Who is Maxwel Cornet & why are Nottingham Forest after him?

Francis Moore
By Francis Moore
12 Min Read

It’s now less than two weeks until the Premier League season kicks off and Nottingham Forest’s transfer business isn’t slowing down just yet. The Reds have been linked with Burnley star Maxwel Cornet all summer long, but in recent days these rumours have begun to increase. 

Maxwel Cornet has been linked with a host of Premier League clubs this summer, from Newcastle, Everton and West Ham, to newly promoted Nottingham Forest as the Ivorian international seeks a return back to the English top flight. At Burnley last season, Cornet established himself as the side’s talisman, finishing the campaign as the Clarets’ top goal scorer. In a season plagued by injury and a threat of relegation, Cornet still managed to impress in a poor Burnley side – had he not suffered so much from injuries, he could have been enough to steer the Lancashire side to safety.

Cornet’s style of play

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The 25-year-old arrived at Turf Moor following Burnley’s takeover by Alan Pace. Pace wanted to bring Burnley into the modern era and revolutionise the way the club operated and the signing of Cornet was a perfect example of this. He was brought in to add some attacking flare and creative style to a Burnley side not known for its attacking football, but Cornet still suited the system perfectly. Due to the height and physicality of other Burnley players, they required someone with the ability to cross the ball into the box where their forwards were usually aerially dominant – looking at Cornet’s delivery from set-pieces and open play you can see just how good he is at whipping the ball into dangerous areas.

Before arriving in the Premier League, Cornet was used mainly as a left-wingback for Olympique Lyonnais, but was signed by Sean Dyche to take up the role as a left-midfielder in a 4-4-2. Cornet went on to make only eight appearances on the left-wing, instead featuring more as a left-forward alongside Chris Wood or Wout Weghorst. As expected, Cornet would still often drift out to the left-hand-side, but had the attacking freedom to roam across the font and did often impress when in the centre of the pitch.

In front of goal, Maxwel Cornet has an instinctive finish, most of his nine Premier League goals came when the Ivorian chose not to control the ball and instead used his first touch to shoot at goal. When shooting the first time, Cornet had the power and accuracy to find the back of the net, often catching the opposing keeper off-guard. A perfect example of this was in Burnley’s 2-1 defeat at home to Newcastle. Nathan Collins played the ball into Cornet in the box, his well hit first-time shot forced Martin Dubravka into making a smart save – the rebound flew into the air, giving the Newcastle keeper time to steady himself, as Cornet fired at goal again with his first touch – however this time he found the back of the net, with Dubravka rooted to the spot.

When in possession, Cornet likes to run on to the ball, rather than receiving it at his feet – allowing him to make the most of his pace and momentum. His ability on the ball, especially when progressing forward makes him excellent in one-on-one situations, as he likes to knock the ball beyond defenders before sprinting past to regain possession. Cornet’s hold-up play works very well in this situation, the winger-turned-forward distributes his body weight to hold off opposing defenders – giving himself the time and space to take on his man-on or play through a teammate.

How will Maxwel Cornet suit Steve Cooper’s system?

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Understanding how Cornet will fit in at Nottingham Forest is tricky. Traditionally setting-up in a 5-2-1-2 formation, there would be no room for Cornet to operate as a left winger. He could then be used as a left-wing back or left-forward, but since Forest have already signed two new left-wing-backs and record signing Taiwo Aowniyi will feature as the left-sided striker, there is no room for him in the starting 11.

If Cornet was to move to Nottingham Forest he would likely have to be shoehorned into the side, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work. As shown last season, Forest like to be a side to break at pace, using their wing-backs and forwards to get down the pitch as quickly as possible – this was aided by having creative players in their own half, capable of playing the ball forward. In this regard, Cornet has a very similar style to both Awoniyi and Brennan Johnson – preferring to run onto the ball rather than have the ball played to his feet or when facing away from goal.

When looking at it from this perspective, it makes Cornet seem like a great prospect for Steve Cooper’s side – but the issue is, someone would have the be dropped to make room for the Ivorian, or he would have to settle for a place on the bench. Burnley are reluctant to let Cornet leave for anything less than his £17.5m release clause, which could make him an expensive acquisition – especially if used as a rotational piece.

Summer signing, Omar Richards, was set to be Forest’s starting left-wingback following his arrival from Bayern Munich. Now that a hairline fracture has ruled him out for a few weeks, it could be worthwhile bringing in a new signing to compete with Harry Toffolo if Richards is out for longer than expected. Maxwel Cornet could do an excellent job as a wingback for Forest, he’s shown he can play in a deeper role from his time at Lyon and was one of the better Premier League forwards when it came to successful defensive actions. However, you do feel like utilising Cornet as a wingback is a waste of his talents. Cornet is a great attacking threat, whether you play him as a wingback or further up the pitch – but to get the most out of this attacking talent he needs to be played in a more advanced role.

Whether off the bench or starting, Cornet would be able to offer a lot to this Forest side, his pace and dribbling ability are characteristics that can be found across the squad, and – as shown at Burnley – would make him a handful for Premier League defenders. His all-around energy does make him a bit different to Forest’s attacking options as well, often buzzing around to win possession and is no stranger to coming deeper.

The author’s Verdict

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Maxwel Cornet is a fantastic player and would be a great addition to this Forest squad, but with recent signings, it’s hard to see where he will fit in. He’s unlikely to feature in the front-two or on the left-wing and his skill set would be wasted if he’s coming in as a left-wingback.

If Cornet was to move to the City Ground, I can only see him coming in as a versatile option of the bench. That’s not to say he wouldn’t eventually be a starter, but given the quality already in those positions I can’t see him making it into a starting role without a change in formation – not because he’s a lower standard than those already starting, more because I don’t see Forest forking out upwards of £10m for players just for them to be replaced by someone more expensive in the same window.

So, should Forest sign Maxwel Cornet? In my opinion, yes. His £17.5m price tag isn’t cheap, especially for a player who could be used more off the bench in the first weeks of the season, but is a fantastic asset and would be for any side in the bottom-half of the Premier League. Like Jesse Lingard, he would add some much needed Premier League experience into this Forest side – and would be the only one of Forest’s front-line to have experienced the English top-flight.

Cornet is more proven and arguably better than the other attacking options at Cooper’s disposal, but that doesn’t mean he walks into the starting 11. For this exact reason, I think Nottingham Forest is the wrong club for Cornet. It’s going to be an attractive prospect due to the clubs’ ambition and set-up, but Cornet could be limited on minutes because of Forest’s recent signings. He definitely has the ability to be a starter, but as Forest have already paid big fees for Awoniyi and Richards, I can’t see either being dropped anytime soon.

This would be a fantastic bit of business for Forest if they can get it done. Yes, £17.5m isn’t cheap, but to have a player of his quality on the bench, or in the starting line-up would be massive for a team like Nottingham Forest. The Reds are still hunting for another forward, so it’s clear they aren’t happy with their attacking depth and another big signing, like Cornet, will just reinforce their ambitions for the season. Be it a change in formation, played off the bench, played out of position or in as a starter, Cornet is a calibre of player that would greatly improve this Forest side, he would be an excellent addition if they can get it done.

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