Nearly a year on since his arrival at the City Ground, Chris Hughton has been relieved of his duties as Nottingham Forest manager.
Hughton joined Forest with high expectations having achieved promotion to the Premier League with both Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion. However, his fortunes changed Trentside, with the Reds narrowly avoiding relegation under his tutelage last season.
This campaign is more of the same, with dreadful performances and atrocious form. His dismissal hardly comes as a surprise and had it not been for a late Brennan Johnson equaliser against Derby, Hughton may have been out of a job weeks ago.
While it’s a no brainer the 62-year-old shouldn’t continue at Nottingham Forest, one question still remains: where did it go wrong for Hughton?
Last season, one of the few positives which could be taken from Hughton’s tenure was the defensive stability in the side. Forest, despite finishing 17th, had one of the tightest defences in the league under Hughton, conceding just 45 goals all season.
However, the backline which was so solid last season, seems to be a shadow of its former self this time around. Seven games into the season and the Reds have conceded the second most goals in the league and are yet to keep a clean sheet. Forest used to pick up points by holding onto narrow leads and shutting their opponents out, something they have failed to do so far this season.
Chris Hughton’s style of play is reliant on a sturdy defence. He opts to sit back, soaking up pressure and winning the game by a slim margin. Unfortunately for Hughton this defensive mentality didn’t work and as Forest became leaky at the back, they became even worse up top.
Attacking creativity was nonexistent and there was no emphasis on creating scoring opportunities. Each game Forest would look poor going forward, hardly testing opposing keepers. So even in games when Forest were level they rarely looked like taking the lead.
His game management was also questionable. Substitutions would often be used too late in the game to have an impact, or he would use like-for-like substitutes that couldn’t change the game. For example, in the 2-1 defeat against Cardiff, Phillip Zinckernagel, one of Forest’s better players, was replaced by the inconsistent Joe Lolley while the game was level. Forest later went behind and Johnson was taken off for Alex Mighten, a like-for-like change when a defensive player could have been taken off for a more attacking threat.
His stubbornness to change his style never waived. Forest would fall behind and the system would remain the same: two holding midfielders and a defensive set up – which impeded all chances of getting back into the game. If Hughton was open to changing his game plan, Forest might have more than a point to their name.
The squad Hughton inherited wasn’t ideal, and it still isn’t now – but with the players he has at his disposal the team should be performing far better than they are. No one expected a play-off push but I think most fans would have been content with a season of rebuilding and a mid-table finish. Now, yet another relegation battle is on the cards.
After the defeat against Blackburn Rovers it seemed the fans had turned on Hughton. Boos rang out across the ground, as fans chanted against him. It never seemed likely Hughton would recover from there, the poor results and the negative football had taken its toll.