Here’s why signing Morgan Gibbs-White was Steve Cooper’s top priority

Francis Moore
By Francis Moore
9 Min Read
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It was never about Hassam Aouar, Said Benrahma or Ruslan Malinovskyi – it’s always been about Morgan Gibbs-White. And now, with less than two weeks until the end of the window, Steve Cooper has finally got his man.

Like a modern day Harry Redknapp and Nico Kranjcar, this will now be the third time Morgan Gibbs-White will play under Steve Cooper. The pair first met when Cooper was the coach of England’s U17’s when Gibbs-White was a promising 16-year-old. The duo then met again, this time across the border in Wales. The Welshman, who was Swansea manager at the time, brought in Gibbs-White on-loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers – but he only managed six appearances before having his loan cut short after fracturing his foot.

Now the pair have reunited again, this time on a permanent basis, as Morgan Gibbs-White joins Steve Cooper at Nottingham Forest as they return to the Premier League for the first time since 1999. Since their Wembley victory back in May, Gibbs-White has been top of Cooper’s long wish-list. 82-days and 16-signings later, the deal is done. Here’s why Nottingham Forest put so much effort into getting Gibbs-White in.

Understanding Morgan Gibbs-White’s style of play 

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Last season, Morgan Gibbs-White was one of the best players in the Championship. The midfielder was the standout player for Sheffield United, and was one of the key reasons why they made it to the Play-off semi-finals. Manager Paul Heckingbottom lines-up his Sheffield United side in a 3-4-1-2 formation, which suited Gibbs-White’s play perfectly, allowing him to play as one of the two strikers, or just behind them in the number 1o role.

He was Sheffield United’s main outlet in attack, picking up 13 goals and 10 assists, whilst creating a league-high 19 big chances. Watching his performances, Gibbs-White was crucial to Sheffield United’s build up, he possessed the technical ability to dance and flick his way past challenges and move downfield. His range of passing was also one of the best in the league, being able to quickly slip the ball into teammates or play the ball in behind into dangerous areas.

Morgan Gibbs-White seemed a cut above the rest of the Championship cohort during his time at Bramall Lane. Nottingham Forest fans probably saw the best of the midfielder, who was always involved in the action against the East Midlands side, showcasing his talent in front of his future manager. Whether he can adjust to the Premier League is another story, but so-far, Gibbs-White has proven he’s one of the best British prospects on the market.

Where does Morgan Gibbs-White fit in at Nottingham Forest?

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Like Steve Cooper, I think most Forest fans were desperate to see Morgan Gibbs-White play in the famous Garibaldi. The midfielder offers a special skillset which could see him become a crucial player for the Premier League newcomers.  He would occupy a similar position to his time at Sheffield United, playing behind two strikers in a 3-4-1-2, dropping deep to pick up possession but also being able to move the ball downfield and get into dangerous positions.

Last season, Philip Zinckernagel was one of Forest’s most important players, and Morgan Gibbs-White seems like a big upgrade on the departed Dane. He will be utilised in s similar style, often having to drop deep to regain possession before driving the ball forward, but he also shares similar tendencies in his desire to drift out-wide to support the attack – which could see him combine well with Brennan Johnson and Neco Williams.

More importantly he adds another layer to an already threatening and young Nottingham Forest attack. His eye for a pass should allow him to easily link up with the likes of Taiwo Awoniyi and Johnson as well as giving Cooper more creative options from off the bench.

Following the earlier arrival of Jesse Lingard, there are question marks over where Gibbs-White will play. His price-tag suggests he will instantly be slotted into a central attacking role as a number 10, which is currently occupied by Lingard. This is probably the most likely outcome but at the same time I don’t see a scenario where either start on the bench. Perhaps a change of formation could be in order, with Cooper playing with a front three or two number 10’s.

Is this good business?

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Right, let’s get one thing straight here, Morgan Gibbs-White wasn’t £45m. The deal was a transfer fee of £25m, with add-ons – which means for the deal to even nearly reach the £45m Morgan will have to put in some fantastic performances and Forest will have to be competing in the top 10, if either happens then the fee will be more than justified.

Once you understand the deal was only £25m then you can see how good of a move this is. It’s not cheap, but after his performances in the Championship last season, and the ceiling he has, he could soon prove to be a good value for money. Forest have made some savvy transfers this season, Lewis O’Brien and Toffolo for a combined £10m, Emmanuel Dennis for £12.5m and Jesse Lingard on £80,000 a week just to name a few. Gibbs-White arrived at the City Ground for a far higher fee, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good business. His performances from the Championship last season were some of the best from a player his age, and with his quality he should easily adjust to the high-level of the Premier League – which is why Wolves charged such a high price.

If he has a fantastic season in the Garibaldi he could cost Forest nearer to £45m, if he doesn’t then it will be closer to the guaranteed fee of £25m. Even if Gibbs-White was to underwhelm, due to his age – and the fact he’s English – he will still have a lot of suitors willing to fork out for his signature meaning Forest could recoup some of the £25m – but I think most are expecting the move to be far more successful.

On the whole, I think this is an excellent move for Forest, one well worth the wait. Morgan Gibbs-White was one of the best players in the Championship next season, and under a coach like Cooper who is known for getting the best out of young talents, he should improve. Looking at our performance against West Ham, it seems like a lot of new players have already settled on the banks of the Trent, if this is anything to go by then Gibbs-White could hit the ground running at his new club.

This was the transfer I wanted most in May and it still was in August. Regardless of the price-tag, Gibbs-White will be a hit in Nottingham – it’s time to get excited Forest fans.

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