Arsenal travelled up the M1 on Saturday, knowing that they’d need to win to maintain any hopes of winning the Premier League. Should Nottingham Forest manage a shock win, Manchester City would be crowned champions ahead of their game against Chelsea on Sunday – and more importantly for the home fans at the City Ground, Forest would secure their Premier League status for another season.
NFO: Navas; Niakhate, Felipe, Worrall; Lodi, Mangala, Yates, Aurier; Danilo, Gibbs-White; Awoniyi
ARS: Ramsdale; Kiwior, Gabriel, White, Partey; Xhaka, Jorginho, Odegaard; Trossard, Jesus, Saka
There was an incredible atmosphere at the City Ground ahead of kickoff, with the usual rousing rendition of Mull of Kintyre enough to send shivers down the spine of even the neutral supporter. It was the hosts that dominated possession early on, flinging the ball into the box at every opportunity as they looked to net an early opener.
However, Odegaard looked to be a bright spark in the middle of the pitch for the Gunners – and with ten minutes played, he started to send his team flooding forwards. His first created chance saw Trossard sent out wide on the left flank, though the Belgian’s cross into the box evaded Gabriel Jesus.
It was Forest that took the lead in the 19th minute though, as a misplaced pass from Odegaard allowed Gibbs-White to surge through the centre of the park before playing in Taiwo Awoniyi. Under pressure from Gabriel, the Nigerian was still able to find the back of the net – and as it stood, Arsenal’s title hopes were dead and buried.
The Gunners managed six shots before the interval, but ultimately they lacked quality and failed to test Keylor Navas between the sticks. Mikel Arteta’s side would need to produce an inspired performance in the second half if they were to overcome the deficit.
Forest could have doubled their lead soon after play resumed though, as Ramsdale looked to rise and catch Renan Lodi’s inswinging corner. The ‘keeper lost control of the ball though, but he was able to safely recover it on the second attempt before one of Steve Cooper’s men could bundle it over the line.
It took the Gunners fifteen minutes or so to produce a chance in the second half, as White played in Saka on the right flank. The young forward darted infield, thundering a strike towards the near post – though Navas was able to push it behind.
Still though, Forest looked to be the dominant team and Gibbs-White could have doubled the hosts’ advantage in the 67th minute. White wasn’t able to control a pass from Partey, allowing Gibbs-White to dart into the box, but his finish was sent wide of the post.
In the ninetieth minute, Morgan Gibbs-White could have bagged another goal as he darted around the Arsenal defence – but his shot failed to threaten Ramsdale. Seven minutes of injury time would follow, giving the Gunners one last chance to ensure the Premier League title fight continues for a little while longer. Martin Odegaard attempted a speculative strike from outside the box, but it flew wide of the post without concerning Navas.
That would be the end of the action, and it’s a result that brings an end to Arsenal’s title hopes – as they now cannot mathematically catch Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Some will argue that the Gunners have thrown away their eight-point lead, but the progress under Mikel Arteta has been revolutionary and Arsenal are now back fighting where they belong. Manchester City will now look to complete the Treble, as they face Manchester United in the FA Cup Final on June 3 before heading to Istanbul a week later to conquer Inter Milan in the final of the UEFA Champions League.
Three points for Forest have also had a huge impact at the other end of the table. Steve Cooper’s side are now mathematically safe from relegation, which is an incredible feat given that they have lingered in the drop zone for much of this Premier League campaign.