The 2019/20 campaign ended in heartbreak for Nottingham Forest, who inexplicably missed out on a Sky Bet Championship play-off place on Wednesday night.
Forest have occupied a place inside the top-six since the 1-0 victory over Wigan on the 29th of December, and since then, a top-six finish has looked incredibly likely for Sabri Lamouchi’s side.
Heading into the final game of their season, the Reds only needed a point to confirm their play-off place having gone winless in their previous five games, against a Stoke side who confirmed their safety last week.
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They could even lose and still finish in the top-six, with Swansea City needing to win at Reading and overturn a five-goal swing in the process. They did just that.
It was 3-1 at both the City Ground and the Madejski Stadium heading into the final minute, when Wayne Routledge fired in Swansea’s fourth goal of the night, seeing them leapfrog Forest right at the death.
Forest simply had to respond and simply had to attack, leaving space for Stoke to exploit. In the 95th minute, the Potters hit the Reds on the counter, leading to Nuno da Costa bundling the ball into his own net.
It finished 4-1 at the City Ground, with Forest conceding more than two goals in a league game for only the third time this season.
The players were lying on the floor broken, Lamouchi looked visibly devastated in his post-match interviews, and now, they will have to pick themselves up and dissect the sheer capitulation on Wednesday night.
Here, we take a look at three potential knock-on effects last night could have on Forest going forward…
Key player departures?
First and foremost, you have to question key player’s futures in wake of last night’s defeat, and ultimately, their failure to win promotion to the Premier League this term.
Matty Cash and Joe Worrall are two hungry, talented, young homegrown players who have come up leaps and bounds under Lamouchi, and have inevitably attracted plenty of interest over the course of the season.
Interest is likely to intensify in the pair this summer, particularly in Cash, who was previously linked with moves to the likes of AC Milan, Everton and West Ham, on the back of a standout individual campaign.
The club have tied Cash and Worrall down to long-term deals this season, so that will obviously have some effect on whether they stay or leave this summer.
But you have to say that the lure of Premier League football is a massive one, and Forest’s failure to gain promotion this season doesn’t do anything for their chances of keeping their star players this term.
It is clear that Lamouchi will look to overhaul his squad this summer.
They have a few ageing players such as Michael Dawson and Ben Watson who need replacing for the long run, whilst there are still a host of fringe players picking up a wage when it isn’t really justified.
The likes of Michael Hefele, Yohan Benalouane and Joao Carvalho aren’t part of Lamouchi’s plans, particularly the latter, who has featured for the best part of 20 minutes since the season’s resumption.
Carvalho cost Forest £13.2m last season, but the Portuguese playmaker has been unable to prove his worth, and as Lamouchi looks to reshape his squad this summer, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was to sell the midfielder in order to raise funds.
Forest have been the victims of conceding sloppy goals in injury time on far too many occasions this season, against the likes of Millwall, Sheffield Wednesday, Reading, Barnsley and Derby, to name just a few.
It could also be suggested, then, that there is a weak mentality amongst the players that has developed particularly in the second half of the season, which may prompt Lamouchi into making plenty of signings.
Lamouchi’s future up in the air?
A lot of fans, perhaps understandably, are furious with Lamouchi after last night’s performance, result and all that has come with it.
There is no doubting that the Frenchman has made a huge impact since arriving at the City Ground in the summer, and the way he has adapted to life managing in the Championship is admirable.
Having only just signed a new deal last month, though, Lamouchi is reportedly set for talks with the board in wake of last night’s defeat, as they prepare to dissect what exactly happened.
It remains to be seen whether Lamouchi is relieved of his duties or not, but you have to say that it is a possibility given the way his side capitulated and threw away their play-off place, in the dying embers of the final game in a rather long, funny season.