Arsenal host Nottingham Forest at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. The Gunners had a brilliant first 80% of last season before surrendering first place in the league to Man City. They’ve spent big in this window and face a Forest side who beat them in round 37 last season. Arsenal surprisingly had just the 13th-best home defensive record last season.
The Gunners looked odds-on for the title last season having won seven straight fixtures from round 23 to 29. That gave them an eight-point buffer but cheap points were dropped from 2-0 leads at both Liverpool at West Ham. A 3-3 home draw with Southampton was extremely damaging and wiped out six points of their lead.
After being resoundingly beaten 4-1 at Man City, the title was no longer in Arsenal’s hands. Wins against Chelsea (3-1) and Newcastle away (2-0) kept things alive being limply losing 3-0 at home to Brighton to officially end the title race. A 1-0 loss at Nottingham Forest saw the Gunners outfought. They ended the season with a morale-boosting 5-0 win against Wolves.
Arsenal Team News
Mikel Arteta remains without Gabriel Jesus up front for this match. He must decide whether to use Kai Havertz in that role or to start Leandro Trossard after his goal vs. Man City. The latter may get the nod with Havertz taking the role of the departed Granit Xhaka in midfield. Thomas Partey would drop the bench in that case with Declan Rice as the lone number six.
Oleksandr Zinchenko is still doubtful with a muscle injury so Jurrien Timber is set to play in the left-back role. Jorginho should be fit after a knock but Reiss Nelson and Folarin Balogun are doubtful to be involved.
Arsenal less than a win will be good enough in this match. Even in round 1, they can’t afford to slip up and give Man City an early lead.
Arteta’s side will attack and look to score as many goals as possible in this one. They will also want a clean sheet at home having only kept four home shutouts in the league last season.
From Round 23 to 33 last season, Forest went on a run of 11 matches without winning. They took just three points from that streak and looked set to be relegated. What they were doing well was taking points at home and they had seen just one loss in 11 at the City Ground at that stage. They rallied very well after that by first beating knackered Brighton 3-1 at home and then Southampton 4-3 at home not long after.
Forest then went to Chelsea and took a 2-2 draw before securing their top-flight status with a 1-0 home win against Arsenal. On the final day, they drew 1-1 at Crystal Palace. Taiwo Awoniyi scored that day to make it six goals in the final four league matches of the season.
Forest Team News
Forest have had a much quieter window so far than a year ago. Anthony Elanga has arrived in attacking areas from Man Utd and Ola Aina has boosted depth at fullback. In goal, Matt Turner has come in for £10m and he will be number one after Keylor Navas’ loan spell ends. Renan Lodi’s loan spell has also ended and he has left the club.
Steve Cooper hasn’t lost any other key men but three of his best players are doubtful for this match. Felipe has been carrying a knock in the preseason and Moussa Niakhate is still a week away from a return. Up front, this match could come too soon for Taiwo Awoniyi. Chris Wood is fit and could play up front or speedster Brennan Johnson could lead the line.
Forest were poor on the road last season and would see a point here as being like a win. They may even have to focus on damage control in the second half and keeping the score down.
Cooper’s side could play a back five or a narrow midfield to stifle Arsenal. They will have to rely on fast counters and set plays.
Arsenal have won just 3 of their last 9 Premier League matches
Arsenal have conceded in 21 of their last 25 home matches (EPL)
Arsenal have scored 28 goals in their last 8 home Premier League matches
Nottingham Forest took just 8 points from 19 away matches last season
Forest scored just 11 goals on the road last season (EPL)
This should be a big Gunners win. They score plenty at home whilst Forest have a couple of key injuries and were dire on their travels last term. Backing Arsenal on the handicap looks wise and the goalscorer market could be lucrative.