Nottingham Forest’s dreadful defensive record nearly cost them their Championship status in 2016/17. Under Philippe Montanier and Mark Warburton, Forest conceded 72 goals, a record only beaten by rock-bottom Rotherham United, and they were forced to wait until a nail-biting final day to secure their survival.
And with Warburton’s side still shipping goals in the first half of last season, too, it is obvious why they decided to replace him with Aitor Karanka at the start of the year.
Karanka, after all, is renowned for his pragmatism and defensive organisation; two attributes that helped guide Middlesbrough to the Premier League two years ago.
And, with the Spaniard now aiming to put his spin on the team in the summer transfer window, is he starting to turn Forest’s biggest Achilles heel into a genuine strength?
Nottingham Forest were far from faultless at the back in the first few months of Karanka’s reign but produced a number of uncharacteristically solid displays. Forest kept seven clean sheets between January and May.
And after sealing the £2 million permanent signing of Sporting Lisbon defender Tobias Figueiredo, who made a massive impact after arriving on loan in the new year, Forest are closing in on the signing of veteran Michael Dawson on a free transfer.
The 34-year-old’s best days may be behind him but Dawson, whose Hull contract is due to expire, would represent an immediate upgrade on Danny Fox and Michael Mancienne.
A partnership of Figueiredo and Dawson would give Forest a far more sturdy platform and help the team transform into an effective Karanka side.
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