Jesse Lingard: ‘Nobody really knew about my struggles. We’re all human’ | Nottingham Forest

The best way to sum up how bad things were for Jesse Lingard was that he had become everything he is not. The fun-loving, extrovert Nottingham Forest midfielder did not want to leave the house. The boy who has always embraced the ball and the game with everything he has did not want to be on the pitch. He was even drinking. Anything to escape the bleakness of his reality.

“I was on autopilot,” Lingard says. “I was having conversations with people and I was just like: ‘Yeah. OK. Yeah.’ Nothing would register. It would go in one ear and out the other. I was numb and I wanted to be in that numb state where I didn’t have to feel anything.”

This is what depression looks like, the insidious condition that has tormented Lingard’s mum, Kirsty, for longer than either of them want to dwell on. Lingard says she has been “depressed from when I was born”, often medicated and in bed; exhausted, overwhelmed, the curtains pulled shut. And it is what took hold of him in 2019 when he was a Manchester United player, gripping with increasing ferocity in the months leading up to the first coronavirus lockdown in March 2020.

Lingard says that rock bottom came in an FA Cup tie at Derby at the beginning of that month. He had played the 90 minutes and United won 3-0, but he was not really there. He had not been for some time. As he boarded the team bus afterwards, a couple of United fans hurled sustained and deeply unpleasant abuse at him.

They did not know what was going on in Lingard’s life. When his mum was admitted to a facility in London in 2019 for treatment, Lingard’s younger brother, Jasper, and younger sister, Daisy, came to live with him. He had them there for “longer than six months”, looking after them, making sure that they got to school and all the rest. As he worried about his mum and felt his siblings missing her, his well-being crashed.

It is unlikely that the abusive supporters would have cared. To them Lingard was a highly paid footballer, living the dream at his boyhood club, and so he had to perform. Full stop. But Lingard wants to open up on his turmoil, perhaps to explain what was a lost period for him at United and, more importantly, to raise awareness and understanding of the issues around poor mental health. It is why he has collaborated on a documentary with Channel 4 – Untold: The Jesse Lingard Story, which airs on Tuesday.

“I just felt so much scrutiny, especially after the Derby game and I was getting abuse as I got on the bus,” Lingard says. “I can normally take it but sometimes it gets to a point where it’s like: ‘Ahh, I can’t even be arsed doing this any more.’

“Nobody really knew about my struggles off the pitch so they think: ‘You’re a footballer, you live in a nice house, you’ve got money, you can deal with anything.’ But when it’s someone’s health and well being – it’s a different situation. We’re all human.

“It was difficult around that moment in time. It was probably [for] months. I didn’t want to play in case I did badly and there was more scrutiny. Football is my happy place but at that time, I couldn’t really put myself in that situation. I was playing and I felt like I was nonexistent. The games were just passing me by. When it’s not working out on the pitch, you try to work that bit harder to do well in the next match but my mind wasn’t there to do that. I wanted to stop completely and have a break and just be at home. I didn’t want to be on the pitch and have all that scrutiny. You lose a ball and it’s more pressure.”

Jesse Lingard celebrates after Nottingham Forest's win over Crystal Palace.
Lingard is back to enjoying his football on the pitch with Nottingham Forest. Photograph: John Clifton/Action Images/Reuters

Lingard paints a vivid picture of the loneliness he felt on the field, one man in front of thousands, the collective stare laser-like and utterly unforgiving. He holds his hands out and brings them slowly towards his head. “You feel like everything is closing in on you,” he says. “All the weight is on your shoulders. You feel closed up. You don’t want the ball, you are hiding away from the ball. That’s never been me.”

There is a scene in the documentary where Lingard is videoed by his elder brother, Louie, lying on the sofa, completely still, eyes blank. He was like that for a few minutes, apparently, and it did not sound like an isolated moment.

“Just autopilot,” Lingard says. “Coming home, lying on the sofa and staring. When I look at that now, I don’t know what was in my mind but it must have been racing. Literally, I just wanted to sit at home and drink a little bit – try and take the pain away. I don’t do that, normally. I’m not really a big drinker. Of course, here and there on nights out, whatever. But sitting at home and drinking before bed … that’s when I knew I was in a bad situation.

“It wasn’t drinking to excess. It was just little bits through the week and stuff like that. I look back and think: ‘What was I doing?’ It was probably just to be in a mind frame where I’ve got no pain, no cares. Because I didn’t have anyone to bounce off or feed off, I resorted to that.”

Lingard did confide in the United doctor and also Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the team’s manager at the time. They were sympathetic and it helped. But what he really needed was to get away from the game. He makes the point that he never wanted to quit for good, just have a break for a month, two months or “whatever it would have been”. So lockdown, perversely, had an upside for him.

Lingard took delivery from Louie of a stack of old videos of him doing well for United at youth level and England at the 2018 World Cup, when he was a fixture in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI on the run to the semi-final – probably the highlight of his career. They reminded him of why he had got to the top in the first place and he was able to reset.

Jesse Lingard before an FA Cup tie against Derby County
Lingard’s lowest moment was during an FA Cup tie for Manchester United against Derby.
Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images/Reuters

“If lockdown didn’t happen, I don’t know what situation I’d be in because I needed that rest to really look at myself again, to reignite that fire in my belly and work out what was wrong with me,” Lingard says. “It was a turning point. I watched those videos and thought: ‘I should never doubt myself.’ I started training every day, going for runs and making sure that I was one of the fittest going back to United after lockdown.”

The knocks continued to come but now he was able to deal with them. Lingard barely played for United in the first half of the following season but when he got a loan to West Ham in January 2021, he caught fire, scoring nine Premier League goals for them, although it was not enough to earn a place in the England squad for the European Championship. He was also able to stay strong last season when he started only three games for United and the club blocked a January loan to Newcastle.

If Lingard describes his Euro omission as a “down moment; I expected to go with the form I was in”, he knew in his heart of hearts that he would not get the call for the World Cup in Qatar. He has simply not started well enough at Forest after his free transfer from United in July, only scoring his first goal and registering his first assist in last Wednesday’s Carabao Cup win over Tottenham. Lingard, though, is back to being himself and he can also be proud of the courage that his mum showed to talk so candidly in the documentary.

“I guarantee that many, many people will be going through depression, especially in football, which is such a mentally draining sport,” Lingard says. “For me, it was about opening up and speaking about it. You’re never going to be judged because you’re a man and you’re talking about mental health and your feelings. You’re not soft for it.”

Untold: The Jesse Lingard Story airs Tuesday 15 November on All 4

  • In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email You can contact the mental health charity Mind by calling 0300 123 3393 or visiting

Nottingham Forest off the bottom of table after beating Crystal Palace | Premier League

Steve Cooper was pleased to see his Nottingham Forest side go into the World Cup break off the bottom of the Premier League after their 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

Morgan Gibbs-White continued to show why Forest broke their transfer record to sign him in the summer as his second-half goal earned the win that moves them to within a point of West Ham and Everton, who sit just above the relegation zone.

It was the perfect end to the first phase of their return to the top flight after 23 years away and will give them real hope they can kick on after the World Cup and pull away from relegation danger after a third win of the campaign.

“Whatever happened today it was never going to be a great league position, let’s be honest, but it could have been worse and that is pleasing and it just allows us to go into the break not suffering after a defeat,” Cooper said after celebrating with the home fans.

“Enjoy some time away and think about what it is going to take to do well going forward. We need to get back together and work hard to make the break a productive one.

“The fist-pumps aren’t really something I want to do when you’re down at the bottom, but I just felt it was such a well-deserved win for the players and the supporters. And it was a nice bit of togetherness at the end of the game.

“I really, really wanted the supporters to be able to go into the break with a positive result. We got that. Nobody is getting carried away, of course – even though I might have for 10 seconds.

“I just thought we were good for the win. We rode our luck a little bit with the penalty. Whether it’s a pen or not is something I’ll look back on. But Dean [Henderson] hasn’t had a save to make. They haven’t had a shot on target. We have. We created the real moments and chances in the game.

Wilfried Zaha misses a penalty for Crystal Palace at the City Ground.
Wilfried Zaha misses a penalty for Crystal Palace at the City Ground. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

“The best team won, for sure. I’ve got a lot of respect for Patrick and how his teams play; they’ve got a lot of good players and it was a dangerous game. But we really stuck to the gameplan and what we thought it would take to win.”

Things might have been different had Wilfried Zaha scored a first-half penalty he had won after being bundled down by Forest skipper Joe Worrall. But he missed a fourth spot-kick of 2022 and Palace faded badly after that.

Patrick Vieira still has full faith in Zaha on penalty duties, with a record of seven scored from 11 taken.

“How many has he scored? There is zero doubt in my mind. I am still confident in him,” the Palace manager said.

“We had our moment in the first half and again we didn’t take our chances, we didn’t score that first goal. I think the first half we competed and we played some good football.

“Away from home we should manage the game better and if we can’t win the game we should make sure we don’t lose the game. I think the game overall reflects our season so far, we showed some good stuff but we lack consistency.

“We have to analyse the performance, we have to improve, I have to find better solutions or different formations but I don’t think that is the problem.

“In the second half we showed a lack of experience and discipline but we have young players that need to grow.”

Premier League team news: predicted lineups for the weekend action | Manchester City

Bournemouth v Everton

Saturday 3pm Venue Vitality Stadium Last season n/a

Referee Craig Pawson This season G7 Y31 R0 4.43 cards/game

Odds H 19-10 A 7-4 D 9-4

Bournemouth v Everton


Subs from Dennis,Christie, Marcondes, Rothwell, Stacey, Lowe, Stanislas, Zemura, Dembélé, Pearson, Hill, Anthony

Doubtful Zemura (knock)

Injured Brooks (thigh, 26 Dec), Kelly (ankle, 26 Dec), Neto (thigh, 26 Dec)

Suspended Mepham (one match)

Discipline Y22 R0


Leading scorer Billing 4


Subs from Begovic, Jakupovic, Lonergan, Patterson, Mina, Keane, Holgate, Vinagre, Doucouré, Garner, Davies, Rondón, McNeil, Welch, Mills, John, Cannon

Doubtful Holgate (knee)

Injured Calvert-Lewin (hamstring/knee, 26 Dec), Godfrey (broken leg, 26 Dec), Townsend (knee, 26 Dec)

Suspended None

Discipline Y33 R0


Leading scorer Gordon 3

Liverpool v Southampton

Saturday 3pm Venue Anfield Last season Liverpool 4 Southampton 0

Referee Simon Hooper This season G9 Y26 R0 2.88 cards/game

Odds H 3-11 A 11-1 D 6-1

Liverpool v Southampton


Subs from Adrián, Kelleher, Davies, Ramsay, Matip, Tsimikas, Phillips, Milner, Jones, Elliott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bajcetic, Carvalho, Gomez

Doubtful Matip (calf), Milner (concussion)

Injured Keïta (thigh, 26 Dec), Díaz (knee, 26 Dec), Jota (calf, Jan), Arthur (thigh, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y12 R1


Leading scorers Firmino, Salah 6


Subs from Caballero, McCarthy, Caleta-Car, A Armstrong, Mara, Djenepo, Edozie, Diallo, Walcott

Doubtful xnamex (xreasonx), xnamex (xreasonx)

Injured Walker-Peters (thigh, 26 Dec), Livramento (knee, Jan), Larios (groin, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y22 R0


Leading scorer Adams 3

Nottingham Forest v Crystal Palace

Saturday 3pm Venue City Ground Last season n/a

Referee John Brooks This season G6 Y24 R0 4 cards/game

Odds H 11-5 A 16-11 D 2-1

Nottingham Forest v Crystal Palace

Nottingham Forest

Subs from Hennessey, Smith, Soh, Williams, Colback, Awoniyi, Surridge, Cafú, Kouyaté, Dennis, McKenna, Badé, Boly, Taylor

Doubtful Kouyaté (knock), McKenna (knock)

Injured Richards (calf, 26 Dec), Toffolo (thigh, 26 Dec), Biancone (knee, unknown), Niakhaté (thigh, unknown)

Suspended Mangala (one match)

Discipline Y34 R0


Leading scorer Awoniyi 3

Crystal Palace

Subs from Butland, Johnstone, Whitworth, Milivojevic, Tomkins, Mateta, Clyne, Hughes, Édouard, Ebiowei, Ferguson, Balmer, Riedewald, Gordon, Wells-Morrison, Phillips, Goodman, Rodney

Doubtful Édouard (thigh)

Injured McArthur (groin, unknown), Richards (thigh, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y29 R0


Leading scorer Zaha 6

Tottenham v Leeds

Saturday 3pm Venue Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Last season Tottenham 2 Leeds 1

Referee Michael Salisbury This season G6 Y31 R0 5.16 cards/game

Odds H 11-17 A 43-10 D 17-5

Tottenham v Leeds


Subs from Forster, Austin, Doherty, Spence, Sánchez, Tanganga, Bissouma, Skipp, Sarr, Lucas Moura, Gil

Doubtful Lucas Moura (tendon)

Injured Romero (calf, 14 Nov), Sessegnon (knock, 14 Nov), Son (eye, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y25 R1


Leading scorer Kane 11


Subs from Klaesson, Robles, Ayling, Llorente, Firpo, Hjelde, Gelhardt, Greenwood, Harrison, Gyabi, Drameh

Doubtful Gelhardt (knock), Harrison (knock)

Injured Bamford (hip, 26 Dec), Forshaw (knee, 26 Dec), Gray (ankle, 26 Dec), Klich (knee, 26 Dec), Sinisterra (ankle, 26 Dec), Dallas (broken leg, Jan)

Suspended None

Discipline Y25 R1


Leading scorer Rodrigo 7

West Ham v Leicester

Saturday 3pm Venue London Stadium Last season West Ham 4 Leicester 1

Referee Jarred Gillett This season G6 Y24 R0 4 cards/game

Odds H Evs A 11-4 D 5-2

West Ham v Leicester

West Ham

Subs from Areola, Randolph, Johnson, Coufal, Fornals, Antonio, Lanzini, Downes, Ogbonna, Aguerd, Coventry, Ashby

Doubtful None

Injured Cornet (calf, unknown), Palmieri (knock, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y16 R0


Leading scorers Antonio, Benrahma, Bowen, Scamacca 2


Subs from Iversen, Smithies, Ward, Vardy, Albrighton, Iheanacho, Pérez, Amartey, Vestergaard, Mendy, Soumaré

Doubtful None

Injured Pereira (calf, Jan), Justin (achilles, May), Bertrand (knee, unknown), Soyuncu (hamstring, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y17 R0


Leading scorer Maddison 6

Newcastle v Chelsea

Saturday 5.30pm Sky Sports Premier League Venue St James’ Park Last season Newcastle 0 Chelsea 3

Referee Robert Jones This season G8 Y28 R1 3.63 cards/game

Odds H 7-5 A 2-1 D 28-11

Newcastle v Chelsea


Subs from Darlow, Gillespie, Karius, Lascelles, Targett, Manquillo, Lewis, Shelvey, Anderson, S Longstaff, Wood, Fraser, Murphy

Doubtful Darlow (ankle), Fraser (calf), Wilson (illness)

Injured Isak (thigh, 26 Dec), Ritchie (calf, 26 Dec), Krafth (knee, Aug), Dummett (calf, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y20 R0


Leading scorer Almirón 8


Subs from Bettinelli, Jorginho, Pulisic, Broja, Zakaria, Ziyech, Gallagher, Koulibaly, Soonsup-Bell, Hall

Doubtful Jorginho (ankle)

Injured Arrizabalaga (ankle, 26 Dec), Kanté (thigh, Feb), Chilwell (thigh, unknown), Chukwuemeka (thigh, unknown), Fofana (knee, unknown), James (knee, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y31 R2


Leading scorers Havertz, Sterling 3

Brighton v Aston Villa

Sunday 2pm Sky Sports Premier League Venue Amex Stadium Last season Brighton 0 Aston Villa 2

Referee Chris Kavanagh This season G4 Y16 R0 4 cards/game

Odds H 9-10 A 10-3 D 3-1

Brighton v Aston Villa


Subs from McGill, Steele, Lamptey, Colwill, Welbeck, Sarmiento, Enciso, Undav, Gilmour, Van Hecke, Veltman

Doubtful None

Injured Moder (knee, Feb)

Suspended None

Discipline Y17 R0


Leading scorer Trossard 7

Aston Villa

Subs from Olsen, Steer, McGinn, Sanson, Ings, Chambers, Augustinsson, Young, Nakamba, Bednarek, Guilbert, Archer, Kamara

Doubtful None

Injured Coutinho (thigh, unknown), Diego Carlos (calf, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y30 R1


Leading scorers Bailey, Ings 3

Fulham v Manchester United

Sunday 4.30pm Sky Sports Premier League Venue Craven Cottage Last season n/a

Referee Paul Tierney This season G11 Y43 R2 4.09 cards/game

Odds H 3-1 A Evs D 3-1

Fulham v Manchester United


Subs from Rodak, Kurzawa, Adarabioyo, Duffy, Chalobah, James, Mbabu, Harris

Doubtful None

Injured Solomon (knee, Jan), Kebano (calf, unknown), Mitrovic (ankle, unknown)

Suspended Reed (one match), Tete (one match)

Discipline Y35 R1


Leading scorer Mitrovic 9

Manchester United

Subs from Dubravka, Heaton, Jones, Maguire, Ronaldo, Fred, Sancho, Pellistri, Van de Beek, Elanga, McTominay, Mengi, Shoretire, Garnacho

Doubtful Antony (match fitness), Ronaldo (illness), Sancho (illness)

Injured Varane (hamstring, 22 Nov), Tuanzebe (match fitness, unknown), Wan-Bissaka (match fitness, unknown), Williams (match fitness, unknown)

Suspended Dalot (one match)

Discipline Y36 R0


Leading scorer Rashford 4

Conte fears for ‘really tired’ Kane after Nottingham Forest sink Tottenham | Carabao Cup

As Gareth Southgate names England’s World Cup squad on Thursday, Antonio Conte has warned that Harry Kane is so fatigued he had to stop training to rest on the eve of Tottenham’s Carabao Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest.

The Spurs manager played the England captain for the first hour of a tired performance on a night when Jesse Lingard posted a reminder that he can help Forest continue their resurgence.

Conte said he had no alternative but to field Kane, who is not injured, as he had no other fit strikers and praised a selfless attitude that Southgate, the England manager, will recognise but not necessarily appreciate as he copes with his own injury crisis. Kane has started all 21 of Spurs’ games this season.

On a night when Lingard assisted Renan Lodi for Forest’s opener before scoring his first goal for the club since his free transfer from Manchester United, Spurs went two goals behind for the fifth successive domestic game.

But while Forest could toast a fourth consecutive home game without defeat and a place in the last 16 of this competition, the main talking point after this game was Kane’s fitness for a World Cup campaign that kicks off in Doha against Iran a week on Monday.

Jesse Lingard celebrates after scoring Nottingham Forest’s second goal.
Jesse Lingard celebrates after scoring Nottingham Forest’s second goal. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images/Reuters

“This morning we waited to see if he could start or not,” Conte said. “In this situation he was the only striker. I can only say thanks for the availability they show me.

“In our hearts and minds was the desire to go ahead in this competition. But the difference was the energy. It was really different between us and Nottingham Forest.

“Other players maybe they could tell me I’m tired and don’t want to play and help the team. When I speak, I have a group of players who are before players they are men, and because of this another could be selfish and think for himself because in one week they have to play the World Cup. Instead, Harry Kane showed to be a really good man.

Quick Guide

Carabao Cup roundup


Angelo Ogbonna missed the crucial penalty as a youthful Blackburn dumped West Ham out of the Carabao Cup 10-9 on spot-kicks. After 19 successful penalties Ogbonna’s effort crashed off the underside of the crossbar to send Championship side Rovers through to round four following a 2-2 draw at the London Stadium. 

It was a deserved win for a callow Rovers side with an average age of just 22 and a half as Jon Dahl Tomasson made 11 changes with more than one eye on Sunday’s Championship derby against promotion rivals Burnley. They led through an early goal from Jack Vale before Pablo Fornals hauled West Ham level and Michail Antonio put the hosts in front. 

But the substitute Ben Brereton Díaz, Rovers’ top scorer, sent the match to a shootout and Italian defender Ogbonna was the fall guy. The result means that all six top-flight London clubs have gone out in the fourth round, with third-tier Charlton the only team from the capital in Thursday’s fourth-round draw.

Boubacar Traoré’s late winner sent Wolves through, the substitute striking with five minutes left to down much-changed Leeds and seal a 1-0 victory for the hosts. It settled an uneventful game which looked to be heading to penalties and gave the incoming Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui and his coaches food for thought.  

Lopetegui is due at the club’s Compton training base on Friday, before watching Saturday’s visit of Arsenal, before officially taking charge on Monday. The former Spain manager’s lieutenants were at Molineux having already briefly introduced themselves to the squad. PA Media

Photograph: Rob Newell/CameraSport

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“No [he is not injured], it was a problem of tiredness. [He is] really, really tired and yesterday we had a soft training session and at one point he stopped to recover energy. But he’s OK, it’s only fatigue but normal because Harry played every game. When you have a player like him it’s difficult to decide you don’t play with him. Also if I wanted to start with another it was impossible because of injuries to Richarlison, [Dejan] Kulu[sevski] and Lucas Moura … two weeks ago, Sonny [Heung-Min]. It was difficult for Kane today.”

After a quiet first half, Forest caught fire with two goals in the first 15 minutes of the second. Lingard did well to steer Orel Mangala’s under-hit pass beyond Matt Doherty and Lodi, the Brazilian left-back on loan from Atlético Madrid, cut inside Davinson Sánchez superbly before swerving a powerful right-footed shot into the far corner.

Lingard had already blasted in a shot that Fraser Forster was relieved to punch clear and in the 56th minute he headed in his first goal for the club that put this tie beyond Spurs’ reach. From a breath-taking counterattack, the former Spurs right-back Serge Aurier crossed for Sam Surridge to head intelligently back for Lingard to nod over the line.

That was the signal for Conte to summon Kane away from any more danger of injury for country or club amid four prompt substitutions and Spurs could not capitalise on the late dominance that Mangala’s second yellow card afforded them.

Steve Cooper said of Lingard: “He was excellent. I thought his positional play was good. He found the spaces really well. And, more importantly, he did what you want your attacking players to do – you want them to be a threat and have end product at the end of it.”

Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action | Football

1) Saka should take heavy tackles as a compliment

Officially, Bukayo Saka is the 33rd most fouled player in the Premier League. Unofficially, Arsenal fans will tell you that their man is the victim of some sinister conspiracy between opposition left-backs and referees to get him hacked out of the game. So, a valid concern or the usual tribal tinfoil nonsense? It’s actually more complex than it looks. What sets Saka apart is his unique close dribbling style, the ball almost wedged between his feet as he runs. So when he buys the contact – because all wingers buy contact – the tackle often takes ball and man together, making it hard to see which impact came first. Simply put, referees need to do better here. But it also needs a recognition from Arsenal fans that Saka isn’t being deliberately victimised or singled out: he’s just really, unusually good. Jonathan Liew

2) Can Emery nurture Villa’s stars-in-waiting?

It feels a long time ago now but Unai Emery gave Arsenal debuts to Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe. It is a slice of history that would appear to bode well for Aston Villa, whose academy graduateJacob Ramsey completed the scoring in victory over Manchester United on Sunday. Ramsey replaced Ashley Young in Villa’s only change and he repaid Emery’s faith with a vibrant midfield display, smartly combining with Ollie Watkins, Emiliano Buendía and Leon Bailey, and the way the 21-year-old, who joined Villa aged six, has started under Emery suggests he will be in the thick of things. Emery referenced Villa’s academy at his unveiling last week and in the Spaniard the club believe they have one of the the best coaches in the world to nurture talent. Ben Fisher

3) Núñez looks ill-suited to wide role

It’s fair to say that Darwin Núñez is not the world’s most silky-smooth footballer, and indeed his doomed, ungainly scurries down the left provided Spurs fans with some rare levity in the first half. If the target man’s bungled dribbles raised the question of what he was doing out on the wing, then perhaps Mohamed Salah’s two goals – dispatched after stealing into central positions – provided the answer: an attack spearheaded by Roberto Firmino gives Liverpool’s best finisher licence to drift infield. Not that this will be much consolation to Núñez, who remains the jigsaw piece that doesn’t fit. The lineage of Liverpool players signed as thrilling goalscorers only to labour painfully out wide is a long one that stretches from Heskey to Aspas via Diouf, Cissé and Babel. If the Uruguayan is to avoid joining that list, his manager must find an effective way of playing him centrally. Whether such a solution exists, on current evidence, is far from certain. Alex Hess

Darwin Núñez in possession
Darwin Núñez played on the left against Tottenham. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

4) Howe’s first year has been a revelation

While it seems increasingly unlikely Ralph Hasenhüttl will make it as far as a fourth anniversary at Southampton, the man opposite him in the dugout at St Mary’s celebrates 12 months with Newcastle job this week. The turnaround in that time has been remarkable, from a relegation battle to genuine top-four contenders. Their win on the south coast was Eddie Howe’s 20th in 41 league matches – and 19 have come in the last 32 games. For all the inevitable talk of Saudi riches, Howe has also coached a set of individuals into a fine collective: 13 of his latest match-day squad predated his arrival. When one press member made a comparison with Leicester’s 2016 title winners, Howe smiled. “I remember that Leicester team very well. But I just think we are trying to be ourselves.” Sam Dalling

5) Gnonto changes the game for Leeds

Wilfried Gnonto. Remember the name because Jesse Marsch’s 19-year-old Italy forward is very good indeed. It is no exaggeration to say that Gnonto altered the entire topography of a game Bournemouth had been in control of after he came off the bench at half-time. No matter that Leeds swiftly fell 3-1 behind, Gnonto – along with his fellow substitute Sam Greenwood and Marsch’s inspired switch from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 – recalibrated the power balance. After goals by Greenwood and Liam Cooper levelled the score, Gnonto created Crysencio Summerville’s second winning goal in two games with a wonderful run and beautifully weighted through pass. “Wilfried’s a very intelligent young man,” said Marsch. “Wherever you play him you see his savviness and clarity of thought. He speaks multiple languages, understands tactics and has quality. He’s making a big case for more minutes.” Louise Taylor

6) Guardiola’s recipe for City success

Manchester City refused to accept anything less than a win despite João Cancelo’s first-half red card. Pep Guardiola was asked if his team take an elixir to feed their addiction to victory. “A magic potion like Asterix and Obelix?” he said. “No but I see Fulham, they do good things and I made warnings to the players, they trained incredibly well, I saw how focused they were, so I went to sleep confident.” Kevin De Bruyne was again in fine form, claiming the 95th-minute penalty that Erling Haaland dispatched. His manager’s contract expires in the summer and the Belgian seemed no more informed than anyone else about how the situation might play out. “After seven years maybe it is more calm for him. To be honest I don’t know [about his future], I don’t think you’ll get too much out of him. And that is fine.” Jamie Jackson

7) Lallana looks a natural leader for Brighton

Roberto De Zerbi says he needs clever footballers who fully understand his complex tactics and style. One player who is helping his teammates is Adam Lallana. The 34-year-old was briefly part of the coaching staff between Graham Potter’s exit to Chelsea and De Zerbi’s arrival, offering an indication of his future plans. “Lallana is a teacher on the pitch,” De Zerbi said after defeating Wolves 3-2. “I think he will become a very good coach. I hope not now because I want him on the pitch but he is very intelligent, very smart.” While working with the squad, his “enthusiasm, commitment and professionalism” impressed the chief executive, Paul Barber. On the pitch, he looks perfect operating behind Leandro Trossard and excels with the one-touch play in and around the area. He has a few years left in his legs but when the time comes to hang up the boots, he will have options. Will Unwin

In the second half came one of those moments common to these pre-World Cup times. Lucas Paquetá screamed out after a tackle from Jordan Ayew, rolling over several times. Was his Qatar dream dead? The Brazilian, his ankle checked over, continued and played out the 90 minutes. “If anybody was maybe going to create or craft us a goal late in the game it was probably going to be Lucas,” said David Moyes, putting the anguish down to cramp. The Hammers are yet to see the best of a player counted among Brazil manager Tite’s chosen ones, suggesting the problems of recruiting in this interrupted season. Paquetá did not look much interested in physical battles with Crystal Palace and is back in the team after a shoulder problem. Moyes, like so many other Premier League managers, is forced to rely on players whose focus is drifting – a suboptimal situation. John Brewin

Lucas Paqueta in action against Crystal Palace
Lucas Paqueta is yet to peak at West Ham. Photograph: Tom Dulat/Getty Images

9) Foxes find form at both ends of field

“How are you lot behind us?” asked one incredulous Evertonian of a Leicester City video analyst sat in the Goodison Park press box on Saturday night. It was a reasonable query on the final whistle, given the superiority of Brendan Rodgers’ team in every department over their error-strewn hosts, although Leicester are now above Everton on goal difference and heading in a different direction. Creatively, the contributions of James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Youri Tielemans and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall eclipsed anything Everton had to offer. And their defence made Frank Lampard’s team appear impotent, particularly after Dominic Calvert-Lewin departed with another injury. Leicester conceded 22 goals in the first seven Premier League games of the season; they have conceded three in the last seven. “The summer was tough for us,” said Rodgers, who reserved special praise for his only outfield summer signing. “But I always said that with patience and hard work on the training field we could get back to our level. It’s great to see them playing with joy and quality and you can see the difference that Wout Faes is making.” Andy Hunter

10) The joy of a good goalmouth scramble

Amid the glitz and glamour of the Premier League – a division of otherworldly finesse and scarcely believable skill – there’s nothing like a horribly messy goalmouth scramble to remind us that we’re all human after all. Nottingham Forest’s 96th-minute equaliser against Brentford had a bit of everything: a desperate flap from David Raya, several seconds of human pinball, a helpless last touch from Mathias Jørgensen and, finally, a heroic clearance from Ben Mee – only for goalline technology to intervene and leave him with his head buried in the turf. Thomas Frank’s side have played some excellent football this season, but they have also been highly inconsistent. Without a victory in four, they are now on their longest winless run of the campaign and face an unenviable trip to Manchester City before the World Cup. They have not tasted victory away from home in the league all season; going on their wildly unpredictable form, they’ll probably win 3-0. Will Magee

Gabriel Jesus is not the perfect striker but he may be just perfect for Arsenal | Arsenal

Five-nil. But then, Manchester City just look so strong at the moment. Still: five- nil. But that injury to Bukayo Saka, how much of a blow could that be? Anyway, it was five-nil. But those Nottingham Forest chances, the Jesse Lingard shot where Gabriel Magalhães basically passes it straight to him, one day those are going to cost you. And yet, check the scoreboard, girls and boys: five-nil.

It is the eternal gift of Arsenal fans to be able to identify the potential anxiety in virtually any situation, however favourable or triumphant. Pleasure is simply misery deferred. Most people look for crumbs of comfort; Arsenal fans look for crumbs of concern, scan the fixture list for oncoming hazards, scan every horizon for grey clouds. And so, even a routine and rampant 5-0 victory comes with its own quantum of unease.

The first sign came when Gabriel Jesus ran through on goal with 67 minutes on the clock, beating Joe Worrall to the ball and finding himself alone with only Dean Henderson for company. Almost instinctively one could feel the swell of longing swirl around the Emirates: come on, he’s worked so hard, just let him do a goal. Instead Jesus took a heavy touch, the ball ran wide and a weak shot was eventually saved.

This was Jesus’s seventh game without scoring, a statement that, while true, also completely mugs him off. Jesus was arguably the best player on the pitch. He assisted two goals, created a third for Reiss Nelson, had seven shots on goal and more touches than any Forest player. Arsenal are an immeasurably better and more coherent team when he is present. And so even to invoke the issue of goalscoring here is to risk lapsing into radio phone-in territory, to problematise a player who could scarcely be less of a problem.

But there is a genuinely interesting aspect to this debate, which is whether there is a way of measuring and assessing the contributions of elite forwards beyond the most simple and lumpen metric of them all. Jesus has started his Arsenal career with five goals from 15 games and the only remarkable thing about that is how in keeping it is with the rest of his career. A goal just under every three games is roughly what Jesus averages wherever he goes, whether at Palmeiras (16 goals in 47 league games) or Manchester City (58 in 159) or Brazil (19 in 56). There is not – with the best will in the world – a Haaland or Kane-level goal monster in there. This is just what you get.

Gabriel Jesus is denied by Dean Henderson
Gabriel Jesus is denied by Dean Henderson. Photograph: Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Of course, as anyone who has seen Jesus play will be able to tell you, this is not all you get. One of the reasons it feels unfair judging Jesus by the output of a conventional striker is that his input is not that of a conventional striker. Of his 72 touches, only 16 came in the Forest penalty area. Thirteen were in his own half. The vast majority, in fact, were on the left wing, with another little cluster around the left edge of the centre circle. He attempted more tackles than any other Arsenal player. Jesus is, in effect, a ball-winning wide midfielder who does striking for a little extra cash.

Or observe the first Arsenal goal, an elementary Saka cross turned in by Gabriel Martinelli with a poacher’s instinct at the near post. Jesus, meanwhile, was still marooned out on the left touchline, creating space for Takehiro Tomiyasu. Even as the ball was worked back into the centre Jesus did not remotely bust a gut trying to get into the area. Is this selflessness or simply gutlessness? Call now to have your say.

Jesus learned his football on the dirt pitches of São Paulo, among boys of wildly differing sizes, where the surface was pocked by ridges and craters. Predicting where the ball was going to go was for fools. What mattered above all was reacting: who could adapt fastest to the uneven bounce, who had the speed to reach the loose ball, who had the strength and agility and cunning to shield it from rivals. And you still see that in Jesus’s game, the short backlift and quick flicks and little collisions: a player who on some level still does not quite trust what the ball is going to do, who never quite grasped the striker’s art of seeing four moves ahead because he was raised in a world where only the next one mattered.

So the modern Jesus presents us with something of a paradox: a player so good that he should probably be a superstar and yet whose game is essentially antithetical to the whole superstar concept. (Ángel Di María also springs to mind in this respect.) No wonder it took years for people to work out exactly what he was doing out there: grafting and chasing, finding the gaps and finding them quickest, quietly making the players around him look a little better. Is he the perfect striker? No. But he may just be the perfect man for this Arsenal team right now.

Arsenal thrash Nottingham Forest to go top but Bukayo Saka limps off injured | Premier League

Arsenal reclaimed top spot in the Premier League after sweeping aside Nottingham Forest but this rout may have come at a cost after Bukayo Saka was forced off in the first half. Saka was hampered by a leg injury and his early exit casts doubts over his availability for England at next month’s World Cup.

Despite only lasting 27 minutes, Saka still created the opening goal with Gabriel Martinelli heading home to cast aside any suggestion of travel fatigue from Mikel Arteta’s pacesetters. Reiss Nelson proved a more than handy replacement for Saka with the winger, who spent last season on loan at Feyenoord, scoring two goals in the space of three minutes at the start of the second half.

Thomas Partey then electrified the Emirates with a thumping strike for the hosts before Martin Ødegaard added the fifth goal to complete a ghastly afternoon for Forest. Steve Cooper’s team never threatened Arsenal and the chasm was predictably wide between the league’s top- and bottom-placed clubs.

Arteta reverted back to the team which started in the draw at Southampton last weekend following their midweek Europa League defeat by PSV Eindhoven. Forest’s only change from the side which stunned Liverpool was Renan Lodi promoted to the defence in place of Neco Williams.

Arsenal opened the scoring with their first attack of the game with Forest’s gameplan going out the window within five minutes. Saka curled in a deft cross from the right and Martinelli planted his header past Dean Henderson. Martinelli raced away to the corner flag and held up a shirt with Pablo Marí’s name on it in a heartfelt tribute to the Arsenal defender following his stabbing in a Milan supermarket on Thursday night.

Gabriel Martinelli and Granit Xhaka hold up a Pablo Marí shirt after Arsenal's opening goal against Nottingham Forest
Gabriel Martinelli and Granit Xhaka hold up a Pablo Marí shirt after Arsenal’s opening goal against Nottingham Forest. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Forest were braced for a long afternoon and Gabriel Jesus curled a shot narrowly past the far post. Cooper knew chances were likely to be scarce and Remo Freuler’s long-range shot was fired straight into the arms of Aaron Ramsdale.

Saka appeared to be struggling with a knock, after falling awkwardly under a challenge by Lodi, but the England attacker carried on after treatment.

Martinelli was denied a second goal, after Granit Xhaka had teed him up, with the Brazilian’s low shot blocked on the line by Lodi. Saka blasted the rebound over the bar but still looked aggravated by his injury. It was not long before he went down again and Nelson replaced him midway through the half.

Forest’s struggle to make any attacking inroads was summed up by Jesse Lingard’s wild strike which careered hopelessly away from the target. Ødegaard set up Jesus for another attempt but his fierce strike rose harmlessly over Henderson’s crossbar.

Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka receives treatment before being substituted in the first half
Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka receives treatment before being substituted in the first half. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Arsenal ran into trouble of their own making before the break, with Gabriel Magalhães’s wayward pass straight into the path of Lingard, but his shot was charged down by Takehiro Tomiyasu. Xhaka required treatment after a late challenge from Morgan Gibbs-White which resulted in a booking for the Forest attacker.

Arsenal made an explosive start to the second half with Xhaka releasing Jesus before he played in Nelson. His first attempt was parried by Henderson but the rebound fell perfectly for Nelson to tuck home the rebound.

Nelson’s remarkable impact off the bench, in his first Premier League appearance since the opening day of last season, was rubber-stamped within a couple of minutes, with the 22-year-old volleying home his second goal from close range after Jesus’s delivery.

Arsenal were rampant and Forest had no answer to the wave of attacks. Partey was next in on the act, firing a stunning strike from the edge of the area past the flailing arms of Henderson after Nelson turned provider.

It should have been 5-0 shortly afterwards but Jesus missed the target after bearing down on goal. He was handed another opportunity to score but Henderson raced off his line to block the effort. Arsenal did not have to wait long for a fifth goal, with Jesus teeing up Ødegaard and the captain rifled a shot into the roof of the net.

There have been some horror shows already this season from Forest – conceding six goals at Manchester City and losing 4-0 at struggling Leicester – with this another to add to the list. Their recent defensive improvements were exorcised by Arsenal’s swaggering display.

This was target practice for Arsenal and Ben White’s header from a corner almost enabled Jesus to score the goal he merited but the striker was unable to get a touch on the ball at the far post. For Forest, it was a chastening experience and Arsenal will have few easier afternoons as they extended their unblemished record at the Emirates this season.

Taiwo Awoniyi strike stuns Liverpool and lifts Nottingham Forest off bottom | Premier League

For Nottingham Forest, this was one of those spectacular occasions worth the long wait. After 23 years outside the top flight, how they enjoyed giving Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool a bloody nose. Steve Cooper’s name reverberated around this throbbing stadium at the final whistle as supporters launched into a chorus of “Forest are back”. Taiwo Awoniyi, who was let go by Liverpool last year without making a first-team appearance, scored the only goal to earn Forest’s second Premier League win of the season and lift them off the bottom of the table.

Forest supporters celebrated Virgil van Dijk’s miss from a Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick with 30 seconds of normal time to play like a goal, and went berserk when Dean Henderson somehow kept out Van Dijk’s downward header midway through five minutes of second-half stoppage time. An unmarked Van Dijk met an Alexander-Arnold corner on the edge of the six-yard box and planted his header but Henderson clambered low to save, leading Morgan Gibbs-White to bump chests with the England goalkeeper. Henderson then tipped over to deny Mohamed Salah.

At this point last year Liverpool were a formidable force, unbeaten and blowing teams away at will. They had just won successive league games 5-0, one of those a rout of Manchester United at Old Trafford days after victory at Atlético Madrid in the Champions League. Liverpool, all in white, were a pale imitation of that team. Klopp made five changes from his side’s victory over West Ham in midweek, with James Milner reverting to right-back in place of Alexander-Arnold who would enter as second-half substitute, and Jordan Henderson also dropping to the bench despite Thiago Alcântara missing with an ear infection. Salah was muted in attack and Liverpool appeared disjointed in midfield, with Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott overrun and overawed. Milner made a desperate flying block approaching the hour to deny Gibbs-White from doubling Forest’s lead and with five minutes to spare Alisson superbly denied the omnipresent Ryan Yates.

Nottingham Forest’s Dean Henderson saves a header from Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk.
Nottingham Forest’s Dean Henderson clambers down to stop a Virgil van Dijk header in injury time. Photograph: Michael Zemanek/Shutterstock

Liverpool remain without an away win in the league this season. Roberto Firmino sent a pass thudding straight out of play in the first half and Joe Gomez overcooked a simple ball to set Salah free down the right towards the end of the second. This game could have taken a different shape had Van Dijk taken Liverpool’s best chance eight minutes before the break. Liverpool recycled a corner, with Milner shifting on to his left foot and sending a perfect cross towards the back post, where Van Dijk was unmarked after peeling off Cheikhou Kouyaté. The centre-back presumably did not realise quite how much room he had to play with and nodded the ball across the six-yard box in search of Firmino but it whirled out for a goal-kick.

Forest gave as good as they got and deserved their goal 10 minutes into the second half. Gomez was booked for tugging at Awoniyi on halfway and Yates arrowed the resulting free-kick wide for the centre-back Steve Cook, who sent a superb cross in from the right. Awoniyi arranged his feet and sent a shot against a post before tucking in the rebound and duly soaking up the adulation from the Trent End. Klopp, arms crossed in the away technical area, was unmoved.

Henderson dropped to his knees early on to deny Fábio Carvalho and Firmino headed wide after eluding Cook at a corner but Forest refused to rollover and grew in confidence. Neco Williams, who signed from Liverpool in the summer, was bright when bustling forward from left-back and Kouyaté, who replaced Orel Mangala in one of two changes, sent Forest’s first shot at Alisson.

Awoniyi saw a bumbling shot gathered by the goalkeeper and a few minutes later the Forest striker was released by Gibbs-White but Jesse Lingard failed to make the most of a two v two, sending a shot into Alisson’s midriff. But Liverpool struggled to contain Awoniyi and after Salah and Van Dijk were thwarted by Henderson’s late heroics, he was able to savour a special moment.

Dean Henderson keeps out Brighton to lift Nottingham Forest off the bottom | Premier League

This was a frustrating, sapping 95 minutes of football and Steve Cooper did not overly care. For long periods Nottingham Forest played like the disjointed, slung-together set of players they inescapably are but it did not cost them. On the contrary they looked more comfortable as the game progressed against an increasingly exasperated Brighton and fought admirably to earn a point that takes them off the bottom of the table.

The robustness of their defending rendered the fact they barely mounted an attack of note irrelevant. If Forest rode their luck for spells of the first half they spent long stretches of the second untroubled, running the clock down expertly and playing on the audible nerves of a home crowd that has seen this all before.

Brighton’s old impotence has made an unwelcome return lately and, when Pascal Gross was thwarted by the best of several saves from Dean Henderson with nine minutes left, Roberto De Zerbi’s chances of a first win evaporated.

“For them to show the resilience and desire they did tonight, it’s ended up being a good point,” said Cooper, who knew his players needed a pick-me-up after their limp defeat at Wolves. “If we’d had a few more points on the board it would be a great point. We’re striving for that win.”

That never looked on the cards even though Brighton’s profligacy looked ripe for punishment. Their lack of a decisive touch was a theme that surfaced for patches of Graham Potter’s reign but must have been the last thing De Zerbi feared when overseeing a 3-3 draw at Anfield on his debut. Three subsequent outings have brought blanks; the solace for their head coach came in a performance he was reluctant to fault.

“I enjoyed [the game] and I said the same to the players,” he said. “I said thank you to them because they played a fantastic game. OK, we have to improve in the last 25 metres but after that I can’t say anything more.”

Pascal Gross fires a shot at the Nottingham Forest goal
Pascal Gross fires a shot at the Nottingham Forest goal. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images/Reuters

If it was a generous assessment of the final half-hour, which saw Brighton visibly run out of ideas, they had certainly done enough to expect an interval lead. Cooper claimed to have been encouraged by Forest’s play through the thirds before half-time but that, too, was over-egging things. Instead De Zerbi, a constantly agitated presence on the touchline, saw Henderson deny Leandro Trossard before the ever-involved Belgium international speared the game’s best effort on to the top of the crossbar.

Henderson saved smartly from Solly March and more straightforwardly from Pascal Gross, who should have done better after Trossard’s cutback, while Adam Webster and Joël Veltman flashed over from good positions. These were not gilt-edged opportunities, and nor were the volley and header from which Danny Welbeck came close after the restart, but one of them should have flown in.

That said nothing of the fact Brighton did not only squander shooting chances. Opportunities to feed teammates went begging, March failing to find Gross and later sending a low ball across goal with nobody waiting to pounce.

It all made for a hum of discontent, with a few boos at the end, from fans who want to feel confident De Zerbi can build on Potter’s platform. Nobody should dream of judging him for several months yet and, having endured the start of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine while Shakhtar Donetsk manager, the pressure does not faze him. “I stayed for five days inside a war so I’m not afraid of football,” he said. “But I’m sorry for the result because only two points from four games is not too much.”

Forest did not manage a touch inside Brighton’s box until Brennan Johnson, who had at least offered the boisterous away support a morsel with his enthusiastic pressing, outpaced Webster just before the hour then sliced his shot out for a throw-in. It was as exciting as their display got, summing up their attacking performance and cohesion on the ball. But Cooper explained that striking the right balance in a team which had shipped goals for fun requires going back to basics.

“Is that exactly what we want to be tonight? No,” he said. “But there’s small progress and a real commitment from the players every single day.” It felt like a long-awaited foothold.

Steve Cooper battling to find stability at turbulent Nottingham Forest | Nottingham Forest

After a turbulent spell at the City Ground, it looked as if things were calming down when Steve Cooper surprisingly signed a contract extension until 2025 and Forest then ended their five-game losing run with a draw against Aston Villa to lift them off the bottom of the Premier League.

Naturally, the rollercoaster took another dive last Tuesday when the head of recruitment, George Syrianos, and the head of scouting, Andy Scott, were sacked after a brief review into the club’s £150m spending spree on 23 players. The writing was on the wall for the duo the week before when club insiders were briefing against them and the chief executive, Dane Murphy, said their roles were in doubt. The loss of Syrianos, a key ally, does not bode well for Murphy’s prospects.

Cooper maintained throughout the summer that the level of recruitment was necessary to create a squad capable of staying in the Premier League. He was the man who decided trying to re-sign Djed Spence was not worthwhile, so the club gave him Neco Williams, and Cooper rejected the idea of bringing back James Garner and Philip Zinckernagel, despite the suggestion greater continuity would be helpful.

It was Murphy and Syrianos who brought Cooper to the club. Murphy and the recruitment team held a meeting with Cooper before the summer window that resulted in everyone being on the same page in terms of what was needed. Players aged 26 and under were brought in to carry on the practice of targeting individuals with the potential to improve and increase in value. The club looked to the Bundesliga for value, bringing in Taiwo Awoniyi, Moussa Niakhaté, Orel Mangala and Omar Richards, who arrived with a broken leg. Elsewhere others were looking to have their say in the club’s transfer business, including Marinakis’s son, Miltos.

The arrival of Jesse Lingard changed the window for Forest: the strategy was gone. It was hailed as a signal of intent from the ownership but the former Manchester United midfielder has failed to make an impact, spending the Villa game on the bench without an obvious role in the team and being offered a 20-minute cameo in Saturday’s defeat at Wolves that left them bottom once more. Older players on higher wages were sought to add gravitas to a young squad, with the signings of Lingard, Cheihkou Kouyaté, Remo Freuler, Willy Boly, Serge Aurier and Emmanuel Dennis made by those outside the recruitment team. Miltos Marinakis ensured he received credit for these big-name signings.

Brennan Johnson watches José Sá save his penalty at Molineux on Saturday
Brennan Johnson watches José Sá save his penalty at Molineux on Saturday, condemning Forest to another defeat. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images/Reuters

Behind the scenes the club have hired consultants in the commercial and communications departments in an attempt to bring a Premier League structure. Meanwhile their head of operations has departed in recent weeks. They still do not have a shirt sponsor because of a lack of interest at the £10m figure demanded.

On Tuesday Forest play at Brighton, a club that offer stability, a cohesive long-term transfer strategy and a successful multi-club operation, three things Forest can only dream of. It is the start of a tough period for Cooper, with Liverpool and Arsenal their following two opponents, and three more defeats would leave them bottom with two matches to go before the World Cup break. Roberto De Zerbi likes his side to dominate possession and, if Forest’s past two games are anything to go by, his Brighton team will have a lot of the ball.

It has not been easy for Cooper to go against his footballing ideals, leaving behind the 5-2-1-2 formation that brought success last season but was too ambitious for a promoted club in the Premier League. Cooper has looked to bring more rigidity after Forest conceded 21 goals in their opening eight games. There was a five-man midfield against Villa and a far less vigorous pressing game as Forest accepted conceding possession at home to ensure they were harder to beat, rather than playing in the aggressive style that had been planned for this season.

The downside is it has made them look blunt. Morgan Gibbs-White’s attacking threat is limited in a more defensive midfield role for the record signing, as Cooper experiments to find the right balance. Brennan Johnson looks woefully short of confidence, summed up by his penalty miss at Wolves. Forest have not looked like scoring in open play in their past three outings, requiring a Dennis header from a free-kick against Villa for their only goal.

A new plan is being created behind the scenes and on the pitch, but Forest have found out how ruthless the Premier League is. They have to hope their big decisions work because they will otherwise be back where they started, only without the strategy that brought them up.