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Awoniyi replacement found in Nottingham Forest’s dream starting XI after Jan

Nottingham Forest have endured a tricky spell in the Premier League with only one win in their last eight matches.

Given this wretched run of form, the Reds can consider themselves lucky to have an eight-point comfort blanket separating them from 18th-place Sheffield United.

With quality seriously lacking at the bottom of the table, particularly from all three promoted sides, Forest should survive comfortably and avoid falling victim to second-season syndrome.


However, Steve Cooper’s side will have aspirations of being more than just perennial top-flight survivors and will want to start making inroads towards the league’s top half.

That said, Forest could perform surgery on their squad by adding more quality additions in the transfer window and the rumours circulating suggest the club could be busy once more.

Here’s how a Nottingham Forest starting XI could look at the end of January…

GK – Odysseas Vlachodimos

Odysseas Vlachodimos-benfica-champions-league

Forest captured Vlachidomos from Portuguese giants Benfica and he’s recently stolen the number one jersey from Matt Turner, who started their first ten Premier League matches.

The Greek goliath has impressed across his first two starts, racking up an impressive six saves from shots inside the box and recording the highest average Sofascore rating in the Reds squad (7.35). If the 29-year-old continues this form, Turner will struggle to earn his spot back.

RB – Ola Aina


An athletic and versatile defender, Aina moved to the club this summer after departing Serie A side Torino. The former Chelsea academy graduate has endeared himself in fine fashion to the City Ground faithful, terrorising the opposition with his explosive pace and power while offering excellent output down the right flank. His venomous strike in the 2-0 victory over Aston Villa showcased his capabilities as an attacking wing-back.

CB – Murillo


Cooper dipped into the South American market in the summer to prise talented centre-back Murillo away from Brazilian giants Corinthians. He’s since established himself as a warrior at the heart of the Forest defence in recent weeks, winning 66% of his ground duels and recovering five balls per game. The 21-year-old has also showcased his ability with the ball at his feet, averaging 82% pass completion and completing 90% of his successful dribbles – 1.2 per game.

CB – Nino

According to recent reports, Forest are going back to Brazil this January to capture the highly-rated Fluminense centre-back Nino, who would be an excellent partner for Murillo. The report states that the 26-year-old could cost around £6m and that looks like a snip for someone who helped his side win the Copa Libertadores earlier this month and was also called up to the Brazil squad.

If that doesn’t underline his talents, the fact that the 6 foot 2 titan has recorded an accurate pass completion of 91% and recovered four balls per game in 2023 probably will.

LB – Zaidu Sanusi


Whilst Harry Toffolo is currently performing admirably in the left-back position, Cooper could find a long-term replacement by signing Zaidu Sanusi from Porto.

The Reds were reportedly preparing a bid for the title-winning 26-year-old in the summer, though, a move never materialised further than that. If the club were to reignite their interest in the Nigerian, they’d be acquiring a talented gem who ranked in the top 13% for non-penalty goals and the top 14% for interceptions per 90 in the Champions League last term.

CM – Orel Mangala


Mangala is a pressing machine who does a lot of work in Forest’s midfield that often goes unnoticed. In the Premier League this term, he ranks in the top 13% among his positional peers for interceptions per 90 while averaging an 88% pass completion per game.

This implies that he’s adept at closing down space to win possession back and supply his teammates with quality on the ball.

CM – Nicolas Dominguez


When Forest managed to prise Bologna captain Dominguez away from the Serie A in the summer, they knew they were getting an exceptional midfielder who would provide an abundance of quality in central areas.

Dubbed by Jamie Redknapp as the Reds’ “best player” in the draw against Brentford, the all-action Argentine has shown his class across his seven matches this term, placing within the top 5% across Europe’s top five leagues for tackles in the past year and recording an exceptional 4.6 balls recovered per game.

CM – Ibrahim Sangare


A £30m acquisition from PSV on deadline day, Sangare has slotted into the Forest midfield this term like a glove and instantly showcased his class as a destructive ball-winner and an incredible ball carrier.

Across eight starts in the Premier League, the Ivory Coast international, who was once likened to Michael Essien by African journalist Alpha Balde, has done that comparison justice by putting in physically domineering performances. He’s recorded the second-most tackles in the Reds squad (3.1), behind only Dominguez, and has driven his side forward with 50% completed dribbles per game.

RW – Morgan Gibbs-White


Forest’s master creator and the one who can unlock defences in the blink of an eye, Morgan Gibbs-White has predominantly played as a wide playmaker this term but likes to drift inside and dictate play centrally.

The Englishman is one of the first names on the team sheet for Cooper and that is mainly down to the quality he provides in possession. The former Wolverhampton Wanderers man has supplied the second most accurate long balls (2.2), the most key passes (1.8) and the second most big chances created (3) in the squad.

LW – Anthony Elanga


Once Callum Hudson-Odoi makes a return to action, competition for places is strong on the left flank, but it’ll take a lot to dislodge Anthony Elanga.

After arriving from Manchester United in the summer, the Englishman has instantly adapted to his new surroundings, tearing through defences with his electrifying pace and fleet-footed dribbling. He’s also supplied end product, too, scoring two and supplying three assists in 13 matches, including the winner against Chelsea in September.

ST – Marvin Ducksch

Forest were dealt a significant blow when news broke that top scorer Taiwo Awoniyi is set to spend the next few months on the sidelines through a groin injury. The towering Nigerian has scored four of their 14 goals in the top flight and he needs replacing.

As per recent reports coming out of Germany, the Reds have been linked with a move for striker Marvin Ducksch, who has plundered an impressive five goals and supplied four assists for Werder Bremen this season.

Goals have been a major issue so far and the German marksman – who has been dubbed “special” by Bremen’s head of first-team football Clemens Fritz – could resolve them.

Nottingham Forest’s dream XI in full: GK – Vlachodimos, RB – Aina, CB – Murillo, CB – Nino, LB – Sanusi; CM – Mangala, CM – Dominguez, CM – Sangare; RW – Gibbs-White, LW – Elanga, ST – Ducksch

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