Nottingham Forest have reportedly agreed a fee with Bayern Munich over the transfer of former Reading defender, Omar Richards.
Omar Richards is close to completing a move to the City Ground after a fee was agreed between Bayern Munich and Nottingham Forest. The 24-year-old didn’t have the best first season in Germany, struggling to find any first-team opportunities. Richards made 12 league appearances for the Bundesliga champions last season, but was only on the pitch for 438 minutes. With his sample size being so small, on the surface, it looks like Richards was one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga last season – looking at his time at Reading provides a far better understanding of Richards as a player.
During his time at the Royals, Richards was deployed on the left of a back four and was tasked with doing a lot of the defensive duties. He did often get forward, but most of his impressive work came from sitting deep, winning back possession, and carrying the ball downfield
In his final season at the Madejski Stadiums, he had the best season of his career, which rightfully earned him a move to Bayern Munich. The English-man was defensively strong, averaging 2.8 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per 90, the best return of his career. As we saw last season, in Steve Cooper’s system, one wing-back would often sit back whilst the other joined the attack, which would suit Richards perfectly.
Not only is Richards good at winning back possession, but he also likes to advance the ball down the pitch and move his team forward. In his final season at Reading, he averaged 1.1 dribbles per 90, which isn’t the best return but does show his ability to move with the ball. Although not his strong point, Richards’ attributes suggest he could adjust well to a more attacking role as a left wing-back – and you could imagine he would be given some attacking responsibility in the Garibaldi.
He isn’t the most attack minded defender, but other than that he boasts a well rounded game, having the ability to; win back possession, move downfield, hold-up the ball and find a teammate with his range of passing – meaning he could be the perfect option to sit deep allowing the other wing-back – likely Neco Williams – to join the attack.
With a reported fee of around €10m, Richards is more expensive than Steve Cooper’s other wing-back targets, but his price tag suggests he’s likely to come in as the starter. Harry Toffolo is another name being bandied around. Toffolo would offer a far better attacking presence, and should only command a fee of around £2.5m from Huddersfield Town. Should the 26-year-old also be signed, the pair will probably be rotated between depending on the situation. Richards however is likely to be the more favoured option to nail down a starting spot.
With Bayern Munich willing to let Richards move on, and for a fee of only €10m, this would have been a great signing for most lower-table Premier League sides, or top Championship sides. He didn’t have the best of times in Germany, and with the quality Bayern have, you can understand why opportunities were few and far between for the Englishman.
Looking at his performances from Reading, Omar Richards seems like a very well rounded defender, who is excellent at winning the ball from deep and moving up the pitch. His attacking output could definitely be improved upon, and I imagine it will do as he adjusts to Steve Cooper’s system.
When you compare Richards to the other left wing-backs Forest have been linked with, he offers a far better defensive presence than the rest, which should suit Cooper’s style of play perfectly – with Richards sitting deeper giving the right wing-back more freedom to progress forward.
Now, I do think for a player of his quality €10m is a reasonable price tag – and is what he likely would have gone for if he didn’t leave Reading for free. However, I also think it poses somewhat of a risk investing in a player who has hardly played any football in the past 12-months. I still believe signing Richards is the right decision, but I don’t think he should be the only left wing-back Forest acquire this summer. Jack Colback and Richie Laryea can both play on that left-hand side, but it’s unlikely either will feature often this season. As mentioned before, at around £2.5m Harry Toffolo should be a must-sign for Nottingham Forest. The wing-back would provide excellent cover for Richards and a different style of play for a fraction of the price.
Overall, I think this is a good bit of business for Nottingham Forest, as Richards is a big upgrade on Max Lowe and Jack Colback – who were used as wing-backs last season. Looking at his time at Reading, Richards was one of the best left-backs in the Championship, and after his stint in Germany now has experience playing at a higher level. For me, however, Forest do need to continue their search for another left wing-back, either to compete for the starting position or act as a back-up for the incoming Omar Richards.
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