Preview: Nottingham Forest vs. Arsenal

Preview: Nottingham Forest vs. Arsenal

Striving to keep their Premier League title hopes alive for at least 24 hours, Arsenal’s penultimate game of the season takes them to relegation-battling Nottingham Forest on Saturday evening.

The two teams reconvene at the City Ground on the back of contrasting results last weekend, as the Gunners were humbled 3-0 by Brighton & Hove Albion while the Tricky Trees drew 2-2 with Chelsea.

Before the first ball was kicked this season, few could have envisaged Nottingham Forest coming away from Stamford Bridge with a point to their name, let alone one that could have very well been three following a frenetic 11-minute period in the second half.

Frank Lampard’s out-of-sorts troops were 1-0 down at the break courtesy of a Taiwo Awoniyi header before a brace from Raheem Sterling turned the tide in the hosts’ favour, but Awoniyi joined his counterpart in the two-goal club with another header just four minutes after Sterling’s second.

Even with Chelsea in their current predicament, avoiding a hiding in West London would have been the overriding goal for Steve Cooper and his charges last weekend, and that hard-earned draw leaves the Tricky Trees on the brink of survival in 16th place in the table.

With a three-point gap to the relegation zone, Forest will secure their top-flight status if they can match or better the results of 18th-placed Leeds United and 19th-placed Leicester City – who face West Ham United and Newcastle United respectively – and successive home wins over Brighton and Southampton is just what the doctor ordered before the visit of Arsenal.

Cooper’s men have also found the back of the net in each of their last five Premier League games and have lost just two top-flight matches at the City Ground in 2023 – going down to Manchester United and Newcastle – but they are without a clean sheet in 15 top-flight contests since shutting out Leeds in February, and Arsenal have plenty of attacking mistakes to rectify.

About half an hour after witnessing the soaring Seagulls outgun his young guns, Mikel Arteta offered a sincere apology to dejected Gooners, who witnessed a cagey first half and a harrowing second during the visit of Roberto De Zerbi’s men to the Emirates Stadium.

While there was an air of controversy over Julio Enciso’s opening goal as Jakub Kiwior took a stamp to the foot, there was nothing contentious about Deniz Undav’s lob or Pervis Estupinan’s third, effectively guaranteeing that Arsenal’s title charge will end in failure.

Defeat at the City Ground would mathematically hand Man City the title, a draw would more or less do the same given the champions’ vastly superior goal difference, and even if Arsenal can produce the goods on Saturday, their wafer-thin hopes will be extinguished if Pep Guardiola’s men beat Chelsea a day later.

With just two wins from their last seven heading into the weekend, it is proving to be a bitterly disappointing end to another campaign of promise for the Gunners, who have been defeated in their final away fixture in two of the last three seasons.

On a brighter note for the visiting contingent, their side ran out comfortable 5-0 winners when Nottingham Forest visited the Emirates back in October, but the Tricky Trees downed Arsenal at the City Ground in last year’s FA Cup and could now close off another avenue to silverware for their capital counterparts.

Nottingham Forest Premier League form:

Arsenal Premier League form:

We say: Nottingham Forest 0-2 Arsenal
The result of Saturday’s game may pale into insignificance for Arsenal if Man City can do the business against Chelsea 24 hours later, but Arteta should still get the response he is after against a leaky Forest backline.

Even with the Gunners’ morale slowly depleting, facing the title outsiders will be a different kettle of fish to a ponderous Chelsea side for Nottingham Forest, whose fight against the drop could be taken to the final day.

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