CRAIG HOPE: Careless in possession and anaemic in attack, Nottingham Forest didn’t look like a Premier League outfit in defeat at Newcastle (despite spending £85m on 12 new players)
- Nottingham Forest were defeated 2-0 by Newcastle on Premier League return
- The Reds failed to trouble the Magpies’ back-line in clash at St. James’ Park
- Steve Cooper’s side have splurged £85million on transfers this summer window
- Forest must rely on nous of manager Cooper to avoid drop to the Championship
Nottingham Forest are perhaps not the best gauge for your prospects of seasonal success right now. Not since the pre-takeover version of Newcastle United has a team been so careless in possession and anaemic in attack at St James’ Park.
So, the reaction to the home side’s opening-day victory should almost certainly be tempered. It has not been, of course.
Supporters, understandably enthused at the outset of a campaign that promises much, were lauding their team’s performance long into the night on Saturday.
Steve Cooper’s side were beaten 2-0 by Newcastle in their Premier League return on Saturday
Summer signing Jesse Lingard looked like a player making his third start of the calendar year
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
NEWCASTLE (4-3-3): Pope 6.5; Trippier 5.5, Schar 7.5, BURN 8, Targett 6.5; Willock 6 (S Longstaff 81min), Guimaraes 7 (Botman 90), Joelinton 7; Almiron 6.5 (Fraser 81), Wilson 6.5 (Wood 89), Saint-Maximin 7 (Murphy 89)
Scorers: Schar 58, Wilson 78.
Manager: Eddie Howe 7
Nottingham Forest (4-3-1-2): Henderson 6; Worrall 5.5, Niakhate 6 (Mighten 83), McKenna 5; Williams 5, O’Brien 6.5 (Mangala 75, 5), Colback 6.5, Toffolo 6; Lingard 4.5; Johnson 5, Surridge 5 (Awoniyi 63, 5).
Booked: Worrall, Williams
Manager: Steve Cooper 5.
Referee: S Hooper 7.
The caveat is that you do not play Forest every week. It should also be noted that, for nearly an hour, Newcastle could not find a way to score, despite setting up camp in the visiting half. Even Eddie Howe admitted his side needed a goal as good as Fabian Schar’s 25-yard screamer to locate that breakthrough.
The 2-0 scoreline — Callum Wilson added a clever second late on — and the fact Newcastle dominated from first kick until last does not tell the full story.
There was enough wastefulness on the part of the hosts to suggest the impressive work Howe has undertaken could yet be undermined by a need for more quality in the final third. The club know as much, hence their recent pursuit of Leicester’s James Maddison.
The Magpies had 23 shots and converted only two. Those numbers alone should caution the early supporter elation, for that ratio needs to sharpen against better opposition which should comprise the majority of the division.
What is clear, though, is that, under Howe, they have a team performing close to their maximum when it comes to fitness, motivation and a desire to both press and impress. There will be no relegation scraps this time around. European qualification, with at least one more offensive addition, is achievable.
As for Forest, it may appear harsh to give them a kicking on their first outing back in the Premier League after 23 years. You cannot fault their commitment.
But trying your best is a minimum requirement in these surrounds. The concern should be their failure to record an effort on target and the fewest number of passes from Saturday’s matches.
Goals from Fabian Schar and Callum Wilson earned the Magpies victory on the opening day
The Reds don’t look like a Premier League side despitre splurged £85million on signings
…And bizarrely, no shirt sponsor!
Nottingham Forest kicked off their Premier League return with no goals, no shots on target and no shirt sponsor. The club have not yet found a deal that satisfies owner Evangelos Marinakis. Their deal with boiler company BOXT expired last season and Marinakis is said to be holding out for a package of around £10million.
The one corner kick they won involved a bizarre routine with zero Forest players in the penalty area. They arrived as the ball was being delivered, but by then goalkeeper Nick Pope had beaten them to it. The sight of the vacant penalty box was somewhat symptomatic of their overall display.
Jesse Lingard, their marquee summer arrival, looked like a player who was starting for only the third time this calendar year. He will get better, and he has to if Forest are to improve on this.
But for all of the money spent — £85m on 12 new players — their XI did not have the feel of a top-flight outfit. It said much that Jack Colback, who last played in the Premier League for Newcastle six years ago, was their best performer.
In Steve Cooper, Forest have a brilliant boss who has already proven himself capable of surpassing what would ordinarily be expected from the tools at his disposal. It is early days, but he is probably going to have to outdo last season’s efforts if his club are to avoid a swift return to the Championship.