Léo Bonatini made his Nottingham Forest debut at the weekend as he came on as a substitute in the defeat to Birmingham City.
The 24-year-old striker was introduced alongside Lewis Grabban with around half an hour to play. Together with João Carvalho’s introduction 12 minutes later, the Reds drastically improved going forward.
Martin O’Neill may be tempted to bring two or all three of them into the starting line-up this weekend. The Northern Irishman has received a lot of criticism for his team selections so far.
In this case, Baz Cooper of the Nottingham Post revealed that Grabban has been carrying a slight knock. If this is true, Bonatini might be O’Neill’s best forward option heading into a crucial period of fixtures.
O’Neill has started Daryl Murphy in all three of his games so far, albeit alongside Grabban against Bristol City. However, the 35-year-old striker has struggled to make an impact and has done little to prove he is worthy of keeping his place in the side.
Now that Bonatini has had time to settle, it may be the perfect time to give him his full debut against Brentford.
Bonatini shows glimpses of quality
Despite being introduced with just half an hour to go, Bonatini was able to show glimpses of his quality against the Blues.
In a game which the Reds struggled to create a clear cut chance, it was Bonatini who came closest. The Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee’s acrobatic effort late on deflected just inches wide.
Not only this, but his build-up play with the likes of Saidy Janko and Joe Lolley was also a promising sign. It’s quite unusual that a striker at this level has such intelligence and ability to pick out a pass.
There’s no doubt that the Reds drastically improved once Bonatini, Grabban and Carvalho were introduced. Murphy is often a good option in away games for his hold-up play, but doesn’t offer the same goal threat.
Considering that was Bonatini’s first appearance since 3rd November, it was an extremely encouraging performance. He is likely to be a couple of weeks away from being fully match fit. In the meantime, he’ll be looking to make as much of an impact as he possibly can.
If O’Neill ever reverts to playing two upfront, a combination of Grabban and Bonatini could work well. Bonatini’s link-up play could create more chances for the Reds’ top scorer which would be a huge bonus.
With a number of crucial fixtures on the horizon, Bonatini will certainly be given chances to show more than just a glimpse of his quality.