20 July 2024

Nottingham Forest hero Brice Samba was a key figure just a few days ago as Ligue 1 Lens put themselves back into the British consciousness following their impressive Champions League qualification.

Indeed, Samba’s new side beat Premier League high-flyers Arsenal., as he made six integral saves in the 2-1 win. His performance was one of great intrigue and continued to cement how much of a brilliant acquisition he’s been since leaving the City Ground for just £4.3m.

When did Nottingham Forest sign Samba?

Brice Samba signed for Forest in 2019. Joining for an undisclosed fee on a four-year-deal, the Congolese-born stopper came from Caen initially as a backup for Manchester City loan keeper Arijanet Muric. However, with steady performances when given the chance, and Muric displaying a series of costly mistakes – Samba became the first choice between the sticks.

The season prior, he had proven his worth at Caen as they fought for Ligue 1 survival: he made more saves (142) than any other ‘keeper and helped limit them to conceding just 54 goals over the course of the campaign. This was a total fewer than the surrounding teams.

How did Samba play at Nottingham Forest?

Samba enjoyed a solid three Championship seasons as an assault on the Premier League slowly came to fruition. In his first season, he took little time to get acquainted with the City Ground faithful – as top form led to receiving the Championship POTM award for November 2019. Later that term, he even found a place in the PFA Championship Team of the Year.

Brice-Samba-EFL-1

The pinnacle of Samba’s Forest career arrived when he was a key part of Steve Cooper’s team that gained playoff promotion – and his impact in the semi-finals live long in fans’ memories. Against Sheffield United, 6 foot 2 Brice saved three spot kicks before playing the majority of the final against Huddersfield until he withdrew with a groin injury.

He’d given everything for the club and it was ultimately his last Forest outing. He turned down a new contract to go to Ligue 1 with Lens for a mere £4.3m. His decision was based on the raw desire of the French club despite labelling the Premier League being “a dream”.

Back in his first season, then-teammate Matty Cash – seemingly anticipated Samba’s growth and impact.

“His distribution is just ridiculous. His shot-stopping is brilliant — he is a fantastic goalkeeper and a big, big signing. He is a legend, he is a proper funny guy. He is professional, he does everything right on and off the field. He is a great asset to the club.”

How good is Brice Samba now?

Well, to bookend this article, it’s clear that Samba has grown exponentially from Championship-grade to Champions League-grade. He also popped onto the international radar, as back in March 2022 he received his first call up for the French national team.

2021/22s complete progress saw Lens jumping at the signature of the would-be-promoted keeper, and he took to Ligue 1 again similarly to how he had adapted to second-tier life in England.

Brice-Samba-Lens-UCL

In the first half of the campaign, he had nine clean sheets in just 19 games. Pushing this total to 15 in 38 games at the end of the season, he was included in the Ligue 1 TOTS as the best goalkeeper.

Samba had helped the dynamic Lens to only their third-ever Champions League participation as they finished third. His form has continued as according to FBref and FootballTransfers, the now-£22m-rated man provides outstanding numbers.

Compared to similar-level keepers, Samba sits in the top percentiles for multiple attributes. Goals against (his 0.95 per 90) reflect a top 9%. 78.1% save percentage puts him in the top 8%, and 7.8% of crosses stopped see him in the top 16% percentile. Quite the numbers; you may well suggest that Forest rue letting him so cheaply.

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