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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Let’s talk about…Nottingham Forest

After suffering back-to-back defeats for the first time this season, Swansea are back at home this weekend. They face a familiar face in the dugout as Nottingham Forest travel to the Swansea.com Stadium.

Forest had a woeful start to the season, losing each of their first four games before picking up their first point in a 1-1 draw at Derby. That was followed by back-to-back defeats, before a first win of the season at Huddersfield.

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However, since Steve Cooper took over, Forest have been one of the form teams in the Championship. They have won six, drawn six and losing just one of their 13 league games under the former Swansea boss.

Their transfer window

First team arrivals

After a string of youth signings, Forest’s first senior signing saw Ethan Horvath arrive from Club Brugge. The 26-year-old American keeper has made one appearance in the league this season.

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After completing the Horvath signing in mid-July, it took until Transfer Deadline Day for Forest to complete another permanent signing. Braian Ojeda joined from Paraguayan side Olimpia for an undisclosed fee. The 21-year-old has represented his native Paraguay on one occasion. He made his league debut for Forest last month, playing all 90 minutes in their 0-0 draw at home to Luton.

Braian Ojeda

Also joining him were Xande Silva and Rodrigo Ely, although the two have made just one league appearance between them.

Forest also maximised their maximum match-day loan capacity, signing five players on season-long deals. While many of their permanent signings have failed to make a statement this season, the same cannot be said for Philip Zinckernagel. The Danish winger, who arrived on loan from Watford, has featured in all-but-one of their league outings. He has 16 starts and four substitute appearances, registering three goals and four assists.

He was soon joined by Jordi Osei-Tutu. The young Arsenal defender spent last season on loan at Cardiff City, playing eight league games before suffering an injury in October.

Despite being heavily linked with Swansea, James Garner instead joined Forest. The highly-rated Manchester United midfielder has made 16 league appearances so far this campaign.

Also a rumoured Swansea target, Max Lowe completed his loan move from Sheffield United a few days later. The left-back was a regular starter in September and October but suffered a groin strain which has ruled him out of their last two league outings.

Lastly, Forest finished their loan action by bringing in Djed Spence from Middlesbrough. The full-back has played 18 times in the Championship this season, with three of those appearances coming while he was at Boro. He has started every available game for his new side, playing the full 90 minutes in all-but-one.

Notable First-team departures

Forest’s window began with several players announcing their retirements. Michael Dawson, Michael Hefele and Glenn Murray all chose to hang up their boots following the 2020-21 season.

Sammy Ameobi – departed for Middlesboro

Elsewhere, Former Cardiff winger Sammy Ameobi reunited with Neil Warnock at Middlesbrough. The tall winger played 77 times in the League for Forest, scoring eight goals.

Yuri Ribeiro, who made 52 league appearances in his two years at Forest, joined Legia Warsaw after his contract expired.

Also departing after two years was Samba Sow, who returned to Lens. The 32-year-old midfielder played 40 times for Forest. He has also represented his native Mali on 36 occasions.

Formerly of Manchester United, Tyler Blackett departed the club after one season. He moved to MLS side FC Cincinnati. Blackett played 11 Premier League games for Manchester United between 2012-2016 but has struggled to live up to his earlier hype.

While many of Forest’s outgoing loans involved under-23s and fringe players, Harry Arter’s departure provided some interest. The 31-year-old, who played Premier League football on loan at Cardiff and Fulham between 2018-2020, joined League One Charlton at the end of August.

Their captain

Lewis Grabban

Since arriving at the City Ground in 2018, Lewis Grabban has established himself as one of Forest’s key men.

Born in Croydon, Grabban began his career in London at Crystal Palace. After loan spells at Oldham and Motherwell, he joined Millwall in 2008. While at Millwall, he scored a total of nine goals in his first two seasons.

In the latter half of 2009-10, he joined Brentford on loan, returning to the Bees for a second loan spell the following season. In January 2011, Grabban joined Brentford on a permanent deal.

However, he remained at Brentford for only six months, departing for Rotherham in July 2011. He scored 18 goals in 43 games for the League Two side, earning him a move up to League One with Bournemouth the following season.

Bournemouth achieved promotion to the Championship in 2012-13, with Grabban scoring 13 in 42 League One games. While many struggle to adjust to playing in a higher league, the same could not be said for Grabban. In his first season in Championship football, he scored an impressive 22 in 44 games, making him the joint-fourth highest scorer in the league. only Ross McCormack (28 for Leeds United), Jordan Rhodes (25 for Blackburn Rovers) and Troy Deeney (24 for Watford) scored more.

Shortly after his first Championship season reached its conclusion, Grabban completed a £3 million move to fellow Championship side Norwich City. The Canaries had just been relegated from the Premier League, alongside Cardiff City and Fulham.

Alongside Cameron Jerome, Grabban led Norwich back to the Premier League via the play-offs. They finished third, knocking out local rivals Ipswich in the semi-final before beating Middlesbrough at Wembley. His former side Bournemouth were also promoted that season, winning the Championship with 90 points.

After struggling for game-time in the Premier League with Norwich, Grabban returned to fellow top-flight side Bournemouth midway through the 2015-16 season. While his first spell was prolific, his second was quite the opposite. He failed to score in any of his 18 Premier League appearances for Bournemouth, having managed just one in six with Norwich. He returned to the Championship for three loan spells, including a clinical stint at Sunderland in 2017-18 where he scored 12 in 19 games.

In 2018, he narrowly missed out on play-off glory as a loanee at Aston Villa. They lost at Wembley to Fulham. Around five weeks later, he joined Nottingham Forest for an estimated £6 million.

Following a slow start to life at the City Ground, Grabban finished his maiden year with 16 Championship goals, before firing in 20 in 45 in his second campaign. He struggled last season, scoring just six in 28 games, but has already bettered that tally in 2021-22. So far, the 33-year-old has scored 8 in 19 Championship outings.

Their manager

After departing the club by mutual consent in the summer, Steve Cooper returns to Swansea with a fellow Championship club. He is the son of Keith Cooper, a former football referee.

Steve Cooper – former Swans boss now at the City ground

Cooper’s playing career was modest, with all of his appearances coming for Welsh League clubs. After failing to make an appearance at Wrexham, he played for The New Saints, Rhyl, Bangor City and Porthmadog, before hanging up his boots in 2003.

While playing in the Welsh leagues, Cooper studied for his coaching badges. He obtained his UEFA Pro License aged just 27, making him one of the youngest to achieve the qualification in history. With his coaching badges earnt, Cooper spent several years at Wrexham before becoming the manager of Liverpool’s academy in July 2011.

He remained at Liverpool for a little over three years before taking the England Under-16s job in 2014. A year later, he became the Under-17s manager, leading them to the final of the 2017 European Under-17 Championship.

While they lost to Spain in the final of that tournament, they got the better of them later that year, beating them in the final of the Under-17 World Cup. The side included the likes of Rhian Brewster, Marc Guehi, Conor Gallagher, Joel Latibeaudiere and Morgan Gibbs-White who Cooper went on to manage at Swansea.

Following Graham Potter’s move to Brighton, Cooper was announced as the new Swansea City boss in the summer of 2019. Given Swansea’s reliance on youth players, he was seen as a sensible appointment.

Cooper managed The Swans for two seasons, guiding them to back-to-back play-off finishes. Unfortunately, the were beaten by Brentford on both occasions, with the latter coming at Wembley. Over the summer, he was linked with the likes of Fulham and Crystal Palace, although no such move materialised. It looked as though Cooper would remain at the club, but he departed by mutual consent in July 2021.

Exactly two months later, he returned to management. Instead of taking over at a Premier League side, Cooper dropped to the bottom of the Championship with Nottingham Forest. However, the club has seen a significant improvement under his tutelage. They now find themselves in 13th place, one point above Swansea City with 28 from 21 games.

Previous meetings with Nottingham Forest

Prior to the 2018-19 season, Swansea had not met Nottingham Forest since the play-off semi-finals in 2011. The Swans beat Forest 3-1 on that day to reach the play-off final and would go on to spend seven seasons in the Premier League.

Sunday 29th November 2020 (A)

Following the Saturday fixtures, Swansea travelled to the City Ground in seventh place, while the hosts were sat in 21st. A win for The Swans could see them move as high as third, while a draw would shift them up to sixth on goal difference.

Despite defending for much of the first half, it was Swansea who found the opening shortly before half-time. Andre Ayew’s dinked cross was flicked towards the back post, where Connor Roberts athletic leap saw him rise above a much taller Sammy Ameobi to give the Swans the lead.

Leaping high – Roberts scores

This proved to be the only goal of the game, with the Swans taking three valuable points back to South Wales. However, as they won by just one goal, they moved up to fourth, behind Watford on goals scored.

Final score – Nottingham Forest 0-1 Swansea City

 Wednesday 17th February 2021

It was a case of Deja-vu in the reverse fixture as Nottingham Forest travelled to the Liberty Stadium.

Unlike in their previous meeting, the score remained goalless until late on. Once again, Connor Roberts headed home to give the Swans all three points, securing the double over Chris Hughton’s men.

This win moved Swansea up to third, just one point behind Brentford and two ahead of Watford with two games in hand. What could have been.

It’s that man again – Roberts with the head wins the day

Final score – Swansea City 1-0 Nottingham Forest

Match Preview

Swansea need to get back on track this weekend, following two disappointing defeats. The Rhys Williams experiment may be over, as the Liverpool loanee struggled in both outings for The Swans. This could see a familiar back three of Manning, Naughton and Bennett return, with Bidwell and Laird at the wing-back positions, although Ben Cabango may be preferred in the back three.

Russell Martin confirmed that he has a fully fit squad to work with this weekend. Michael Obafemi, who returned to the bench after an absence, could feature for longer this time out. He replaced Williams for the final 23 minutes, with Swansea pushing for an equaliser that never quite materialised.

The midfield struggled without Olivier Ntcham, who came on at half-time. His introduction saw a noticeable improvement in performance, with Swansea creating numerous opportunities to equalise in the second half.

Meanwhile, Forest will likely be without Jordi Osei-Tutu, while Max Lowe and Loic Mbe Soh have both been ruled out for this weekend’s clash.

Expect a tough game, with Cooper likely to be eager to get one over on his former side. Swansea simply must be more creative and clinical this time out, after failing to score against Middlesbrough despite dominating possession.

Following the Forest game, Swansea travel to QPR on Saturday 18th December, for the final game before Christmas day. They return to action on boxing day, once again facing a trip to London, with Millwall on the agenda.

Home comforts? The Swansea.com stadium

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Matt Williamshttps://mjwwrites.wordpress.com/
My name is Matt Williams. I am a 24-year-old journalism graduate and aspiring sports journalist from South Wales. I am a fan of Swansea City, and regularly write about the team on my own personal blog. I also support the Carolina Panthers, and I am an avid follower of the Welsh national teams in football and rugby.

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