Steve Cooper faces a double challenge after Nottingham Forest’s summer of excess

After 23 years of absence from the top of the English football table, Nottingham Forest will not be able to point to the excuses of Norwich City or West Brom if their stay lasts only one season. Where the Canaries have opted for financial prudence, Forest have been extravagant in their spending. Where the Baggies have maintained confidence with many who have seen them promoted, the Reds have made sweeping changes to the squad.

It’s a bold (and partly necessary) move by members of the ownership and management groups, with the official tally currently standing at 21 departures (including youngsters, loans and out-of-contract players released) and a current net spend of around £70million, with more to come.

Already a dozen players have been added to the club this season, although the current ‘real’ tally is a little lower than that: Ryan Hammond is only with the U23s, while Brandon Aguilera is on loan again at Costa Rica , one for the future.

Still, it’s a heavy investment and a big turnover, with more chances to be on the way. Morgan Gibbs-White remains a target. Orel Mangala is the latest novelty. And Alex Moreno, a Real Betis left-sided player, is another possible addition – although Harry Toffolo and Omar Richards are new signings who should fill that winger role.

It can certainly be said that the improvements made to the team were necessary: ​​they were a team that gained promotion against all odds after a fantastic run last season that culminated in the play-off victory, but they only got than a 50% win rate. throughout the campaign against the 21st to 44th best teams in the country. In other words, it’s not hard to see why so many teams are struggling when they suddenly have to go up against the best and still have to rack up about one out of four wins.

But the additions, the expense and the vastly different squad of players present two new challenges for head coach Steve Cooper: first, having to form a new squad with the same fighting, tight-knit spirit that was in place this season. latest, and then integrating these latest new faces into the team in the right way to get results.

Neither is easy to deal with and the time frame to do so is short, as a host of managers and promoted teams have discovered previously.

The Forest window began in splendid style, it must be admitted. Taiwo Awoniyi is a terrific catch, a player who can lead the line and score consistently as he finally gets his chance in the Premier League. Neco Williams and Dean Henderson are known quantities, easily Premier League quality, while Moussa Niakhate is a fine addition who was in demand on the continent after captaining Mainz.

Individually, the players are not in question, it is collective integration that could prove problematic in the short term.

Fulham, who came this summer with Forest, are a good example.

They won the 2018 Championship play-off final, then under Slavisa Jokanovic, before embarking on a £100m-plus spending spree to bring in a dozen players over the summer, between loans and important additions. Aleksandar Mitrovic could have been a long-term success; the same cannot be said for club-record signing Jean-Michael Seri, who has just signed for Hull on a free transfer. And what about those who have since been forgotten from that scatter summer? André Schurrle, Luciano Vietto, Fabri, Maxime Le Marchand?

Adding proven quality that will help a club survive and then grow has always been harder than it looks.

Fulham overtook him by a huge margin that summer, even without questioning which players were a good fit for the manager and the style. Jokanovic had left in mid-November; his successor Claudio Ranieri followed him at the end of February. The Cottagers were down 10 points and never came close to making the overhaul work.

It is a warning for Forest, although their own recruitment this summer seems at least more suited to the system and style played last season.

The Forest manager is under pressure despite being promoted last season

(Getty Pictures)

There have been suggestions in some areas that the salaries on offer could also force some kind of split in the dressing room, although from a professional perspective that seems unlikely.

Even though Jesse Lingard’s salaries are on the higher end of the reported spectrum, the number of teammates who can put in goals in the FA and League Cup finals, plus a Europa League winners’ medal on the table, is few. Other than (new, obviously) back-up goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, there’s also no one in Lingard’s squad with more than 32 senior international caps at the moment. But it’s still a huge task to get those faces on board and immediately bring them into the team spirit of last season and get them all pulled in the same direction to at least avoid relegation, especially given the start of their dating list.

In the first five matches, Cooper and Co will face champions Man City, Champions League side Tottenham, Europa side West Ham and perhaps the world’s richest club Newcastle. It’s a daunting opener, Everton aside, and the manager needs to quickly gel the squad, at least tactically and mentally if possible.

Scattergun does no justice to the people the club have signed this summer, but the fact remains that there is more teamwork to be done than at any other club.

Just make sure new faces don’t call the club ‘Notts Forest’, and they’ll at least be on the right track.

About Matthew Berkey

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