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Analysing The Impact of Nuno Espírito Santo at Nottingham Forest

Nuno Espirito Santo shouts instructions from the sidelines

Since Nuno Espírito Santo’s appointment on December 20, 2023, Nottingham Forest have picked up ten points in eight Premier League games. As well as this, he has steered the Reds into the fifth round of the FA Cup, thanks to replay wins against Blackpool and Bristol City.

Statistically, Forest have significantly improved under the Portuguese manager, particularly in terms of the attacking numbers. A comparison with Nuno’s stats compared to Steve Cooper’s 17 Premier League games in charge this season helps to show the main changes between the two.

A Closer Look at the Management of Nuno Espírito Santo at Nottingham Forest

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Goals, Goals, Goals Under Nuno

The main change overseen by the new coach has been the increased goal threat. In the 17 matches that Cooper managed this term, Forest averaged exactly one goal per game, mirroring the 2022/23 season when they scored 38 goals across the campaign.

Under Nuno, the Reds have netted 15 times in eight league contests, averaging 1.9 strikes per game. This has included a 3-1 away win at Newcastle United, as well as a 2-1 victory against Manchester United at the City Ground.

Read More: Why do Nottingham Forest Keep Losing 3-2?

Scoring goals has been a problem for the East Midlands club since gaining promotion back in 2022. In fact, five of the nine wins achieved last term were by a 1-0 scoreline.

The transformation of the attacking output has been a major change under the new management and will be key to the Reds’ survival hopes.

A Consistent Formation

A key reason for the improved attacking numbers has been a couple of minor tactical tweaks. Nuno has reinstated Morgan Gibbs-White as a central number ten in a 4-2-3-1 formation. While this doesn’t sound revolutionary, Gibbs-White was largely deployed in a wide-right role under Cooper earlier this season, which coincided with a dip in form and a lack of consistency. The Englishman has been central to Forest’s creativity in recent weeks, returning to the form which saw him score five goals and register eight assists in the 2022/23 campaign.

Former “wonderkid” Callum Hudson-Odoi has been a consistent starter under Nuno and has rewarded his manager with his best spell since his Chelsea days. The left-winger has scored in each of his last three starts, as well as an assist for Chris Wood against Brentford.

He has also formed a relationship on the left-hand side with Nuno Tavares, who was unfancied by Cooper. Hudson-Odoi has struggled with injuries in the last few years, however, a run of injury-free matches in a consistent formation and style of play has seen the former England international flourish.

Finally, the resurgence of Wood, who scored six times in six games under Nuno before his hamstring injury, was key to Forest’s upturn in goalscoring under the new manager.

Taiwo Awoniyi has returned to the starting lineup, scoring his sixth of the season against West Ham on February 17. Managing Awoniyi’s fitness and keeping him fit will be at the top of the manager’s priorities as he looks to get enough points to keep the team in the Premier League.

Similar Defensive Numbers

The Tricky Tree’s attacking upsurge under their new coach has been coupled with a leaky defence. They have conceded 1.8 goals per game, the same as Cooper in his 17 matches, with fragility from set-pieces still a nagging concern.

However, Forest picked up their first Premier League clean sheet since November 5, 2023, with the 2-0 win against West Ham.

The return of Brazilian defender Felipe helped to sure up the backline against the Irons, and the visit to Aston Villa on Saturday, February 24, will see African Cup of Nations (AFCON) finalists Ibrahim Sangaré, Willy Boly, and Ola Aina available again. Boly will be an invaluable option for Nuno to deal with the Reds’ set-piece struggles, and Sangaré’s height will also help the cause.

Injuries and The Threat of FFP 

The return of the AFCON players and the first clean sheet since November against West Ham will hopefully ease the defensive worries and propel the squad up the table. Gonzalo Montiel and Wood are the main absentees for the Tricky Trees currently with hamstring injuries, however, the squad that Nuno has available is the best since his arrival.

The looming threat of a points deduction after Forest’s FFP breach of the Premier League’s Profit & Sustainability Rules on January 15 is a potential thorn in the Reds’ season.

Read More: Aiming for “Net Zero”: Who Has Left Nottingham Forest in 2024?

Nuno will be looking to build on the improvements he has made so far and secure a points tally that would make any deduction less damaging to their survival hopes. The wait for the hearing date and verdict goes on, but his tactical tweaks and ability to deal with significant player unavailability in the midst of the off-pitch uncertainty have been nothing short of impressive.


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