Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Nottingham Forest
Steve Cooper returns to Swansea on Saturday as Nottingham Forest make the trip to the Swansea.com Stadium.
Ahead of this one, WhoScored.com preview the clash, looking at what to expect from Cooper's Forest, a key battle that could sway things and a key stat to whet the appetite. . .
What to expect from Nottingham Forest
Swansea fans will know exactly what to expect from Nottingham Forest. The Reds are managed by former boss Steve Cooper, who took over at the City Ground in September following Chris Hughton's sacking. Since then, Forest have been superb. Only Fulham (28) and Bournemouth (25) have claimed more points than the Nottingham powerhouse (24) since Cooper's appointment.
Cooper enjoyed an impressive two years at the Swans helm, but supporters are hoping it's an unhappy return to the Swansea.com Stadium for the 41-year-old. Cooper initially used a three-man backline in the opening weeks of his tenure at the City Ground helm, but has recently turned to a 4-2-3-1 system, a formation he has used in four of Forest's last five league matches, and to good effect, winning two and drawing two of those matches.
Ball winner Ryan Yates has nominally been used as one of two players at the base of the midfield and he should continue in that role in South Wales. The issue for Cooper is who partners Yates. There is the possibility for James Garner to drop back into a deeper role, but after a goal and assist against Peterborough in the number 10 role, the on-loan midfielder may well keep his place behind the striker at Swansea, which could see Braian Ojeda keep his place alonside Yates.
Brennan Johnson and Philip Zinckernagel are additional options for Cooper behind Lewis Grabban, though the pair started out wide to accommodate Garner in the number 10 role and given the impact of the 20-year-old in a more advanced position, it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see the youngster feature here.
Garner earned a WhoScored.com rating of 8.58 in Nottingham Forest's 2-0 win over Peterborough last weekend - his best in a Championship match this season - and the youngster will be full of confidence for Saturday's game. He may be a holding midfielder by trade, but he is still a creative force that'll need to be stopped.
Indeed, Garner is making more key passes per 90 (2) than any other Forest player in the Championship this season, but in Matt Grimes, Swans boss Russell Martin has just the player to limit Garner's influence.
Grimes remains a key man in Martin's midfield. The Swans skipper has registered more league minutes (1890) than any other Swansea player in 2021-22 and ranks fifth for tackles per game (1.2) of all players for Martin's team. Considering Forest have scored the fourth most goals (19) in the league since Cooper took charge, Grimes needs to ensure they are unable to maximise a statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'finishing scoring chances', which is where the 26-year-old's retention qualities could prove key.
The Swansea captain is making more passes per game (101) than any other player in England's second tier this term to reinforce a statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'passing' and ensuring Garner is unable to utilise the creative side to his game is vital.
In terms of finishing chances, Nottingham Forest rank among the best in the division, particularly since Steve Cooper took over the reins. Under Cooper, a conversion rate of 12.8 per cent is the fifth best in the Championship, while in terms of form, only Fulham (10) are on a longer unbeaten run than Forest (7).
However, one of the teams above Forest for conversion rate since Cooper's appointment is Swansea (13.7 per cent). Having won the last three meetings between the two teams, Russell Martin will be hoping for a return to winning ways in this fixture.