Match Report – Match Highlights – Player Ratings – Post-Match Press Conference
Final Result: Arsenal 2-1 Nottingham Forest (Nketiah 26′, Saka 33′ | Awoniyi 83′)
Arsenal XI (4-3-3): Ramsdale; Timber (Tomiyasu 50′), Saliba, White, Partey; Rice, Havertz, Odegaard; Saka, Nketiah (Trossard 73′), Martinelli (Gabriel 86′)
I was under no illusion that this would be a stroll in the park, because I knew that Nottingham Forest was going to set up a low block to defend with their lives, as you’d expect from a lower Premier League side visiting one of the tougher grounds in the division.
To team news, I was somewhat confused with the formation when I saw that Gabriel was relegated to the bench, ending his amazing 73 game starting streak he had at the club. On seeing the formation, I had feared the worst that he had suffered some form of injury, but Mikel Arteta calmed my nerves and sent me to bewilderment when he confirmed it was tactical. In sending Gabriel to the bench and not deploying Jakub Kiwior in his stead, the manager paired William Saliba with Ben White in the heart of the defense and used Thomas Partey in the inverted right back role, while Jurrien Timber inverted from the left. We had truly turned to the Invertibles.
Bukayo Saka was at the heart of everything good from an attacking perspective but Nottingham Forest’s newly acquired leftback, following the departure of Renan Lodi, Ola Aina, proved to be a handful for Saka, guarding him closely and not giving him any breathing space.
Against the run of play, Nottingham Forest had the opportunity to go ahead when Brennan Johnson used his pace well to spring on the break but Aaron Ramsdale did really well to close him down, making him blast the ball wide off the mark. Arsenal almost drew first blood when Martin Odegaard saw Eddie Nketiah run into space and cushioned a through ball that was not within his reach, but the young energetic forward did his best to close down the ball and clatter his ex-teammate, Matt Turner, who had smothered the ball to safety.
Nottingham Forest continued to defend desperately and it was going to take a moment of magic to break their stubborn rearguard and that came from Gabriel Martinelli. After skinning Serge Aurier and bore down on goal, the Brazilian activated some samba with a beautiful roulette that took out two players, as well as guiding the ball to Nketiah’s path. The English forward took an extra touch and blasted it really hard, causing a slight deflection that took it past Turner, sending the Emirates into raptures.
Sometimes, it’s the scrappy ones that are the most fun. Just ask all the Arsenal fans that watched the Community Shield at Wembley when Leandro Trossard scored his deflected effort off Manuel Akanji past Ortega. While we were still basking in the euphoria of taking a well deserved lead, Saka received the ball from Saliba, picked his spot and curled in one of the most sumptuous curling finishes you’d ever see. A finish so good, that it looked better with each passing replay.
The two goals scored in quick succession put the wind on Arsenal’s sails and the football oozed confidence. Martinelli nutmegged Aurier to the delight of the crowd and drilled a cross from the byline but no one was on the same wavelength with the Brazilian wizard. Saka teed up Declan Rice at the edge of the area and the Englishman blasted a shot that was saved by Turner.
At the tail end of the first half, Timber made a mistimed challenge in midfield that saw him get a yellow card for his troubles but he also suffered a knock that saw the Arsenal physio spend some time with him. It looked innocuous to say the least but I was surprised to see Timber start the second half. Early in the second half, Timber received a routine pass and hit the deck, signaling that his night watch had ended. With no Kieran Tierney on the bench, our Swiss Army Knife, Takehiro Tomiyasu, came on in his stead. I feel really gutted for Timber because he has been an inspiring signing, even blending in the Oleksandr Zinchenko role like he has been doing it for ages. I wish him a speedy recovery.
Arsenal went into second gear as the game progressed with the next goalmouth action coming when Havertz weighted a pass to Rice, who drilled another goal-bound effort that stung Turner’s palms before clipping the post. Late on, Arsenal received a scare from Nottingham Forest when the visitors hit their hosts on the break with a swift counter attack that saw Anthony Elanga tee up Taiwo Awoniyi from the byline and the Nigerian’s one-time effort smashed Ramsdale’s net.
This prompted Arteta to summon Gabriel for Martinelli to give the defense a better shape, with Thomas Partey coming into midfield alongside Rice to provide some security. With Nottingham Forest going for broke, Arsenal had some opportunities to counter and there was one moment when Trossard made a lung-bursting run to retain possession, much to the appreciation of the crowd.
The Gunners held on and earned the victory that gave them three hard earned points and all roads will lead to Selhurst Park next Monday as the Gunners visit Crystal Palace. Before now and then, I’m sure the focus will be on unveiling the David Raya loan signing as well as seeking to ship some more players out.
Do have a lovely Sunday and get some popcorn this afternoon, as we get to witness Tottenham start life after Harry Kane.
Follow Gooner Daily on Twitter @goonerdaily.
Visit Gooner Daily’s Facebook page.
Click on the “Follow button” to join Gooner Daily’s Mailing List
The post Arsenal 2-1 Nottingham Forest: Three Hard Earned Points appeared first on Gooner Daily.