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Nottingham Forest's potential 2022-23 XI featuring Dean Henderson and seven other new signings

Nottingham Forest’s 23-year wait to return to the Premier League is over and the Reds will be targeting survival in their first season back in the big time.

The two-time European Cup winners are back in the promise land thanks to the sterling job Steve Cooper has done since taking over the reins from Chris Hughton in September.

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The City Ground side had picked up just one point from the first seven games of the season under Hughton before Cooper drastically turned around the fallen giants fortunes.

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After sealing promotion via the play-offs, Forest have got straight down to business in the summer transfer window, and are busy assembling a side that is capable of beating the drop.

With that in mind, TBR takes a look at Nottingham Forest’s potential 2022-23 XI.

Nottingham Forest’s potential 2022-23 XI

With Forest’s penalty shootout hero Brice Samba keen on a return to France amid interest from Lens, the River Trent side are expected to sign England international Dean Henderson on loan from Manchester United.

Henderson didn’t feature in the Premier League at all for the Red Devils last season, and with competition for places in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad intensifying, the 25-year-old knows he needs to be playing regular first team football to stand any chance of ousting the likes of Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale and Nick Pope.

The one-time England international thrived during his two seasons on loan at Sheffield United and Forest fans will be hoping that Henderson more than fills the void that Samba looks set to leave behind.

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Forest’s pursuit of Bundesliga star Moussa Niakhate is in danger of collapse after Mainz rejected a ‘ridiculous’ offer from the Premier League newcomers, according to Sky Germany.

But with plenty of time left in the summer transfer window, Forest could still land the talented former France Under-21 international, but they’ll have to get closer to the 05ers’ £13million valuation for the 26-year-old after their opening offer reportedly fell ‘far below’ the £9m mark.

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Another centre-back who is on Cooper’s radar, according to the Daily Mail, is Tottenham outcast Joe Rodon – who worked with Cooper at Swansea City.

The 24-year-old didn’t start one Premier League game for the north Londoners last season, and with Antonio Conte given the money he desires to improve his side this summer, Rodon is only likely to fall further down the pecking order if he stays with the Champions League qualifiers.

If Forest do land Niakhate and Rodon then the pair could form part of a three-man defence with Scott McKenna, who started 51 games last season across all competitions. But deploying that trio at the back would mean that Nottingham-born captain Joe Worrall would have to settle for a place on the bench.

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While Cooper and Forest fans would have loved to make Djed Spence’s loan move to the City Ground permanent, it looks like Tottenham are going to win the race to sign the £20m-rated England Under-21 international from Middlesbrough.

With Spence seemingly out of reach, Forest’s attentions have reportedly turned to Liverpool’s Neco Williams, who is also being chased by Fulham – a club he joined on loan during the second half of last season.

The Athletic report that the Welshman is Forest’s first choice to replace Spence and it looks like two promoted sides will go toe-to-toe to secure the youngster’s services.

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It would be quite the coup if Forest could pull it off, but the Mail reports that the City Ground side are interested in signing Argentina defender Nicolas Tagliafico from Eredivisie champions Ajax.

With Erik ten Hag no longer at the helm in Amsterdam, following his appointment of Manchester United manager, the South American may see the Dutchman’s departure as an opportunity to embark on a new chapter in England of his own.

The 29-year-old, who has won the Copa America, league titles and reached the Champions League semi-finals, would add quality and experience to the Forest dressing room.

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Ryan Yates will likely remain at the heart of Cooper’s midfield, but just like the influential Spence, Cooper will be tasked with replacing another loan star in James Garner.

The England Under-21 international’s importance to the Forest side grew as last season wore on and Cooper’s side will massively miss his wicked set piece deliveries.

According to The Mirror, Cooper has identified out of favour Arsenal man Ainsley Maitland-Niles as a potential summer transfer target.

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Like Garner, the England international, who spent the second half of the season on loan at Jose Mourinho’s Roma, was coached by Cooper after coming through the England youth age groups.

Maitland-Niles has the versatility to play at either full-back or in midfield and like Henderson, he could be a loan signing that Forest target.

Keeping with the theme of targeting familiar faces, Cooper is keen to reunite with Wolves’ Morgan Gibbs-White, according to the Mail.

The pair worked together when Cooper was in charge of England’s 2017 World Cup-winning Under-17 team, and at Swansea where Gibbs-White was on loan for the first half of the 2020-21 campaign.

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Gibbs-White will return to Molineux for pre-season after a successful loan spell with Sheffield United last term, when he claimed 13 goals and nine assists in 38 games.

It was only a few weeks ago that Gibbs-White missed the decisive penalty for the Blades which sent Forest through to the play-off final at Wembley.

Forest’s pursuit and chances of landing the attacking midfielder is likely going to hinge on where Gibbs-White falls in Bruno Lage’s plans, but the lure of regular first team football under Cooper could see the talented England Under-21 international push for a move to the City Ground.

According to the Athletic, Forest remain hopeful that a contract extension can be agreed with the influential Brennan Johnson with the Wales international having a year left on his current deal.

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The 21-year-old scored 19 goals last season and his scintillating form has caught the attention of some fellow Premier League sides.

Johnson looks set to be joined by Taiwo Awoniyi who has reportedly said goodbye to his Union Berlin team-mates on Wednesday as he prepares to become Nottingham Forest’s new record signing, according to BZ Berlin.

The former Liverpool man scored 20 goals in all competitions during 2021-22, 15 of which came in the Bundesliga. Only Erling Haaland, Christopher Nkunku, Anthony Modeste, Patrik Schick and Robert Lewandowski scored more.

The Telegraph report that the Nigerian striker is set to cost Forest £17.5m, but with the Athletic claiming a fee of £20miliion may be enough to land Gibbs-White this summer, the 24-year-old may only be Forest’s record buy for a short period.

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However, the former Anfield youngster completes Nottingham Forest’s potential 2022-23 XI.

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