Steven Gerrard understands why Steve Cooper has struggled to get Nottingham Forest firing this season after investing so heavily in the transfer market.
Forest were promoted to the Premier League at the end of last season but entered the top flight with a threadbare squad.
Following the departures of a number of loan stars, Forest went on an unprecedented spending spree, rebuilding almost their entire playing staff.
The move has not so far paid off, with Forest bottom of the table, but Gerrard – whose Aston Villa visit the City Ground on Monday – recognises it was necessary.
“I wouldn’t want to be in that position,” Gerrard said. “To make 23 new signings in one window is unique. I’ve never seen it or heard it before. I know Villa had a window where they had a lot of loan players and you have to replace them. I understand that. And I’m sure Steve was in that position, because they had a lot of loan players. They recruited really well, a lot of good players.
“But from where I am, to think how you’d deal with that and manage that, it would be extremely tough and extremely challenging. I think he deserves the time for that to settle, for them to get used to the club and how Steve wants to play. That takes time. It takes time when you make two or three changes, let alone 23.”
Cooper appears set to get that time. Despite rumours around his future over the past week, Forest announced a contract extension for their coach on Friday.
“It is now important that our focus is solely on football,” the club said in a statement. “As a group, we are all concentrated and will do everything we can to help the team move up the league table and once again demonstrate our qualities that led us to the Premier League.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nottingham Forest – Jesse Lingard
Lingard is one of those new signings who is yet to deliver for Forest, and his awful clearance teed up James Maddison on Monday for the first of four Leicester City goals. He and his team-mates need to come up with a response.
Aston Villa – Ollie Watkins
Watkins has only one goal this season, and Villa are badly lacking a threat in attack while he is misfiring. He had six shots without scoring against 10-man Leeds United last time out and will continue to cost Villa unless he can find form.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This is the first league meeting between Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa since the 2018-19 Championship season, a 3-1 away win for Villa. The other game that season was a 5-5 draw at Villa Park.
– In the Premier League, Nottingham Forest won just one of their 10 games against Aston Villa between 1992 and 1999 (D4 L5). In their one win against the Villans in October 1994, the referee was Keith Cooper, father of current Forest manager Steve Cooper.
– Nottingham Forest have lost six of their eight Premier League matches this season (W1 D1), including their last five in a row while conceding 18 goals. Forest last lost six in a row in the league in October 2020 and last did so in the top flight in September 1992 under Brian Clough.
– After conceding in 11 consecutive Premier League matches between May and September, Aston Villa have kept clean sheets in their last two against Southampton and Leeds. The Villans last kept three in a row in February and March, with two of those three also coming against Southampton and Leeds.
– Nottingham Forest have faced the most shots (136) and most shots on target (56) in the Premier League this season. Since 2003-04, only two teams have faced more shots on target in their first eight games in a season in the division: Blackpool in 2010-11 (57) and Hull City in 2016-17 (59).