Talking Tactics

How Hudson-Odoi and Elanga can speed up Forest's evolution

By Adrian Clarke 28 Sep 2023

Adrian Clarke says club's new wingers will be key as Cooper's side look to seize more possession

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Player analysis: Callum Hudson-Odoi and Anthony Elanga (Nott'm Forest)

Wingers Hudson-Odoi and Elanga should help Nottingham Forest to tactically evolve as a top-flight side this season, as they prepare to host Brentford on Sunday.

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Forest remain in essence a counter-attacking team, but as they grow in confidence at the highest level they will look to implement greater control of matches and enjoy more periods of sustained pressure.

The presence of exciting wingers Hudson-Odoi and Elanga will help Forest short-term in their current guise, but having featured for Chelsea and Manchester United respectively they also have experience of playing in possession-based sides.

Hudson-Odoi and Elanga both possess the skill and technical ability to unlock defensive opponents, and will suit the next stage of Steve Cooper’s evolution at the City Ground.

Ball-carrying brilliance

The pace of Brennan Johnson was always going to be a big miss for Forest, after his summer move to Tottenham Hotspur, but Elanga is exceptionally quick too.

He has been clocked at 34.88km/hr this season, the fastest speed of anyone in Cooper’s squad.

Unlike Johnson, who is at his best when sprinting into space, Elanga is also very fast travelling with the ball.

He showed that when carrying it 60 yards at Emirates Stadium on the opening weekend, before squaring for Taiwo Awoniyi to score.

Elanga's surging run and assist v Arsenal

Forest’s chief architects in 2022/23 were not prolific dribblers, so the introduction of Hudson-Odoi and Elanga gives the side something fresh.

Hudson-Odoi currently averages 20.6 carries per 90 minutes, with Elanga marginally behind on 18.1.

Morgan Gibbs-White (8.7), former player Johnson (7.9) and playmaker Danilo (7.2) are different types of attacking midfielders.

Nott'm Forest leading ball carriers 23/24
Player Minutes played* Total carries Per 90
Callum Hudson-Odoi 105 24 20.6
Anthony Elanga 209 42 18.1
Gonzalo Montiel 122 19 14.0
Neco Williams 108 15 12.5
Nicolas Dominguez 90 12 12.0

* Minimum 90 mins

When Cooper started in a 4-4-1-1 formation at home to Burnley, his side played with far more width than we usually see from Forest.

Both Hudson-Odoi and Elanga ran at full-backs in 1v1s during a match where Forest had 46.1 per cent possession, more than many expected against the Clarets.

As Forest move forward as a group this could start to become the norm, with longer periods spent inside opposition territory.

Time to settle

Hudson-Odoi, who will be 23 in November, is in his seventh season playing first-team football, yet he has never made more than 11 league starts in a single campaign.

If he maintains the bright start he has made for Forest, scoring a beautiful curling goal on his debut, he will surely top that figure in 2023/24.

Hudson-Odoi's goal v Burnley

While he may not have nailed down a regular spot at Chelsea, or on loan at Bayer Leverkusen last season, Hudson-Odoi is a frequent source of creation.

Busy and inventive around the final third, he has averaged 4.69 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes across the last five years.

Hudson-Odoi shot-creating actions per 90
Season Club Per 90
2019/20 Chelsea 4.80
2020/21 Chelsea 5.35
2021/22 Chelsea 5.15
2022/23 Bayer Leverkusen 3.86
2023/24 Nott'm Forest 4.29

*Stats from Fbref

Brentford will be extremely wary of the threat posed by Hudson-Odoi and Elanga.

The pair will switch wings intermittently, as we saw in the second half at Manchester City last weekend, as shown by No 14 Hudson-Odoi and No 21 Elanga in the graphic below.

Elanga and Hudson-Odoi swapping wings v Man City

Green arrow = successful pass; red arrow = unsuccessful pass

If given space to run at Brentford's full-backs, the duo will not need a second invitation to do so on Sunday.

Also in this series

Part 1: Will Emery or De Zerbi win battle of master tacticians?
Part 3: How trio have re-energised Liverpool's midfield

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