Reds Beaten In Game Of Two Halves

Arsenal 2-1 Nottingham Forest (Premier League) 12.08.23

A tale of two halves in the Capital, almost – as Forest lose to Arsenal at the Emirates.

After a long wait, competitive football returned for Nottingham Forest at the Emirates, as they faced a tough opponent in championship challenging Arsenal, who were off the back of a Community Shield win against last seasons Premier League winners Manchester City. Not quite the result Forest wanted, but they weren’t far off after a brave showing in the 2nd half – unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough to secure a point.

The First half…

The half started with Arsenal holding the ball, attempting to work the ball into the box, particularly down the right hand side with the likes of Bukayo Saka, Martin Øodegaard and the on-running Ben White – many attempts, but many neutralised by Ola Aina’s good tracking back, and reading of the moves.

Forest did come close early on after a mistake from Arsenal defenders, but Brennan Johnson couldn’t finish, and the scoreline remained equal. A golden opportunity missed.

However, Aina’s efforts, amongst other defensive motions, weren’t enough to stop the imposing Arsenal attack, as a fantastic Roulette-style pass by Martinelli leads to a quick turnaround by Eddie Nketiah, who hits the ball with real power – Forest debutant Goalkeeper Matt Turner had no chance at stopping the shot. A 26th minute opener for Arsenal.

From that moment, Arsenal held all the cards – Declan Rice with Odegaard and Havertz controlling the midfield, winning back every Forest interception, and once again feeding the next attack – possession was no issue for Arsenal, Arteta set up to keep the ball, and not give Forest a ‘sniff at it.’ Then, just six minutes after the first, comes an absolute wonder-goal from Young Star Saka, who strikes the ball from the edge of the box with his left-foot, straight into the top-right hand corner of Matt Turner’s goal – again, Turner couldn’t stop this goal, it was inevitable with a hit quite as sweet as that. Odds even more against Forest now, 2-0 down after 32 minutes.

Overall, Arsenal’s half completely – Forest fairly uninspiring, Aina probably the most impressive of all the Forest players, but trailing as the first-half whistle blows – lots of work still to do.

The Second Half…

Once again, Arsenal playing a familiar game: control the midfield, attempt to break down the wing, and penetrate the box – and again, a familiar reaction from Forest, cohesive defensively, with the occasional slip up, but starting to look more rigid. Rather than playing quite deep, Forest started to push up more, and press Arsenal fairly effectively.

Despite not necessarily being the better team for all of the half, and having less of the possession, Forest flexed their muscles, working into the Arsenal half more often, breaking on the counter-attack often with Morgan Gibbs-White & Brennan Johnson on numerous occasions, unfortunately none materialising into more than simply a threat.

After a slight knock, Forest opted to swap Brennan Johnson for Anthony Elanga, and Taiwo Awoniyi came on for Danilo, increasing attacking personnel, and lessening Defensive duties – Steve Cooper’s side now pushing for a goal. Not long after said substitution, debutant Elanga takes on a pass, and sprints from the Forest half all the way to the edge of the Forest box, before placing an excellent short path into the feet of Taiwo Awoniyi, who slots it home to make it Arsenal 2, Nottingham Forest 1.

Forest would continue to pile on the pressure, Awoniyi continuing to make his physical presence known, but it would not be enough to see an equaliser, even after an added 7 minutes.

Overall thoughts?

The first half was certainly one to forget for Nottingham Forest, losing possession in too many cases, failing to cradle the ball from preying Arsenal midfielders, Forest looked like a wounded animal heading into the tunnel after the first 45 minutes.

However, all hope wasn’t quite lost, and a reaction was needed, and seen. A much better 2nd half, albeit still not perfect, but one that saw a goal on the return of Taiwo Awoniyi, and brought some hope back to the Forest fanbase heading into next week’s clash with Sheffield United – the first time the two have faced since the penalty heroics that lead to a magical day at Wembley for Forest fans after a tantalising fixture at the City Ground in early May 2022.

Lots to be worked on, and the game did expose certain weaknesses within the squad – lack of pace at the back, and the need for more quality in the midfield to stop other sides dominating, and add some more identity to this Forest side, but I think most Forest fans will be satisfied with a low-scoring loss, so every cloud does have its silver lining, I suppose. The focus must now be on getting points, starting at the City Ground against Sheffield United.

Forest: Turner, Aurier, Boly, Worrall (Wood 90), McKenna, Aina (Williams 71), Yates, Mangala (Kouyate 90), Danilo (Awoniyi 71), Gibbs-White, Johnson (Elanga 80).

*Article provided by Jamie Martin (Head Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFC new signing Ola Aina in action for Nottingham Forest.

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