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Talking Tactics

Gibbs-White can make the difference against Man Utd

Adrian Clarke 20 Dec 2022

Adrian Clarke explains why Nott'm Forest star has quickly become his side's main man

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 17.

Morgan Gibbs-White (NFO)

If Nottingham Forest are to extend their top-flight stay beyond a single campaign, summer signing Gibbs-White is sure to be one of their key players.

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The 22-year-old midfielder thrived in a No 10 role or as a "false nine" for Steve Coopers side during the autumn period.

Floating in the opposition half looking to receive passes, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers star has quickly become the attacking heartbeat of the team.

Gibbs-White has scored against Brentford and Crystal Palace, while providing assists versus AFC Bournemouth and Aston Villa.

He looks increasingly comfortable at Premier League level.

Gibbs-White's goal v Brentford

Manchester United will be aware of his threat when they host Forest at Old Trafford.

Head coach Cooper has consistently changed his starting XI, yet Gibbs-White has been a regular, making 12 starts.

Being asked to perform the chief creative role in a side which averages just 40 per cent possession is not easy.

Within a well-drilled defensive structure, Cooper needs somebody with imagination and quality to link his midfield to the attack.

Gibbs-White is that player, and despite enjoying limited opportunities, he has produced some strong numbers on the ball.

Forest's leading threats in attack 2022/23
Stat Gibbs-White Johnson Williams Lingard
Chances created 20 - 11 10
Shots 20 19 19 -
Succ. passes final 1/3 125 - - 83
Passes into box 88 22 74 -

Inside the final third, Gibbs-White is by some distance Forest’s most valuable player.

Popping up in space on the half-turn, he knits the majority of their moves together, sending plenty of balls into the box.

He also tops the squad rankings for shots and chances created, although seven of his 20 key passes have come from set-pieces.

Cooper could start with Taiwo Awoniyi as a target man against Man Utd or may opt for Gibbs-White as a "false nine".

His choice will provide a strong indication of the tactical plan he has in mind.

Time to shine

Away from the City Ground, he has been less influential though.

All four of Gibbs-White’s direct goal contributions for Forest have arrived in home matches, so he is due a big performance on the road.

In a fixture where Forest will likely adopt counter-attacking tactics, he must make the most of the limited touches he has inside advanced areas.

As he showed with a sublime individual goal against Brentford, Gibbs-White can conjure up game-changing moments.

If Forest are to stand a chance at United, he will be the man they turn to.

Also in this series

Part 1: Why Kulusevski is key to Spurs' top four ambitions
Part 3: Revitalised Salah offers Liverpool a dual threat
Part 4: Rodri can bring calm to chaos at Leeds

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