Nottingham Forest will have to wait a while longer for the return of striker Karim Ansarifard.
The 28-year-old is currently on international duty with Iran at the AFC Asian Cup. Ansarifard will be hoping he can feature in their semi-final clash against Japan on Monday.
If Iran are able to progress through to the final on 1 February, then the striker will remain unavailable to Martin O’Neill until the Reds face Brentford at home the week after at the earliest. O’Neill may even opt to give the striker a bit more time to recover from his international exploits.
In the meantime, Ansarifard will be fully focussed on helping Iran end their 43-year run without success in the competition. He has played a key role in their progression so far.
He got off the mark in the tournament last night with a cool finish against China. Having been played through by Mehdi Taremi, he cooly slotted past the keeper in stoppage time to secure the win.
Perhaps, if he is proving a success on the international stage, he can come back and make an impact at Forest in the second half of the season? The Reds certainly need attacking reinforcements.
Little to judge
It’s fair to say that supporters still haven’t seen what the striker has to offer. Since joining the club on 3 November, he has played just 41 minutes of football for the Reds. It begs the question on whether he was actually Aitor Karanka’s signing?
He has failed to make a notable impact in any of his five appearances so far. However, four of them involved him being on the pitch less than five minutes. He could’ve opened his account against Ipswich Town but squandered a huge opportunity late on as he scuffed his effort wide.
There’s no doubt that it would be wrong to write his time at the City Ground off just yet. His previous goalscoring record at Olympiacos and on the international stage with Iran is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.
With Hillel Soudani on the Reds’ ever-growing list of long-term absentees, Ansarifard’s return could be pivotal. As it stands, Daryl Murphy and Lewis Grabban are the only recognised forwards available to O’Neill.
There are many reasons why this is a cause for concern.
At 35-years-old, Murphy’s recent comments about managing his workload suggest that he won’t be able to play every game. However, if O’Neill persists with a 4-4-2 formation then, at the moment, he is going to have to.
Of course, there is just under a week left of the transfer window to go. It does seem unlikely that O’Neill will be able to find a quality striker at this level who is available between now and then.
If the Reds do fail to land another forward option, then surely Ansarifard will be given the opportunities to make a proper impact at the City Ground on his return.