LEICESTER – Getting 22 new signings to gel is proving to be a mightily difficult task for Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper.
A 4-0 loss at previously winless Leicester dropped Forest into last place in the English Premier League on Monday, leaving Cooper at risk of becoming the latest top-flight manager to lose his job.
In front of the club’s Thai owner, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, who flew in for the match, Leicester earned some respite with a dominant display that ended a six-match losing run.
James Maddison scored two — one being a curling free kick in off the far post — while Harvey Barnes and substitute Patson Daka, with a deft flick from Maddison’s cross, added the others at a rocking King Power Stadium.
The pressure, for now, is off Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, who looked and sounded like someone who could no longer get the best out of his squad following a 6-2 loss at Tottenham before the international break.
“It was a season-changing game,” Rodgers said, “and to get the performance we did, hopefully we can push on.
“I felt we had a horrendous summer — that is the reality — and it continued into the season. We just didn’t play to the levels ... but we've been able to reset that.”
Now, Forest is the league’s crisis club and Cooper is the manager battling to survive.
“I completely understand the situation and the question and respect it, 100%," Cooper said, when asked if his future was in doubt. "But my concern is we have lost another game for this club, not my own situation, because I care more about the club more than my personal circumstances.
"I refuse to criticize the players as a group as it is a fresh challenge.”
After securing a return to the league after a 23-year absence, Forest has been one of Europe’s highest spenders — bringing in a record 22 players at a cost of more than $150 million.
Unsurprisingly, it is taking Cooper some time to discover his best lineup or formation. It remains to be seen how much longer he gets, with Forest replacing Leicester at the bottom and having conceded 16 goals in its last four games. Cooper's team has lost five in a row.
“Some of the guys have only met each other these last couple of weeks,” Cooper said. “That’s the realism of the situation and something we have to deal with. At the moment we are getting punished because of periods in games where we are not a team.”
Leicester scored three goals in a 10-minute span from the 25th to damage Forest’s fragile confidence. Maddison set the hosts on their way with a shot that deflected in off Scott McKenna.
Two minutes later, Barnes curled a shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area after Maddison set Jamie Vardy free with a long-range pass.
Maddison completed the flurry of goals with a free kick from 25 meters that kissed the post as it went in, bringing up his 50th strike for Leicester.
Cooper made three halftime changes — including the last of his summer signings, right back Serge Aurier — but things didn’t get any better.
Daka, on for Vardy, rounded off the scoring with a deft flick from Maddison’s driven cross from the right.
It was a stellar all-round display from Maddison, who was disappointed to be overlooked in the latest England squad despite having strong form for much of 2022.
"It's been a bit of a weird position — we have been bottom of the league but I have almost been as confident as I have ever been in myself. I don’t remember playing better than I have over the past 12 months.
“I've got to be of the mindset," he added, "that I've got to force my way in (to the England squad).”
The closest Forest came to scoring was a first-half effort from Taiwo Awoniyi that hit the post, as Leicester kept a first clean sheet of the season.
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