Ben Osborn could start in midfield for Nottingham Forest against Preston North End on Saturday, with Martin O’Neill clearly a big fan of the 24-year-old. Osborn has operated at left-back when Jack Robinson was forced into playing a makeshift centre-back role, but the former should be utilised on the wing at Deepdale this weekend as he has many qualities that could help the Reds pick up all three points.
O’Neill has played Osborn in every league game since the turn of the year. Since Forest’s 4-2 win over Leeds United on January 1, Osborn has played every minute of every Championship outing that followed. The problem, however, is that he’s not getting enough opportunities in his preferred role – left-wing. Osborn is a hard-working player with good distribution, but he’s not as effective at left-back. O’Neill needs to make Osborn his James McClean.
The 24-year-old has contributed six goals in 18 Championship starts this season. He’s created 38 chances, whipped in 83 crosses with 31% accuracy, made 48 tackles and 20 interceptions. Osborn doesn’t beat his opponent in one-on-ones, but he helps with defensive duties in the midfield and frequently looks to get the ball into the box as much as possible – a striker’s dream.
O’Neill didn’t want to sell him in January has sought to get Osborn in the team in any position as he appreciates his qualities, so hopefully fans will see Englishman operating in his best role against Preston. If O’Neill is worried about his lack of dynamism, he can name Adlene Guedioura to be attacking in midfield and can look to Joe Lolley on the right-flank for inspiration.