Nuno Espirito Santo is back in the Premier League and is now being tasked with trying to rescue a struggling Nottingham Forest side’s miserable season.
Some Nottingham Forest fans were critical of the board’s decision to part ways with Steve Cooper. The Welshman had been manager since September 2021 and had successfully guided the club back to the Premier League for the first time this side of the turn of the millennium. He enjoyed relative success, having retained their place in the league in their first season back, and finished last season very strongly, including a win over league title contenders Arsenal. However, after an unsatisfactory first half of the season where they have only won three games, it is hardly surprising that owner Evangelos Marinakis opted to have him replaced.
Nuno boasts quite the CV, having also managed Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League
Enter Nuno Espirito Santo, who joined the club after recently being sacked by Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad, despite having won last season’s Saudi Professional League title in May and the Super Cup in January earlier this year. Nuno boasts quite the CV, having also managed Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League, and experiencing one-year stints with Porto and Valencia in Portugal and Spain’s top flights respectively. His trophy cabinet though, aside from his Championship win with Wolves, only contains his Saudi successes from this year.
Nuno himself will know how much more competitive the Premier League is than that of Saudi Arabia, but with his broad experience, he will know how to approach the remainder of this season better than most. The question remains though; will it be enough to save Forest?
Here are some reasons why it will not work:
Win percentage at Wolves was 37.7%, and at Tottenham it was 50% – though at the latter, he only lasted 10 league games before being fired.
Nuno’s track record in the Premier League leaves a lot to be desired. His win percentage at Wolves was 37.7%, and at Tottenham it was 50% – though at the latter, he only lasted 10 league games before being fired. Both Wolves and Tottenham would have expected slightly more success from their manager, both being clubs who generally aim for the top half of the table, with Spurs more recently challenging for a Champions League place.
His coaching approach is defensive, with a reliance on counter attacks to provide goals for his sides
His coaching approach is defensive, with a reliance on counter attacks to provide goals for his sides. When he was Wolves boss, he used five defenders, the full-backs of which would convert to wing-backs when in possession of the ball. This pragmatic ideology may not sit well with the fans, and history shows that it is not even proven to work. In his brief tenure at Spurs, they conceded 16 goals in just 10 league games, whereas at Wolves his side conceded 138 goals in just 114 games. For a defensively minded manager, these numbers do not make for good reading. Stopping teams from scoring will likely be his main objective though, as his new club have already leaked 30 goals this term. Espirito Santo will need to make good use of his players and quickly adapt them to his methods before they let in too many more.
Regarding players, concerns have been raised about the large depth of his squad, even by Nuno himself. He told BBC Sport, “I have never managed a squad of this size. That will be a challenge.” Nottingham Forest are buoyed down by players on their roster. Since their return to the Premier League, approximately 40 players have come in. They currently have the joint-largest league squad – along with Man United, 36 players – and this may cause problems for Nuno, who is well aware of this. Managers can struggle coming into teams where there is no decided starting XI, because there is an argument for more players to start regularly, which leads to either more discontent and low motivation amongst the squad, or an unsettled team which has not had the opportunity to gel together and play more fluid football.
Forest’s ownership has ambitious plans for the club, and there will be considerable pressure on Espirito Santo to deliver immediate results, especially as he only has just over half a season to turn things around. He has been employed on a contract until the summer of 2026, but his record of short-term incumbencies at previous clubs will also raise concerns about whether he can sustain success beyond this season. This is crucial for their long-term ‘goals.’
Marinakis is no stranger to firing when expectations are not met, as Espirito Santo becomes the 10th manager of his six-year ownership.
Both the board and fans alike will be anticipating big things, as with any new appointment, but Nuno had better hope his personal record is not replicated in his third attempt at managing a Premier League club. If so, he will soon enough find himself in familiar territory: at the mercy of the owner. Marinakis is no stranger to firing when expectations are not met, as Espirito Santo becomes the 10th manager of his six-year ownership. There are certainly huge demands on him, but as the festive period reaches its apex, he is the board’s Christmas gift to their loyal supporters. Will Nuno be the perfect Christmas present for the red side of Nottingham, or will it feel like a lump of coal from St. Nicholas for fans come the end of the season?
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