Nottingham Forest 1-0 Arsenal: Much Possession, Little Penetration
Final Result: Nottingham Forest 1-0 Arsenal (Awoniyi 19′)
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1, I think?!): Ramsdale; Partey, White, Gabriel, Kiwior (Tierney 63′); Jorginho, Xhaka (Nketiah 63′); Saka, Odegaard, Trossard (F. Vieira 70′); G. Jesus
Following the loss to Brighton in front of the Emirates faithful, it was only a matter of time before Manchester City pushed hard to win their third Premier League title in a row, as well as their fifth in the last seasons, establishing a level of dominance that has not been witnessed in quite some time. The Gunners have gone through a roller-coaster campaign that saw them push the Cityzens to the edge, before capitulating in grand style with that atrocious run of form, so it was important to at least end on a high with two games left against Nottingham Forest and Wolves.
Nottingham Forest has promoted to the Premier League this season and have endured a topsy turvy campaign that saw the club flirt with relegation for a considerable chunk of the season. Following a win over Leeds in February 2023, Nottingham Forest went on a shambolic run of eight defeats and two draws in 10 games, and the bookies wasted no time in tipping them to make the drop to the Championship but with vital wins over Brighton and Southampton, as well as a draw with Chelsea, Nottingham Forest’s Premier League destiny was in their hands again, and they knew that a victory over Arsenal will all but secure their status in England’s elite division.
The game itself was somewhat troubling from the start with Mikel Arteta deploying a formation that was confusing to say the least – Thomas Partey was at right back, Ben White was back to center back and Jakub Kiwior played left back. Initially, I thought Kieran Tierney had suffered one of those his famous warm up injuries but to my bewilderment, he was among the substitutes. Arsenal had the lion’s share of possession against Nottingham Forest, but offered little or no penetration. The home defense always doubled up on Bukayo Saka, and on the left flank, Leandro Trossard, who was deputizing in Gabriel Martinelli’s stead was very ineffectual.
Against the run of play, Nottingham Forest opened the scoring when Martin Odegaard lost the ball further up the pitch, and Taiwo Awoniyi was sent clean on goal with Gabriel on the prowl, but the Brazilian defender inadvertently cleared the ball to the forward’s path, allowing him to side-foot the ball past an onrushing Aaron Ramsdale to make it 1-0. This is the umpteenth time that Odegaard has missed a simple pass that ended up leading to a counter attack that saw the team concede. I really hope he improves on this.
Despite offering nothing concrete from an attacking perspective in the first half, Arsenal got a chance early in the second half when Saka finally managed to evade his marker, but his near-post drive was saved by Keylor Navas. Bar a couple of half chances from Morgan Gibbs-White, it was a dire encounter with Arsenal making a 1,001 passes with no penetration to break Nottingham Forest down.
Sadly, this loss ensured that Manchester City won the Premier League with three games to spare and it’s back to the drawing board for Arteta and his coaching staff. More focus would be on Edu Gaspar and the higher ups to sign the players required to take Arsenal to the next level, but we have a whole summer to ponder and sort that.
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