MATCH REPORT: Nottingham Forest 1 – 0 Arsenal

Nottingham Forest (1) 1 Arsenal (0) 0

Premier League

City Ground, West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, NG2 5FJ

Saturday, 20th May 2023. Kick-off time: 5.30pm

(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, Jakob Kiwior, Gabriel Magalhães, Granit Xhaka; Martin Ødegaard (c), (Jorge Luiz Frello Filho) Jorginho, Thomas Partey; Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus, Leandro Trossard.

Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Emile Smith-Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, Rob Holding, Fabio Vieira, Matt Turner, Mauro Gomes Bandeira, Amario Cozier-Duberry, Reuell Walters.

Yellow Cards: Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Magalhães

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 82%

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Assistant Referees: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn

Fourth Official: Graham Scott

VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Neil Swarbrick; AVAR Darren Cann

Attendance: 29,514

For today’s match, Mikel Arteta has made two changes from the side beaten by Brighton and Hove Albion last week. Gabriel Martinelli is absent with an ankle injury, which means that Leandro Trossard takes his place. Thomas Partey is also in the starting eleven, getting chosen over Kieran Tierney, as Granit Xhaka drops to the left back position. Two matches left (including this one, of course) and it is so important to get maximum points from both of these games now.

The home side got this important match underway in the bright Nottinghamshire late afternoon sunshine. The atmosphere is at absolutely fever pitch levels in the early stages of the game, as both sets of supporters are vocalising well, supporting their respective teams. Both Arsenal and Forest look anxious as they probe each other’s defences, looking for a chink in the armour somewhere, to no avail. In the first ten minutes of the game, there were heavy tackles being distributed by both teams, and it was credit to the referee, Anthony Taylor, who was taking time out to speak to players and trying to get some calm in a sea of Nottingham anxiety today. Around the twelfth minute of the match, Thomas Partey was in a central position when the home side tried to counter-attack, but Bukayo Saka read the move and was far too quick for Renan Lodi and was able to get the ball back to Aaron Ramsdale to neutralise the problem. The match stopped when Moussa Niakhaté suffered a really unfortunate injury as his leg was caught accidentally by a falling Martin Ødegaard, who genuinely lost his balance after making an awkward pass. Moussa Niakhaté was on the ground receiving treatment, but after a while, he was able to continue. Gabriel Jesus headed the ball over the crossbar from a corner, and then after just nineteen minutes, following an error, striker Taiwo Awoniyi broke through and opened the scoring for the home team. Very disappointing indeed. However, we got ourselves together and started to apply pressure on the Forest defence, as Leandro Trossard met a decent delivery from a corner but sadly whacked his first-time shot wide of the goal. A couple of minutes later, some good build-up play by us led to Gabriel Jesus blasting the ball over the bar from close range. On the half hour, Bukayo Saka did very well to wriggle his way between a couple of Forest players on the right wing before slotting a good pass to Gabriel Jesus, who zipped in a clever ball that the home side’s defenders easily cleared. The home side keep trying to pick and probe at our defence, and on one occasion Aaron Ramsdale came out of his goal to clear the ball after he found himself in a dangerous one-on-one situation with Taiwo Awoniyi that could have ended disastrously for us. We had a period of long ball play deep into the Forest half in order to try and stop the pressure from the home side in midfield but sadly they are all cleared by either their defenders or goalkeeper Keylor Navas. In the four minutes injury time, despite some pressing play from our players, somehow the score remained the same as the players trundled off into the changing rooms for their half-time hiatus.

Arsenal started the second half under pressure from Forest, and Aaron Ramsdale was called into action within a couple of minutes turning a dangerous ball round his left-hand post for a corner for the home side, which eventually went nowhere. Mirroring the problems from the first half, Forest appear to be better at counter attacking than we are at pressing their defence in our quest to scoring the equaliser. Gabriel Jesus received a ridiculous yellow card from the referee after being pulled down in the Forest penalty area by Joe Worrall, after a surefire penalty appeal had been denied. Although we were passing the ball around nicely, there was no end product at all, and in order to pep things up a bit, after a good chance by Bukayo Saka that went astray, and a couple of disappointing corners, Mikel Arteta brought on Kieran Tierney and Eddie Nketiah to replace Jakub Kiwior and Granit Xhaka just after the hour. Forest came close to getting a second goal when Morgan Gibbs-White fired the ball past Aaron Ramsdale to hit the side netting, and our third substituion of the afternoon happened when Leandro Trossard (who has had a poor game today, it has to be said) was replaced by Fabio Viera with jusr over twenty minutes of the game remaining. We had yet another scare when Danilo found Renan Lodi with a clever ball but thankfully he dragged his shot wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s goal. Kieran Tierney and Gabriel Jesus combined well down the left wing but Kieran Tierney lost the ball before we gave away a free kick as we desperately tried to win it back. So utterly frustrating today. Gabriel received our second yellow card of the day after a silly confrontation with Morgan Gibbs-White, and then a nice move by us ended with Gabriel Jesus finding Bukayo Saka inside the penalty area but he was quickly surrounded by three Forest players. In the second half injury time period of seven minutes, we were passing the ball around midway inside the Forest half before the ball was sent into the penalty area but Keylor Navas gathered it up easily. Minutes later, the final whistle blew; in an instant, Nottingham Forest were guaranteed Premiership status next year, Manchester City are crowned Premiership champions and we are their runners-up. Just like that.

Such a bitter pill to swallow, but facts are facts; in complete contrast to the first half of the campaign before Christmas, when we only dropped seven points overall, the boys have collected just nine points from their past eight games, which to be fair, is not the stuff of champions. Today, we had eighty-two percent possession, and just three shots on target (out of eleven shots on the Forest goal overall) is not just good enough, frankly; but their cutting edge has been missing for a while, and there was an overall resignation about the outcome long before the final whistle blew on our challenge today. However, if we were all told last August that we would finish the season as runners-up, most of us would have taken that outcome. Leaving the recent drop off out of it, it has been a great season, and we are in the Champions League next year for the first time since the 2016-17 season. Such is life.

Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Emirates on Sunday, 28th May at 4.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.


Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon


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