Football Features

Arsenal 2-1 Nottingham Forest: Two moments of magic seal Gunners win on Premier League opening weekend

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:10, 12 August 2023

Arsenal opened their 2023/24 Premier League campaign with a 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest on Saturday afternoon.

The kick off for the game was delayed due to turnstile issues and it was a pretty slow start until Eddie Nketiah gave the home side the lead, starting up front in the absence of the injury Gabriel Jesus. By half time it was 2-0, with Bukayo Saka doubling the Gunners’ advantage with a beautiful curling effort from outside the box.

Taiwo Awoyini came off the bench to pull a goal back and set up a nervy finish, but Arsenal managed to hold on.

Here’s how the players rated at the Emirates Stadium:

 

Arsenal

Aaron Ramsdale – 6 – Didn’t really have anything to do in the first half but was lively to all that did get thrown at him.

Thomas Partey – 7 – Started at right-back back but pushed into central midfield with Mikel Arteta taking inspiration from Pep Guardiola, of course looking in control in his natural position.

Ben White – 7 – The right-sided centre-back, White found himself getting further up the pitch to cover for Partey drifting infield and he had a good partnership with Saka. Had very little to do defensively but he was caught out by Awoniyi’s run for the late strike.

William Saliba – 7 – Didn’t really have too much do deal with, but Arsenal look so comfortable with him at the heart of their defence.

Jurrien Timber – 6 – Had some good moments on his Premier League debut but it was cut short by injury, picked up in the first half while making a tackle. Made it to half time and came out for the second half, but only lasted a few minutes before having to come off.

Declan Rice – 7 – Looked like he’d been part of the Arsenal midfield for years, already fitting into their gameplan with the tactical switch, covering the left flank at times. “He’s like a sponge in there,” Rio Ferdinand said pre-match, before adding: “As a character, he’s exactly what the club need right now.”

Kai Havertz – 5 – In the expected No.8 role, Havertz was quiet when it came to getting involved in the attack but he wasn’t shy of the midfield battle. Pushed further forward for the final 15 minutes and really should have made it 3-1 but he was too slow on the break.

Martin Odegaard – 7 – Pulled the strings from early on, being the key linkup man to the wingers.

Bukayo Saka – 8 – Was Arsenal’s main danger from the start, with the Gunners focussing their attack down his wing. Put in a couple of good crosses into the box from open play and as the man on the corners, but all of that falls to the wayside with his wonderful goal. Picking up the ball on the edge of the box, Saka cut onto his left foot and curled a magnificent effort past the goalkeeper, leaving him and the defenders helpless.

Gabriel Martinelli – 7 – Wasn’t as involved in the early stages with Arsenal favouring the other flank but he produced a bit of magic to beat two defenders and set up Nketiah for the opener.

Eddie Nketiah – 7 – Good finish to open the scoring, albeit with the aid of a deflection, ending what had been a long wait for an Arsenal goal.

Substitutes:

Takehiro Tomiyasu (for Timber 50) – 6 – Looked fairly comfortable after coming on.

Leandro Trossard (for Nketiah 73) – 6 – Brought fresh legs to the flanks.

Gabriel (for Martinelli 86) – N/A – A late sub.


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Nottingham Forest

Matt Turner – 6 – Couldn’t do anything about either goal, beaten by a deflection for the opener and the strike for the second. Produced a great save to deny Rice a goal.

Willy Boly – 7 – Dealt with pretty much everything Arsenal threw into the box. If it was a cross, Boly was their to clear, if there was a shot, Boly was there to block – as he did for Nketiah just before half time. However, he was a statue watching Saka’s goal curl in.

Joe Worrall – 6 – The unfortunate man to deflect Nketiah’s shot past Turner and that was actually the story of his game, always seeming to get a little nick on efforts that could have caused problems. Held up well for most of the match though.

Scott McKenna – 7 – Looked pretty good having to defend up against Saka. It was a tough afternoon, but he did his job fairly well.

Serge Aurier – 6 – Was beaten by Martinelli for the first goal and generally struggled down his flank, even though Arsenal favoured the other side. Defended well to prevent Havertz from making it 3-1 late on.

Ryan Yates – 4 – Didn’t bring the quality Forest needed in the centre of the pitch, losing the battle to Arsenal’s packed midfield.

Orel Mangala – 5 – Wasn’t too bad in midfield but it feels like he could have been more of a presence, sat in front of the Forest defence. Could have closed down Saka better for the Englishman’s goal, though you cannot blame him fully.

Ola Aina – 7 – Although he was a busy man up against Saka and White, Aina looked fantastic on his return to the Premier League with three tackles, matching up well.

Danilo – 7 – Was beaten by Martinelli in the build up to the first goal but he looked good, making a match-high four tackles and trying to bring some form to the midfield. It was a bit of a surprise to see him taken off.

Brennan Johnson – 4 – Sent a shot high and wide with just the goalkeeper to beat, catching the defenders flat-footed, but otherwise wasn’t in the game too much in terms of being a goalscoring threat.

Morgan Gibbs-White – 4 – Lost the ball dangerously close to his own area in the build up to Saka’s goal and really didn’t add anything in attack.

Substitutes:

Taiwo Awoniyi (for Danilo 71) – 7 – Pulled a goal back late on with a good run into the box, stepping just in front of White to take in. He’s now scored in five consecutive Premier League matches.

Neco Williams (for Aina 72) – 6 – Looked composed like the man he replaced.

Anthony Elanga (for Johnson 80) – 7 – Changed the game after coming on, turning things in Forest’s favourite and was brilliant in a counter attack to set up Awoniyi’s goal. Forest looked a different side with him on the pitch.

Chris Wood (for Worrall 90) – N/A – A late sub.

Cheikhou Kouyate (for Mangala 90) – N/A – A late sub.

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