Why Forest's attacking output is key to Premier League survival



There were twists and turns at the bottom as well as the top of the Premier League at the weekend.


Luton Town’s 2-1 victory over Bournemouth, secured courtesy of a last-gasp winner from Carlton Morris, was bad news for Nottingham Forest. Their subsequent 3-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur means Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are now outside the bottom three on goal difference alone. 


The relegation battle is in danger of having an unsatisfactory conclusion. Everton have suffered a second points deduction, which they will surely appeal. Forest have already argued that their four-point penalty was excessive. It is possible that we will not know with certainty which three teams have been relegated until a few days after the final round of fixtures on May 19th. 


For instance, Forest could be 18th in the table after their 38th game, only to rise up to 17th after being handed a few points back on appeal. It is a nightmare scenario that the Premier League will be desperate to avoid. 


Forest will not want to rely on the courts either. Nuno must focus on on-field matters and ensure his team finishes above the dreaded dotted line regardless of the hearing’s verdict. 


That is far from guaranteed. After a strong start under Nuno, who oversaw back-to-back triumphs over Newcastle United and Manchester United over the festive period, Forest have struggled for consistency.


Since the turn of the year, only Burnley and Sheffield United have collected fewer points. A recent three-game unbeaten run produced only five points from games against Luton, Crystal Palace and Fulham. 


Keeping opposition attacks quiet has been a problem. It is an issue that predates Nuno’s tenure, but he has not been able to solve it. Forest shipped 1.76 goals per game and kept three clean sheets under Steve Cooper this term. They are conceding 1.73 per game and have kept one clean sheet on Nuno’s watch. Forest are particularly vulnerable from set-pieces, having conceded a league-high 20 goals from them to date. 


The former Wolverhampton Wanderers manager, who will face another former club this weekend, has at least overseen an upturn in Forest’s attacking output. From an average of one goal per match under Cooper, Nuno’s team are scoring 1.53 every 90 minutes.


Having chopped and changed in search of the right balance earlier in his tenure, Nuno looks to have landed on a reasonably settled side. That includes a front four of Anthony Elanga, Morgan Gibbs-White and Callum Hudson-Odoi behind Chris Wood, who has scored four goals in his last four appearances. 


Unsurprisingly with such attackers at their disposal, Forest are especially threatening on the counter-attack. They have scored eight goals on the break this season, second only to West Ham United.


Forest will need their forwards to be clinical in the run-in. They rank fourth-bottom for shots per game (11.4) and fifth-bottom for expected goals (42.3). This is not a team that creates an abundance of chances week in, week out. 


Forest’s run-in does not look too daunting, a clash with Manchester City aside. Their away record has been poor ever since promotion, but their three remaining games at opposition grounds are against Everton, Sheffield United and Burnley. Chelsea, who visit the City Ground on May 11th, are not the force they once were. 


Before all that, Nuno will be looking to get one over on his former employers this weekend. Wolves have only won one of their last six games in all competitions. With Luton facing Manchester City on Saturday, Forest must target all three points.

Why Forest's attacking output is key to Premier League survival