As the season draws to a close for Nottingham Forest, it’s inevitable that there will be wholesale changes to the current squad of players.
But where will Ben Osborn fit in to the NFFC jigsaw come next August?
The 23-year-old has been filling in at left back in recent months and in all fairness, has done OK in such unfamiliar territory. I use my diction carefully when I say OK, as opposed to well, not to entice those who construe it in that very manner.
Given the fact that Aitor Karanka has signed a plethora of midfielders, I’m intrigued to see where Osborn will feature come the new season. He’s a player who divides opinion among the Forest faithful and you can see exactly why when you take a cross section of his performances in a red shirt.
I paid particular interest to the man in question during the last two matches, against Cardiff and Barnsley respectively. It’s fair to say that the youngster had somewhat of a torrid time in South Wales, both aerially and on the deck.
Much was said about the average height of the Forest back four by Don Goodman in the commentary box, and Neil Warnock’s men were indeed comparative giants.
When all’s said and done, Osborn isn’t a defender so I concentrated more on his distribution and offensive play. His energy and endeavour cannot be questioned but it’s the misplaced passes and decision making in the final third that perturb me somewhat.
Two vital moments in the Cardiff game absolutely epitomise Ben Osborn for me. First was his excellent run and sublime cross for Liam Bridcutt’s equaliser. The second was the inexplicable indecision he showed when he was one-on-one with the keeper in the 81st minute. An attacking midfielder in that situation should have pulled the trigger and most likely rescued a point for his team. Those two instances are all the proof you need to see why people are so varied in their appraisals of the lad.
When Karanka recruits an orthodox left back, Osborn will be able to return to more offensive duties, but the million dollar question is, where will he fit in now that the attacking midfield has been enhanced?
Both Matty Cash and Joe Lolley have made the wings their own for now, and the centre piece of the midfield three must be able to consistently chip in with assists and goals. Personally, I can’t see Osborn warranting any of those spots, but could he possibly fill the void that looks likely to be left by Jack Colback?
It might be the only plausible solution for the versatile youngster, to play alongside Ben Watson as half of the holding midfield duo. Another suitable role for Osborn would be as a wing back, but it’s highly unlikely that Aitor Karanka will adopt 3-5-2 any time soon.
Osborn started on the bench against a woeful Barnsley outfit on Tuesday night, as the Spaniard Juan Rafael Fuentes made his City Ground debut. Fuentes suffered a horrific injury on the stroke of half-time, meaning that Osborn replaced him for the whole of the second period. And once again, I was able to cast my eye over his every move as the Reds strolled to an unexpected 3-0 victory.
Defensively, he was far better than he’d been at Cardiff but his few forays forward confirmed my doubt in his attacking prowess. In stark contrast, Substitute Joe Lolley and the in form Matty Cash were extremely productive on the flanks, especially Cash who earned his man of the match award, mainly thanks to his devastating first half display. The aforementioned wingers epitomise their position with those two magic words: end product!
Ben Osborn will definitely be at the club next season and for the foreseeable future come to think of it, but in what capacity, as a defensive midfielder or an impact sub? After all, he’s already been picked by no less than six different NFFC managers since his debut back in 2014.
I’m sure that this piece will reignite the Marmite man debate once more, and as a footnote I will say the following about Ben Osborn. Although I don’t feel he has the consistent attacking prowess that is required by a top six side, his application is unquestionable.