Jesse Lingard stated that he was keeping his cards ‘close to his chest’ regarding personal targets when signing for Nottingham Forest - but it already looks as though the ex-Manchester United star has gone bust.
The England man sealed a shock move to the City Ground in the summer having left Old Trafford at the end of his contract and according to Lingard himself, “big things” were expected. That has so far not transpired with the 29-year-old enduring a miserable first few months as a Red.
He has not contributed a goal or an assist this season - a complete contrast to the sensational form he managed to find with West Ham United. His stuttering form slumped to new lows on Monday evening as Forest were humbled 4-0 by near neighbours Leicester City at the King Power Stadium - their fifth consecutive defeat in the Premier League.
It would not be out of the realm of possibility to suggest that the debacle across the East Midlands was among Lingard’s most disappointing performances as he failed to complete a cross, a key pass and his only shot ended up going off-target. Considering he was up against a Leicester side that has been among the most defensively vulnerable in the history of the Premier League, it really was a miserable showing.
In fact, Lingard even directly contributed to Forest’s mauling as his lazy clearance fell to James Maddison, who took full advantage to score the opening goal of the game.
Even Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith noted Lingard’s troubles throughout the clash. Speaking during commentary, Smith said: “He showed a few nice touches a few moments ago in the second half. Ultimately though, it’s been a struggle for him to have any impact on the game tonight.”
Lingard’s evening was rounded off with a booking before he was hauled off in the 68th minute for Orel Mangala. Considering the huge outlay that Forest put into bringing the winger to the City Ground, there might well be some regret over the lucrative contract offered to him.
That is not to say that many aren’t aware of Lingard’s quality. The United academy graduate regularly displayed his talent at Old Trafford, for England and of course during his supremely productive loan spell with West Ham.
Forest boss Steve Cooper is among those having explained why his summer signing might not have hit the heights expected of him before the Reds were mauled across the East Midlands. He said: “Jesse and I get on great. I’ve reminded him that he only came in shortly before the start of the season.
"He’s actually done a lot, from missing pre-season to where he is now in terms of physical status. We don’t want to see Jesse not starting games; that’s not why he’s here.
"He doesn’t want to either – every player will say that. We’re both ready for him to step up in terms of his contributions to games.
“He hasn’t been poor. Don’t get me wrong, he hasn’t been bad and a lot of the time he’s been good but we know he’s a really talented guy. We’re seeing that in training.”
There might not actually be enough time left for Cooper to really see the best of Lingard in a Forest shirt though. Reports have suggested that club owner Evangelos Marinakis is considering a managerial change - ex-Liverpool and Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez is reportedly in line to take the reins.
Of course, it remains to be seen how a reshuffle would change the outlook at the City Ground but one thing is for sure; Lingard now needs to play his cards perfectly for the rest of the season if he hopes not to be condemned as an expensive flop who is all out of chances.