James Forrest – The transformation

 

Has there ever been a player that has divided opinion more than James Forrest? He’s been the hero yet the scapegoat, overrated yet underappreciated and having been around the first team the best part of seven years still nobody can make up their minds.

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Regardless if you think he’s good enough or not, the one thing that can’t be disputed is that he’s a player transformed.
This season Forrest has amassed 6 goals and 11 assists in 34 matches. In comparison, last year he was credited only 2 goals and 2 assists in 33 games. That’s a remarkable improvement.
In fact – this is by far his best season in a Celtic shirt;

16-17 (as of 13th February)
6 goals 11 assists 34 games – Goal/Assist every 0.5 games

15-16
2 goals 2 assists 33 games – Goal/Assist every 0.12 games

14-15
4 goals 4 assists 29 games – Goal/Assist every 0.28 games

13-14
7 goals 5 assists 27 games – Goal/Assist every 0.44 games

12-13
4 goals 8 assists 29 games – Goal/Assist every 0.41 games

11-12
9 goals 7 assits 43 games – Goal/Assist every 0.37 games

10-11
3 goals 1 assit 25 games – Goal/Assist every 0.16 games

09-10
1 goal 0 assits 2 games – Goal/Assist every 0.5 games

The stats in his first season are hard to validate as he only played 2 games. However, these stats show the difference is there for all to see. Remember, it’s only February!
Now for a few points that these stats wont tell you – I’d back James Forrest to beat any full back in the world. I don’t mean leave him for dead, but he’ll always give himself that half yard that let’s him put a cross in. Even when he was at his most frustrating he’d offer that much.
The difference is the quality of the cross. The Scottish cup match v Inverness is the perfect example.
2 of his 3 assists were dinked crosses put on the head of Dembele and Tierney respectively to score. The goals were almost identical and I doubt it’s a coincidence.
In previous years, he’d have scuffed they crosses out for a goal kick, or failed to beat the first defender. He was notorious for getting into a good position and failing to produce a final product. Adding that to his game is huge.
It’s also worth mentioning his work defensively. He tracks back and puts in the yards in the ugly side of the game. That’s probably why he was picked ahead of Patrick Roberts in the Champions League matches. The running side of football is always overlooked – it’s always what you do on the ball. For this, his willingness to work for the team should be applauded.
He’s recently stated that he’s had one on one tuition from the manager. Credit to Brendan Rodgers for giving Forrest the platform to improve and of course the man himself for indicating a willingness to take on this extra workload.
Maybe the hype that surrounded him as a youngster was too much. Maybe injuries hampered his progress. He won’t be a world beater but there’s no reason he can’t be a main stay in the Celtic squad for the rest of his career.

 

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