Rafael Benitez “closing in” on Nottingham Forest managerial job

Everton's Spanish manager Rafael Benítez (Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images)
Everton's Spanish manager Rafael Benítez (Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images) /

According to the Telegraph, former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez is close to joining Nottingham Forest, with the club sitting at the bottom of the Premier League standings.

Steve Cooper’s job is under major scrutiny after losing the recent East Midlands derby against Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City.

Benitez has been out of work since being dismissed by Everton in January following a defeat to Norwich City, which left the Toffees in the relegation zone.

Despite securing promotion to the top flight for the first time in 23 years and bringing in nearly 20+ players, they currently sit at the bottom of the table. They have yet to win a Premier League match since beating West Ham back in August.

They’ve currently collected only 4 points in 8 games and the recent four-goal thumping at the hands of the Foxes hasn’t helped at all.

Having spent nearly £150m on 23 players in preparation for their return to the top flight, fans certainly would be hoping for better results.

Ahead of the match, there were suggestions that Forest’s boss Cooper was under immense pressure with owner Evangelos Marinakis considering a managerial change, talk that has only gotten louder following the final whistle at the King Power Stadium.

Despite the negatives, Cooper has done a good job at the City Ground. He was appointed with the club sitting at the bottom of the EFL Championship and has somehow managed to inspire a stunning run of form.

He helped the Reds secure a place in the playoffs and with it a place in the EPL. Despite recent speculation, Steve Cooper has refused to comment on the situation.

How would Rafael Benitez set up Nottingham Forest?

Rafa Benitez has established himself as a manager of potentially the highest caliber.

However, despite his success at some of Europe’s leading clubs like Liverpool, Valencia and Napoli, he remains a rather under-appreciated figure.

Benitez prefers the 4-2-3-1 formation, which he adopted during his time at Valencia and Liverpool. He was highly regarded for his tactical acumen particularly in European ties, setting his team up to exploit opposition weaknesses.

More recently at Everton, and most likely because of the terrible injury crisis he has faced, Benítez employed a 4-1-4-1 as well as a 4-4-1-1 formation.

Defensive football built on long balls and counter-attacks is well and truly running out of fashion. Diego Simeone, Unai Emery, and Massimiliano Allegri are arguably the last few managers out there who can implement this style of play.

While he believes in squad rotation, his teams do not usually change drastically, bar any injuries.

When defending, Benítez asks his players to drop into a zonal marking low-block 4-5-1 formation where they can press the man in possession close to their own goal. This was pretty evident during his spell at Newcastle United.

Irrespective of the formation, the low block is still a common theme, and similar aggressiveness is displayed when closing down spaces and pressing the man in possession.

Going forward, Benítez expects his team to transition the ball with speed and fluidity. His defensive midfielders are expected to regain possession in the middle of the pitch and release the wingers in the center.

Benitez can work with a tight budget as evidenced during his spell at Newcastle United when he took the Tyneside outfit from relegation in one season to automatic promotion in the next. Needless to say, the appointment would make a lot of sense.

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Nottingham Forest faces Aston Villa in their next fixture, and if Benitez is to succeed Cooper in the following few days, it could be a reunion for the former Liverpool manager later this month as Jurgen Klopp’s side travel to the City Ground.