After a torrid start to the season, Nottingham Forest have sacked Chris Hughton and replaced him with Steve Cooper. Will this bring the uptick of results Forests fans want or will it end in disaster?
Chris Hughton two weeks ago on 16/09/2021 was sacked after a winless start to the season. Hughton was replaced by former Swansea Head Coach Steve Cooper.
So, who is Steve Cooper and what does he bring to his new role?
Cooper’s appointment should bring a great deal of fanfare after the tremendous job he did at Swansea City. Cooper led a team in 19/20 that had lost two of its main attacking threats, in Ollie Mcburnie and Daniel James, into fourth place; qualifying for playoff places. Swansea’s present situation only emphasises how good a job he did with them
sitting at 17th at the time of writing.
Cooper comes to Forest with an impressive record of improving the defence of a struggling team
Previously at Swansea, he brought a well-organised defence with them only conceding 0.1 expected goals per shot which was the second-best in the Championship last year. Although Swansea attack was weak during his tenure, as mentioned before, a lot of the attacking stars of that side were sold without being replaced, leaving Cooper in a dilemma, thus prioritising defence when you do not have the quality in attack is a pragmatic choice. Over the two seasons that Cooper was there, Swansea got the most clean-sheets (35) in the division, justifying his choice to deploy a defensive system. Cooper comes to Forest with an impressive record of improving the defence of a struggling team.
Another thing Cooper offers is extensive experience with working with youth players, having previously worked in both Wrexham and Liverpool youth teams. His most impressive achievement with young players to date is winning under 17’s World Cup with England. This is especially pertinent at Nottingham Forest, with the reds making ten addition this summer, mainly being between 20-26. Meaning Cooper has a clear track record with developing players being a huge positive.
Another important note to make about Cooper is that he is and always has been a head coach rather than a manager like Hughton. This may seem like a minor detail however, in the modern era it is a massive distinction, seeing as it means Cooper is more likely to feel comfortable in Forest’s management structure. While Hughton has always been a manager, being used to having far more control over transfers than perhaps Forest would allow him. This was inevitably going to end sour.
During his first press conference he said: “I want them to dominate the game with the ball and I want it to be attacking and exciting”
Now you may wonder how he might line up at Forest and what style of football Cooper wants to play to get these results. During his first press conference he said: “I want them to dominate the game with the ball and I want it to be attacking and exciting. At the same time, I want us to press, to be on the front foot when we have not got the ball, to be obsessed with getting it back” (a clear departure from how he played at Swansea). However, this was born out of necessity felt most keenly by those reporting on him: “There is a belief among some of those who reported on his Swansea side that the football was not always a reflection of Cooper’s philosophy of how the game should be played but rather a reflection of a manager working with the tools at his disposal”. This clearly once again shows his flexible and pragmatic nature as manager which is a very admirable trait and bodes well in times of trouble or even if Nottingham Forest got to the land of honey and milk, The Premier League.
The signs of this early approach could be seen during the 1-1 draw to Millwall where they edge possession 56% to 44% and they arguably should have won with an early chance going begging after a poor finish. But in the lead up to that shot the attacking intent could be felt with an attacking formation 1-3-2: with the striker running in behind, attacking midfielder following to left and both wing-backs giving width.
All of this culminates to paint an overall picture of the perfect appointment. The early signs are very positive. Although doubtlessly there will be bumps along the road, with the right man at the helm who is willing to change approach, surely Nottingham Forest finally have the perfect man for the job.
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