Ribeiro – keep
Much like Hefele, this is a very simple one – Ribeiro is Forest’s best left back and therefore should be kept on.
At 24 as well, Ribeiro is at an age where he can still develop into a much better player and trying to replace him will be more expensive than retaining him.
Hughton has recently been rotating Ribeiro, Gaetan Bong and Tyler Blackett in that left back role, but Ribeiro should still be first choice.
While Forest’s recruitment has been poor, it was spot on with Ribeiro and it makes little sense to let him leave on a free.
Abdoulaye Diallo – go
Some Forest fans weren’t fully convinced goalkeeper Diallo was a real person until he made the bench against Norwich City – his only first team sighting all season.
Diallo has had his injury issues, but it was telling that for that 2-0 loss to Norwich, Jordan Smith was starting as Brice Samba had a knock.
This would suggest that Diallo is third choice keeper at Forest, which doesn’t really do them a lot of favours.
One thing a few fans have asked for is a better back up goalkeeper to Samba to keep him on his toes, as the gulf in class between him and Smith is quite notable.
As such, if Diallo is seen as third choice, Forest are just burning wages.
Forest can extend his contract by a year in June, but unless Diallo is showing that he’s better than Smith in training, it makes little sense to do so.
Sammy Ameobi – go
Big one this, but for a number of reasons, it’s probably a good time to let Ameobi, the club’s joint second highest scorer, depart.
The first one is that with Alex Mighten and Brennan Johnson – who can operate on the wing – coming into their own, Ameobi is blocking their pathway into the first team.
The second one is that Ameobi just isn’t consistent enough – he’s either brilliant or infuriating with little middle ground.
The recent games are a prime example – Ameobi was excellent against Reading in a 1-1 draw, would’ve had a brilliant assist but for an own goal and nearly scored with a rasping effort.
The very next game against Norwich, he was a passenger for 90 minutes.
Ameobi has said himself that he needs to be more consistent to earn a contract, but he’s just not showing it.
If Forest sign Knockaert as well – who has been consistent in terms of creativity – it makes little sense to keep Ameobi.
As free transfers go, he has been a decent one – eight goals and nine assists in 75 games – but Forest probably need better.
Filip Krovinovic – keep
While Krovinovic may not have the figures to show his importance to the team – one goal, no assists – he is very much worth trying to retain.
Currently on loan from Benfica, Krovinovic has done a sterling job of linking up the midfield to the forward positions.
In addition, he gets stuck in and despite being quite slight, makes himself known in the midfield battle.
While his figures in the 10 role aren’t great and with the possibility of Joao Carvalho returning too, some may wonder why Forest should keep Krovinovic.
However, if the Reds cannot secure James Garner next season, Krovinovic could play in that position instead.
Hughton personally identified Krovinovic in January as well, so it can’t be a bad thing if Forest keep a player the manager trusts.
Cyrus Christie – keep (if wages are reasonable)
Much (and largely unfairly) maligned at the start of his Forest career, Christie has shown in recent months why he’s a very good Championship right back.
His delivery could be better at times, but both offensively and defensively, Christie – on loan from Fulham – has been very solid for Forest.
In fact, in the last game before the international break, Christie made two goal saving challenges as the Reds drew 1-1.
Taking everything into consideration, it makes a lot of sense to sign him – but only if his wages are reasonable.
With Jordan Gabriel set to return at the end of the season, it would be great for Forest to have those two pushing each other for a starting slot.
But, given Forest will have to be more intelligent with their spending this summer, they shouldn’t risk throwing a Premier League contract at Christie.
If they can sign him on the right terms though, then by all means as it would be a solid acquisition.
How many of these 12 players would you keep at Nottingham Forest?