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FEATURE | Brice Samba – the signing Nottingham Forest did not know they needed

Some Forest fans feel like they have too many goalkeepers already. Others feel that may be the case, but none have earned that starter shirt. In steps former Caen stopper Brice Samba who, at 25 years old, could be the solution they never knew they needed.

Despite Caen’s eventual relegation to Ligue 2, Samba was sensational and almost single-handedly kept them afloat in the 2018-19 season. In his first full campaign in Ligue 1, the Congolese shot-stopper made 142 total saves, more than any other goalkeeper in the division.

That helped a side that was all over the place in defence concede just 54 goals, less than five other top flight French clubs and only two more than the likes of Marseille and Rennes.

And towards the end of the season, he played like a man possessed.

In a 1-0 win at Monaco, he made six saves, including an incredible save-of-the-season contender from a point-blank Kamil Glik header. Not only were his reactions quick, he managed to get a strong palm out to push it in the other direction, away from danger.

It did not stop there as he went on to make eight saves in their 1-0 win over Nice. A tremendous penalty stop in the first half was followed up by double save in the second, denying the newest Newcastle recruit Allan Saint-Maximin.

That athleticism and strength is his biggest plus point. He can dive quickly, whether that is to reach the bottom corner or the top, while also having the speed to pick himself back up and set himself again for the next strike on goal.

His distribution is a little more of a question mark, especially having made two big mistakes on the opening day against Paris Saint-Germain, where he was not quick enough with his feet. That did improve as the season went on and he is strong at playing the ball long, but this remains an area that Sabri Lamouchi will look to improve in England.

He also tends to stay on his line for crosses, which will sound like a death sentence to many English fans. However, on multiple occasions, this has shown to be the right call as he defends his goalmouth well enough to deny most headers won by the opposition.

Samba is a good size at 6 ft 1, with a strong build that will help him transition better for claiming crosses and battling with a similarly physical league. With his age as well, it would not be hard to imagine him improving further and becoming a more well-rounded goalkeeper.

Against the modern trend, Samba also could not be described as a sweeper keeper. He is reluctant to meet players one-on-one, tending to prefer sticking to his line and trusting his abilities there which while it may seem strange, it has been incredibly effective for him.

The big occasion will not affect him either, having been an important part of Caen’s 0-0 draw against PSG in the 2017/18 campaign that kept them up on the final day. That kind of experience and belief could be invaluable for a Forest side that have had too many goalkeepers in the modern area panic under the spotlight.

Success is a difficult thing to gauge, especially in the Championship where everyone is chasing the brass ring, but building sensibly has been the key for many teams over the past few years. This looks much like something on those lines, Lamouchi using his contacts back in France and finding an affordable, strong replacement who still has some room to grow as a footballer across the pond.

Do Forest have too many goalkeepers? Yes. Does Brice Samba count as a permanent upgrade on what they have? Absolutely. Very rarely do so many things align at the same time like they did in this deal and should he continue to grow, Samba could be one of the club’s best signings in recent memory.

N.S.

 

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