Rafa Benitez linked with Nottingham Forest as Steve Cooper tries to spot rare positives

Date published: Tuesday 4th October 2022 7:16 - Sarah Winterburn

Former Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez smiles

Rafa Benitez is being strongly linked with the Nottingham Forest job that is currently occupied by Steve Cooper but probably not for long.

Forest are rock-bottom of the Premier League after a 4-0 defeat to previous bottom-dwellers Leicester City on Monday night.

Cooper has been in charge for 12 months, taking Forest from the bottom reaches of the Championship to an unlikely promotion, but is expected to lose his job after struggling to get a tune out of a group of largely new recruits.

From what we saw on Monday night, there seems little hope of Cooper being allowed to attempt survival.

Benitez is already being linked, with some reports suggesting that the Spaniard has already been approached.

Other names mentioned are former Burnley manager Sean Dyche and former Wolves and Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

Cooper was asked on Monday night if his future is in doubt and he said: “I completely understand the situation and the question and respect it 100 per cent.

“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.

“We are on a run of results that are not good, I am not going to shy away from that.

“I’m not thinking about my personal situation apart from how I can be at my best every day, but the tougher it gets the more I work and the more it means to me.”

The meeting of the under-pressure Cooper and Brendan Rodgers was variously billed as the ‘P45 Derby’ or ‘El Sackico’, and defeat sees Forest swap places with Leicester to drop to the bottom of the table, a fifth straight loss their worst run in the league since 2004.

Cooper is still trying to get to grips with a squad that had 22 new arrivals this summer, but insisted progress was being made.

“It’s a poor run of results, the stat on chances and goals we’re conceding is not good and we’re trying to address it, but what I would say is you didn’t see the team give up,” he said. “I know it’s a group of players that care even though we’re new.

“Sometimes you can feel that and I’m not sensing that at the moment. We’re just trying to put loads of layers of our work in to become the team we want to be and we’re not that at the moment…

“We’ve got a lot of new players and it’s not just about being a team on the pitch. It’s about the relationships, the camaraderie and everything else you need to be a successful team. We are trying to become that on the job in the hardest league in the world.”

Leicester went at Forest from the very start, but the night might have been different had Taiwo Awoniyi capitalised on a counter-attack in the 22nd minute. Instead his shot came back off a post and three minutes later Leicester were ahead. Fourteen minutes later, it was 3-0.

“We should score, that was the chance of the game before they scored, and if somebody had said we’d have a chance like that to go 1-0 up and I’d have bitten their arm off,” Cooper said.

“We are not taking those moments in games and scoring when we should but also we are having phases in games where we are letting the result get away from us, we have done that again tonight with two goals in a couple of minutes and then a third.”

For Leicester this was a first victory of the campaign at the eighth attempt, with a first clean sheet thrown in.

“I said this could be a season-changing game for us if we get the result and the performance,” Rodgers said.

“It’s been too long for how we’ve been used to working here not to be winning. We’ve had a tough start with games on the back of a tough summer but tonight feels like the first game of the season. The performance level was there and now we’re going to push on and start climbing the league.”

Leicester kept their concentration to the end, with Danny Ward making good saves from Awoniyi and Morgan Gibbs-White in the second half to preserve the clean sheet.

“I think the international break gave us a chance to reset everything,” Rodgers added. “We knew we needed to have greater desire, to press the game and to stop goals going in.

“We know we have the football idea that allows us to create opportunities and tonight everything worked really well. Now we need to take that into the weekend game (at Bournemouth).”

READ  NOW: Lingard the harbinger of Steve Cooper sacking and/or Nottingham Forest relegation

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