Who the Forest is Sabri Lamouchi?
Background image: Awuachumele, CC BY-SA 4.0
At season's end, Nottingham Forest dispensed with Martin O’Neill. The Northern Irish manager was unable to build on Aitor Karanka’s fine work earlier in the season. The City Ground faithful were yet again subject to another finish outside the playoffs.
The Tricky Trees' hierarchical body spared supporters an agonising wait to discover who would take charge in 2019/20. Eighteen minutes after tying up the sack and leaving it at the back door to be picked up, the club introduced Sabri Lamouchi.
Who? The Frenchman of Tunisian descent isn't exactly a household name. Fans must be wondering whether he'll be another short-tem manager. The club has had ten bosses in the last 40 months. And people talk about Chelsea. The Forest board probably has a permanent account with all the trade papers.
Lamouchi could be a different story, though. Although he didn't go to France 98 or the subsequent Euros, he was on the fringes of the Les Bleus squad as a player during that period. He was the Alexandre Lacazette of his day, albeit as a midfielder.
Lamouchi held three managerial jobs before coming to England. He had little joy while in charge of the Ivery Coast, failing to escape the group stage in 2014 despite Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalou all present in that 'golden generation' squad.
Next, he took on his first club, El Jaish in Qatar. While in the Gulf, he consistently qualified for the AFC Champions League as well as winning the Qatar Cup in 2016. That success sent him back to France and Stade Rennais in November 2017.
Upon arriving, he uploaded the same golden video game cartridge he used in Qatar with similar success. He rescued them from relegation then wasted Lamouchi wasted no time changing the club's fortunes. Les Rouge est Noirs quickly qualified for the Europa League where they put a fright into Arsenal in this past season's Round of 16, winning the first leg 3-0 at Roahzon Park before capitulating at the Emirates.
Unfortunately, Lamouchi wasn't on hand for that memorable victory. He couldn't balance Europa League and Ligue 1 football, not without further backing from the Rennes board. For its part, the club didn't see why not. He was sacked just 13 months in the job with the club in 14th, not in relegation danger, nor eliminated from Europe.
The club surged after the defeat to Arsenal. Additional recovery time between matches allowed them to finish tenth and defeat Paris Saint-Germain in the Coupe de France, their triumph overshadowed by Neymar's notorious scuffle with supporters.
Nottingham Forest presents a new challenge for the French manager. He should be welcomed by some fellow French speakers. Adlene Guedioura and Yohan Benalouane can help him acclimatise to the East Midlands. The supporters should also do their bit to welcome him, as he looks like a real candidate to change the club around.
Even with his managerial still in its infancy, he’s shown a knack for signings. He brought M’Baye Niang, Hatem Ben Arfa and Clement Granier into Rennes. The trio was at the heart of Les Rennais' success. If he can show Nottingham the same eye for talent, Forest might go places.
If supporters are initially suspicious, you can't blame them. The choppy nature of management at the club would cause anyone to adopt a wait-and-see approach. Lamouchi can’t change the past but he can do something about the future.