Nottingham Forest 1-0 Arsenal (FA Cup Round Three) 09.01.22
Nottingham Forest are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup where they’ll host Leicester City in an East Midlands derby clash next month after history repeat itself Trentside against Arsenal.
The Reds beat the Gunners 4-2 at the City Ground four years ago in record breaking Manager Arsene Wenger’s final FA Cup game and in Mikel Arteta’s first ever visit to the world famous, he saw his side suffer similar fate knocked out at the third-round stage thanks to a late Lewis Grabban winner.
Arsenal donned all white, apparently for the first time since 1938, with special permission from the FA to bring awareness to knife crime in London, but despite the visitors looking sleek and clean they were blunt in attack and it was Forest’s day with the reds getting down and dirty to produce an almost text book performance that went to the plan of Steve Cooper and his coaching staff.
The Garibaldi gave debuts to Steve Cook and Keinan Davis after joining from Bournemouth and Aston Villa (on loan) respectively. Arsenal with three players at the AFCON and a number of COVID casualties, gave 18-year-old Charlie Patino a first ever start.
The first half wasn’t particularly pretty, Arsenal looked laboured and lacklustre and although Forest impressed with solid organisation defensively, the home side very rarely foraged into the opposition half, indeed neither keeper having much to do in the opening 45 minutes.
The highlight, or lowlight for one player in particular, was Arsenal’s Nuno Tavares being dragged off by Arteta on 35 minutes after a shocking sub-standard performance, the player throwing down his gloves en-route to the dugout to the cheers of the Forest fans.
Nil Nil at the break if Forest smelt that they were in with a chance at half time against a team far from firing on anything more than a cylinder of a few Bukayo Saka moments, they sure went for the throat in the second half as Brennan Johnson sprinted past his marker to find Zinckernagel who’s low effort was well stopped flicked round the posts by Leno.
Arsenal themselves had their best opportunity when Saka found Nketiah who headed off target when he should have done better. At the other end Garner’s curling free kick tested the palms of Leno who dived spectacularly to his top right to keep out, Forest huffed and puffed whilst Arsenal lacked ideas and identity, the Reds smelling blood late on, then took the lead with five minutes remaining, Ryan Yates doing well down the right to cross to substitute Lewis Grabban who does what he does best. Some people were on the pitch, it was almost all over.
Grabban had come off the bench on 68 minutes after an impressive debut by Davis who’s hold up play up top was terrific, a real battering ram which the Gunners back line struggled to compete physically with, as Davis tired through lack of football whilst at Villa this season, the Reds masterplan to bring the main man on to grab the winning goal going by the book, Forest holding out for the final few minutes without Arsenal hardly testing the gloves of Samba all match.
After a few nervy moments on ninety three and a half minutes the City Ground erupted as the Referee Craig Pawson blew for full time, another magical day in the cup, another shock win against the Arsenal, another performance by a Steve Cooper side that suggests Nottingham Forest are a seriously good football team right now.
Some special mentions to Djed Spence who handled the speedy Gabriel Martinelli with ease, how Middlesbrough Football Club do not need the player arguably the best in the division in his position is a question only they can answer, to Jack Colback, makeshift left back who kept out the dangerous and talented Saka from causing any real threat, to the back three and Steve Cook who came in to a new team but looked like he’d been a solid staple Red for many years, the energy in midfield through Garner and Yates and the pace and quality of Brennan Johnson, a real talent who proved he can mix it at a level above, and lastly to Steve Cooper, who picked the perfect team with good substitutions and a game plan that stifled the Gunners who just didn’t fancy taking on a tough Championship team in front of 25,000 partisan fans on a cold Sunday afternoon in January.
A memorable and special day for Forest and their fans, next up is the beautiful reality of Millwall away on Saturday afternoon next, before attention draws to Derby County, which is still just about the ‘biggest’ game in the East Midlands, ahead of Leicester City’s visit of course, when the Foxes travel up the A46 for the fourth round of the FA Cup which will be played at the start of February.
It’s been six years since Forest have lost an FA Cup tie at the City Ground… Dare red fans dream another upset ahead? Cup fever is very much still thriving in NG2… Long may it continue through 2022.
Nottingham Forest: Samba, Cook, Worrall, McKenna, Johnson, Garner, Colback, Yates, Spence, Zinckernagel (Cafu 75), Davis (Grabban 68).
Arsenal: Leno, Soares (Kolasinac 90), Holding, White, Tavares (Tierney 35), Lokonga, Patino (Lacazette 69), Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Nketiah.
Venue: City Ground (24,938)
*Main image @NFFC Lewis Grabban slides in to score the winning goal.