Nottingham Forest have dipped back into the Bundesliga market, having had a £12.5m bid accepted for Stuttgart midfielder Orel Mangala. Here we will take a detailed look at the 24-year-old:
Having already signed; Taiwo Awoniyi, Moussa Nikahate, and Omar Richards from the Bundesliga, Nottingham Forest have once again entered the German transfer market, this time chasing Orel Mangala. The midfielder helped Stuttgart achieve promotion back to the Bundesliga during his first season in the club, before establishing himself as a key player following their return to the German top-flight.
Forest’s current Head of Analytics, George Syrianos was working in a similar role at VFB Stuttgart when Mangala arrived in 2019. Recruitment at the City Ground has taken a different direction in recent seasons, and the transfer of Orel Mangala seems to be another well-thought-out transfer from the Nottingham Forest board, who continue to impress with their transfer business this summer.
Orel Mangala role at Stuttgart
Facing their second season in the Bundesliga, a young Stuttgart team struggled – finishing 15th in the league, winning just seven of their 34 league matches. A lack of results meant manager Pellegrino Matarazzo was often changing formations and systems, usually switching between 3-4-3, 3-5-2, and 4-3-3 variations. This constant change in formation meant Mangala struggled for minutes in one consistent position, but when he did, the majority of his appearances either came from the left of a midfield three, or in an advanced central role behind the two forwards.
Playing in a midfield three, with someone as defensively strong as Waturu Endo alongside him, Mangala had the attacking freedom to operate higher up the pitch than the other midfielders. Mangala took advantage of this attacking role, getting up the pitch at any opportunity. He’s a player that likes to get himself into attacking situations and picks up possession higher up the pitch than the other Stuttgart midfielders.
Depending on where he received the ball on the pitch, Mangala would do one of two things; when receiving possession deeper, Mangala took his time and would either work the ball forward or wait until the right passing opportunity came around. As you’ll expect, further up the pitch, he often acted quicker, looking to play the ball the first time or take a touch and get a shot off. His passing ability, especially in the attacking third was incredibly accurate – he was able to play short passes into teammates on the ground, but also has the skill to loft the ball in behind for the forwards to get onto.
This attacking emphasis did cause the Belgian to neglect his defensive abilities. It’s not that he isn’t very good defensively, more just that he doesn’t have to focus any of his attention on it – with a lot more attacking responsibility given to him instead. He also struggles when it comes to physicality and ball retention, which could show why he wasn’t involved more on the defensive side.
How will he fit in at Nottingham Forest
With a similar attacking skill set to Lewis O’Brien, but with less defensive ability, Orel Mangala seems to be a solid backup to Nottingham Forest’s other summer recruit. Looking at Forest’s current options in midfield, and with more rumours emerging, it doesn’t look like Mangala will come in and be a recognised starter, but there is no doubt he improves the strength of depth going into the season.
Due to his particular ability to play as an attack-minded midfielder, Mangala seems to be another versatile option Steve Cooper can call upon off the bench – slotting in on the left side of midfield, or coming in as a number 10. With his role of playing higher up the pitch, he could be well suited to playing alongside Ryan Yates or Lewis O’Brien, allowing the other midfielder to be proactive and chase down possession, before playing to Mangala who can move downfield.
For me, I don’t see this signing being anything more than an injection of depth. Orel Mangala still looks like a fantastic midfielder, capable of playing in multiple positions, but he doesn’t appear to be better than Forest’s current crop of midfielders, or the other midfielders they pose an interest in.
I could be proved wrong and Mangala could come in as a starting midfielder. Given Ryan Yates’ injury, it’s likely this could be the case – but for now, I see Mangala making most of his appearances from off the bench. That’s not to say he won’t be a good addition, his attacking desire and ability on the ball could suit Forest’s midfield well, especially considering the lack of attacking options in Forest’s midfield cohort.
With each team now being allowed up to five substitutions, you’re only as good as your bench, with the strength of your back-ups having the potential to decide the outcome of any given fixture. From that perspective, Mangala looks to be a very solid addition – he might not be one of the nailed-on starters, but he provides a decent level of competition and improves the depth of this Forest squad.
I’ll leave my final judgement of Mangala until the signing is completed, and we’ve seen the Belgian in action, but until then he looks to be a great option off the bench – time will tell if he proves to be more.