Nottingham Forest vs West Ham predictions: Hammers can cut Forest down to size
Nottingham Forest and West Ham both kicked off their 2022-23 campaigns with a defeat but on the evidence of their respective opening-day performances, it is the new boys who have far more to worry about.
Hammers manager David Moyes is not without his concerns — not in being outclassed by a Manchester City side led by Erling Haaland but in the number of defensive injuries mounting up in his squad.
However, his problems look minor when set against those posed to Forest head coach Steve Cooper, who is going to have to build a team on the fly as it adapts to life at a higher level.
The Forest manager was forced to bring in a host of new players after six loan signings — who contributed a total of 161 league appearances last term — and eight first-team squad members were either released or sold over the summer.
The scale of the rebuilding task was evident in the opening loss at Newcastle that could have been far harsher than a 2-0 scoreline as a new group of players looked understandably out of synch.
Six new signings started for Forest last weekend, with two more coming off the bench, so Cooper has a massive job on his hands and will be desperate to get early points on the board when the defensively hobbled Hammers arrive.
Cooper’s rebuilding job has not been helped by an injury to midfielder Scott McKenna, picked up in training last week.
Ryan Yates and Steve Cook both suffered injuries in pre-season and will miss the match against West Ham, while Omar Richards remains sidelined by a hairline fracture of the leg that he sustained shortly after arriving in Nottingham.
For West Ham, the sight of centre-back Kurt Zouma hobbling through the final half hour against Manchester City summed up the state of Moyes’ defence — you would not leave an injured player on against Erling Haaland unless totally out of options.
Moyes will be praying that Zouma’s injury proves nothing more than a knock as new signing Nayef Aguerd will be out until October, Angelo Ogbonna is still short of full match fitness, Craig Dawson is rated 50/50 and Issa Diop joined Fulham on Wednesday.
With no other senior centre-backs to call upon, Moyes will likely get Ben Johnson to again deputise in the middle.
Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and striker Michail Antonio had to come off with injuries against Manchester City but both are expected to return, although there are able replacements in Alphonse Areola and new boy Gianluca Scamacca, respectively.
Maxwel Cornet was registered too late to play last weekend but will be available against Forest.
This will be West Ham and Nottingham Forest’s first league meeting since 2011-12, when the Hammers won 2-1 at home and 4-1 away en route to promotion via the Championship play-offs.
While the East London club has been in the top tier ever since, recording five top-half finishes in the 10 completed seasons, Forest spent five of their following 10 campaigns in the bottom half of the second tier.
However, Forest supporters might gain encouragement from last season’s performances in league and cup under their new manager.
Cooper arrived in the dugout in September with Forest bottom of the Championship after taking just one point from their opening seven matches.
He not only initiated a miraculous upturn in Forest’s league fortunes, guiding them to fourth place and play-off glory but also bloodied some Premier League noses in the FA Cup.
Cooper’s men eventually fell to a 1-0 defeat against Liverpool in the quarter-finals but beat Arsenal 1-0 and demolished Leicester 4-1 along the way.
With both teams in a degree of disrepair, this could be an entertainingly chaotic clash with goals at both ends.
West Ham were slightly more impressive up front than at the back last term, scoring the seventh-most goals in the Premier League but compiling only the ninth-best defensive record.
But with so many injuries to the back line, plenty of offensive quality at his disposal and a vulnerable-looking opponent, Moyes may decide to go for all-out attack in Nottingham.
In Antonio, Scamacca, Cornet and Bowen, Moyes now has plenty of forward threat at West Ham and they face a Forest defence who allowed Newcastle 23 shots on goal last weekend.
Cooper will hope that new signing Jesse Lingard puts on a show against his former team but, at best, Forest might contribute a goal or two in a high-scoring defeat.