Preview: Forest vs Villa – Former European Giants Seek More Humble Returns

City Ground Nottingham Forest

Ok, perhaps ‘giants’ stretches it a bit, but three European Cups between both Forest and Villa brings a certain level of grand nostalgia into Monday evening’s tie…

Whilst both clubs have a proud history and heritage, the focus on the game will be rather less lofty, being the simpler objective of securing valuable Premier League points.

Forest arrive at Villa Park having risen to the top flight in inspiring fashion under the management of Steve Cooper. They were the template for many to avoid having dropped to The Championship, and one which Villa could have so easily emulated during our wilderness years under the stewardship of Dr Tony Xia.

Cooper, a thoughtful and straightforward manager, despite recent success, has since found his side faltering following a sizeable summer squad overhaul and facing higher-calibre opposition. Despite a vast financial outlay on new signings, Forest very much appear like a side lacking cohesion, which was evident as struggling Leicester hammered them 4-0 last time out.

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With that defeat seeing Forest slip to the foot of the table, speculation had been rife that Cooper could be unceremoniously shown the door. The opposite may in fact be closer to the truth, especially given that he has since signed a new contract, perhaps recognising how highly he is thought of as much after managing to steer the club back to the top-flight after a 23 year absence.

At Villa, the focus has turned from one of concern about defeats (Bournemouth, Palace, West Ham) to that of disquiet following a string of erratic displays. A battling draw at home to Man City inspired confidence, but a scrappy victory over Southampton was followed by a dour goalless draw to a ten-man Leeds side.

Whilst the club is working tirelessly off the pitch to develop the stadium and re-invent itself courtesy of a new crest, seasoned supporters aren’t so easily distracted by the struggles on it.

Steven Gerrard is struggling to forge an affinity with the fanbase, with a number of confusing post-match interviews, petty press altercations; compounded by a number of under-whelming performances from his Villa side.

It’s not panic stations by any stretch, but something feels decidedly amiss against a stated objective of ‘continuous improvement‘ being the minimum expected from the club’s hierarchy.


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Villa go into Monday nights game not only lacking a prominent style of play and identity, but with persistent injury problems that inhibit finding it. The latest absentee sidelined is another new arrival in the form of left-back Ludwig Augustinsson. He joins Carlos, Kamara and Digne in the physio room.

There are positives though, with Villa looking far more composed and solid defensively in recent outings. The importance and value of this shouldn’t be played down. It’s to be welcomed, especially given the uptick in form for the likes of Ezri Konsa, supported by the experienced Ashley Young who has featured as an able deputy when called upon.

The glaring area for improvement remains in front of goal and Villa’s mirage of an engine room. Watkins and Ings look bereft of goalscoring form, but could fairly point to a drought of flair and craft from an expensively assembled midfield. There has been little to get excited about from Coutinho, Bailey and company. John McGinn’s club form also remains a puzzle.

Villa need now to find some verve, kickstart the season and deliver a result from which this campaign can hopefully kick on from. Ahead of the less than straightforward visit of Chelsea to Villa Park, we really do need to put 3 points on the board.

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