In the wake of their Championship final-day capitulation last season, Nottingham Forest fans demanded two things from the club’s recruitment department and Sabri Lamouchi in the summer.
One of those demands was for the club to bring in proven Championship quality, having seen the likes of Nuno da Costa and Adama Diakhaby flatter to deceive following their arrivals in January. The other was for the club to bring in genuine competition for Lewis Grabban, who had just become the first player to score 20 goals in a single league campaign since 2002/03.
The signing of Lyle Taylor ticked both of those boxes.
Taylor arrived at the City Ground on a free transfer following his departure from Charlton Athletic. The Montserrat international had refused to play any part in the Addicks’ final games after lockdown due to injury concerns, perhaps overshadowing the impact he actually had during his time at the club.
Taylor – who netted 24 goals the previous year to spearhead their promotion push from League One – scored 11 goals in 22 league outings last season, as he tried his best to ease Charlton’s relegation fears.
He would arrive on Trentside to provide real competition for Grabban. Any injury to last season’s top goalscorer could have heavily impacted the Reds’ promotion chances under Lamouchi, with the club keen to avoid any risk of that.
Nearly a year on, and Taylor heads into the final months of the campaign likely to be a frustrated man. On the face of it, he is Forest’s leading goalscorer with five goals, but there is far more to the story. The 30-year-old has made 33 Championship appearances this season, but only 13 of those have been starts.
It was always going to be a battle for Taylor to force his way into the side ahead of Grabban, of course. In only his second start for the club, he scored the equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Derby County in October, and was then seen as Forest’s first-choice striker when Grabban was sidelined for two months due to a hip injury.
Three goals in the next four games followed for Taylor heading into the international break, before Forest embarked on a run of six defeats from seven as they came up against Norwich, Brentford, Norwich, Watford, Reading and Bournemouth all in quick succession.
Fast forward to present day and Grabban is back fit and available for Forest, with Glenn Murray – a January arrival from Brighton – keeping him on his toes. Taylor, meanwhile, has had to make do with a few substitute cameos, and has accrued 23 minutes of football over the last four games.
So where has it all gone wrong for Taylor? Is there more he could have done whilst in the team?
As our graphic shows above, Taylor has amassed 1,888 minutes of football across all competitions this season. He’s made 33 appearances in the Championship, two appearances in the FA Cup, and one appearance in the Carabao Cup.
As alluded to before, he is Forest’s leading goalscorer with five goals. Straight away, without even having to look at a league table, that suggests where the Reds’ problems currently lie. Four of those goals have been scored in the Championship, with Taylor also adding an FA Cup goal to his tally against Cardiff City in January.
We can also see that Taylor has been underperforming when it comes to finding the net. His expected goal tally is just over seven, but in a side which rarely creates chances, it’s hard to pin all the blame on him. In fact, Forest sit 18th in the expected goals table (41.21 xG), and sit joint-bottom with Birmingham City when it comes to xG per shot (0.105).
Taylor excelled in a formation which saw him start alongside a strike partner at Charlton, but one very notable difference this season is that he has had to do it on his own in Chris Hughton’s preferred 4-2-3-1 setup. The Reds’ philosophy is to get players wide, have full-backs overlap, and get crosses into the box. A predatory striker like Taylor does tend to thrive off this.
The striker has had 59 touches inside the area this season, scoring a close-range header against Wycombe Wanderers, and side-footing Gaetan Bong’s cross into the top corner in the FA Cup victory over Cardiff, but how often Taylor is presented with those opportunities is another issue entirely.
The striker has had 37 shots this season, which averages at just over one per game, with 43% of those hitting the target, therefore leaving scope for him to work the opposition goalkeeper a lot more. Off the ball, the onus is on him to work hard and give Forest a focal point going forward, especially as a substitute, when the games are often becoming a lot more stretched. Despite his physical presence and athletic prowess, he has been unable to use this to full effect, winning only 27.3% of his duels against defenders this term.
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What lies in store for Taylor remains to be seen. Murray is set to be out of contract at the end of the season, with a decision needing to be made on the 37-year-old’s future. But attacking reinforcements are being spoken about, with speculation linking the Reds with a move for Blackpool’s Jerry Yates – the scorer of 14 goals in League One this season.
It has been an underwhelming campaign for Forest and one that has sprung up many surprises given their initial expectations. Many would have expected Taylor in particular to compete with Grabban for the golden boot this season.
He may finish this season with that placed nicely on his mantelpiece, but that perhaps wouldn’t tell the whole story of his time at the City Ground.