With their title hopes hanging by a thread, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side travel to the City Ground where even three points could see first spot slip away from them. Nottingham Forest on the other hand need three points to all but secure their Premier League status.
Two very contrasting seasons come to head this weekend, as relegation-battling Forest face title-challenging Arsenal. With just two games remaining, both sides likely already know their fates. Still, neither side will leave it up to chance and will be gunning for three points that could make or break their season.
After 11 games without a win, Nottingham Forest looked down and out, certain for an immediate return to the Championship. However, two wins and a draw in their last four games have put them in pole position to avoid the drop, with Everton, Leeds and Leicester all fighting for their Premier League status. Steve Cooper’s side haven’t had it easy in the top flight, but his side finally seems to be clicking as we approach the end of the season – no many will be counting them out of this fixture.
Their Saturday night opponents have had their fate all confirmed after last weekend’s battering against Brighton. The Seagulls put three past an exhausted Arsenal side who, despite going toe-to-toe all season, look to have conceded the title to Manchester City. There is still a slim chance Arsenal could claim the Premier League throne, but with a four-point gap and just two games to play, anything but three points should put an end to their title challenge.
WHEN AND WHERE:
Where: City Ground, Nottingham
When: Saturday 21st May, 2023
Time: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn.
Fourth official: Graham Scott.
VAR: Neil Swarbrick.
Assistant VAR: Darren Cann.
Another sucker blow for Arsenal is the absence of Gabriel Martinelli. The Brazilian has announced himself as one of the best wingers in the league, picking up 15 goals and 5 assists in an exciting Arsenal side. Martinelli has been ruled out for the final two games, leaving a big hole for Mikel Arteta to fill. Key starters, Zinchenko and Saliba are also out with season-ending injuries.
Fortunately for Nottingham Forest, there is no new injuries to report on, just the 10 players who were already ruled out. It’s a positive sign for Cooper, who will be able to select a similar 11 to what started the past couple of games.
Are Arsenal going to hold on to whatever slim chance they have to win they league; or are they going to accept the defeat Trentside? I think the answer to that question will help depict what we see on Saturday afternoon. We’re going to see a Nottingham Forest side riding high on confidence face an Arsenal side who – realistically – have nothing to play for.
With Premier League survival looking more likely, Forest won’t slow down this weekend, even with the tough challenge of Arsenal looming. The Reds seem to have finally found their style of play; sitting deep absorbing pressure and countering when the opportunity arises – it’s something Cooper has tried to do all season, but looks like his team have been on different wavelengths until recent weeks.
When the pressure is on, Arsenal haven’t coped this season, They lost both games to Manchester City, they lost a must-win game against Brighton and they struggled in both legs against Sporting in the Europa league. A season-defining game, in a hostile atmosphere like the City Ground – it won’t be an easy game for Arsenal.
Nottingham Forest – Taiwo Awoniyi
Like London busses, eh? You wait ages for one to come along, and then four come in two games. Forest have lacked goals all season, and it’s no surprise to see them firing again now their starting forward is fit. Johnson has been great this season, but Awoniyi is the real threat in this Forest side, as the focal point in attack he’s crucial in getting the ball forward, bullying defenders and finding the back of the net. He’s ending the season on a high.
Arsenal – Martin Odegaard
When it comes to the business end of the season, managers need their players to step up, and Odegaard is that man. Saka has been off the boil in recent weeks, and with Martinelli now out injured, most eyes will be on Jesus and Odegaard to get the Gunners on the scoresheet. The Norwegian is comfortably one of the best midfielders in Europe, but it’s his eye for goal that really sets him apart from the pack. He offers another outlet behind a threatening front line and is coming up with the goals when it matters most. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see his name on the scoresheet again this weekend.
Nottingham Forest: Navas, Lodi, Niakhate, Felipe, Worrall, Aurier, Mangala, Yates, Danilo, Gibbs-White, Awoniyi.
Arsenal: Ramsdale, Tierney, Gabriel, Holding, White, Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard, Trossard, Jesus, Saka.