Arsenal beat Forest to close gap on leaders Liverpool

Arsenal moved two points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool with a 2-1 win at Nottingham Forest.

The Gunners deservedly took a two-goal lead in the second half thanks to strikes from Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka.

But despite their dominance at the City Ground, with Mikel Arteta’s side having 74 per cent possession and 19 shots, Forest forced a nervy finish as substitute Taiwo Awoniyi pulled one back in the 89th minute.

Player ratings

Nottingham Forest: Turner (5); Montiel (5), Omobamidele (6), Murillo (7), Toffolo (6); Danilo (6), Mangala (6); Williams (6), Gibbs-White (6), Wood (5).

Subs: Awoniyi (7), Hudson-Odoi (6), Yates (6), Elanga (6).

Arsenal: Raya (6); White (6), Saliba (6), Gabriel (6), Zinchenko (7); Rice (7), Odegaard (7), Smith Rowe (7); Saka (8), Jesus (9), Martinelli (6).

Subs: Havertz (6), Nketiah (6), Trossard (6), Jorginho (n/a), Kiwior (n/a).

Player of the match: Gabriel Jesus

Arsenal, though, held on to make it back-to-back wins and move second behind leaders Liverpool, who have a game in hand on the north London side as they host Chelsea on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Forest’s relegation fears deepened with Nuno Espirito Santo’s side now sitting just two points above the drop zone.

How Arsenal kept pressure up on Liverpool

Gabriel Jesus celebrates after giving Arsenal the lead at Nottingham Forest
Gabriel Jesus celebrates giving Arsenal the lead

Arsenal took full control of the game from the first whistle as they set about exorcising the ghosts of last season’s defeat at the City Ground, which saw their title challenge ended.

But Arteta’s side failed to test their former goalkeeper Matt Turner in the first half, with Saka’s deflected shot off Murillo the closest they came.

Meanwhile, Forest offered very little as they failed to have a shot on target and had just two touches in the Arsenal box.

Bukayo Saka rues a missed opportunity against Nottingham Forest
Bukayo Saka and Arsenal were frustrated in the first half

Awoniyi was introduced for Chris Wood at half-time but Arsenal continued to dominate as Saka finally tested Turner who saved his deflected effort.

The visitors’ frustrations grew further as Jesus then hit the post, but Jesus did find the back of the net in the 65th minute as he squeezed one in past Turner at his near post.

Zinchenko’s throw-in released the Brazilian and Jesus poked through Turner’s legs in another poor moment for the American after a number of mistakes this season.

Seven minutes later, Gonzalo Montiel’s error allowed Arsenal to break and Jesus to turn provider as he picked out Saka who fired across Turner into the bottom corner.

Taiwo Awoniyi celebrates after pulling a goal back for Nottingham Forest against Arsenal
Taiwo Awoniyi pulled one back for Forest

But Forest did set up a tense finale thanks to Awoniyi’s 89th-minute finish as he rolled William Saliba to fire under David Raya.

The Forest striker went close in stoppage time as he hooked a volley straight at Raya but Arsenal saw out the victory to cut the gap to Liverpool at the summit.

Arsenal show personality, patience and passion

Sky Sports’ Sam Blitz:

Mikel Arteta demanded his Arsenal team show their personality at Nottingham Forest – a place where many top teams have faltered.

Since Forest came up to the Premier League, they’ve beaten Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd and this season’s Aston Villa at the City Ground. Man City and Chelsea failed to win there last season too.

But amid a raucous home atmosphere, Arsenal’s personality shone through. Within half an hour, they had made 111 touches in the final third compared to just one for Forest, who were pinned back and their fans were left stunned and silent.

The only issue was that, for most of the game, the important statistic was 0-0.

Then came the patience. Jesus missed two big chances at the start of the second half but his willingness to keep going, score one, then set up another, won his side the game.

Then came the passion. After full-time, with Forest nearly coming back to claim a point, Oleksandr Zinchenko was furious at Ben White – both players had to be separated amid the celebrations.

A lot has been made about what Arsenal lack. New striker, new winger, new left-back are among the cries. None are coming, so Arsenal are sticking to what they do have.

Arteta: We wanted to put right what happened last year

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta:

“I could feel it, they were talking about it [defeat at Forest last season] coming to that dressing room. It really reminds you, our brains and bodies are really intelligent and coming to the same situation they know what happened and they were really active and engaged and they were talking about the game with each other.

“I thought it was really good. I am really happy with the performance and the result. We saw what happened last year and we wanted to put it right, we wanted to generate some momentum in the league and I thought we did that.

“The performance was very good, we completely dominated the game. We had to be patient but we always had an eye to the opponent, we didn’t allow them to run.”

Nuno: We should’ve had more possession

Forest boss Nuno Espirito Santo:

“First half, we defended well. We were organised, compact and didn’t allow too many situations. Arsenal are a very good team in possession of the ball. We had to be patient and cover the right spaces in the wide areas.

“We were missing more possession of the ball. We should have had more possession; that was a negative. We were better in that aspect in the second half.

“We started the second half well and had good spells of possession. It was disappointing the way we conceded both goals. It was avoidable. We can avoid those situations.

“After we scored, there was a feeling we could have got something. We had a good 10-minute spell. But to sum up, we should have played better.”

Opta stats: Arsenal keep up strong away form this season

  • Only Liverpool and Manchester City (both 22) have earned more points away from home in the Premier League this season than Arsenal (20).
  • Nottingham Forest have lost five of their last six Premier League home games (W1), as many as their previous 24 at the City Ground since returning to the top-flight in 2022 (W10 D9 L5).
  • Arsenal have now won six of their last seven Premier League meetings with Nottingham Forest (L1), completing a double over them this season.
  • Bukayo Saka became the first player to record 10+ goals and 10+ assists in all competitions in two consecutive seasons for Arsenal since Alexis Sanchez did so three times running from 2014-15 to 2016-17.
  • Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus has now scored against 29 of the 31 sides he has played against in the Premier League (94%), failing to do so only against Cardiff City (1 app) and Manchester City (2 apps).

What’s next?

Next up for Arsenal is a crucial Super Sunday clash with Premier League leaders Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 4.30pm on Sunday.

Nottingham Forest are also in action on Sunday when they travel to Bournemouth; kick-off 2pm.

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