In the 83rd minute, Albert Sambi Lokonga sloppily gives away possession in a dangerous area, the ball is intercepted by Johnson who lays off the ball to Yates whose inch-perfect effort is turned in by Grabban. This frenzy is a microcosm of what unfolded in the rest of the encounter. Arsenal making uncharacteristic errors and Forest pouncing on them.
In all honesty, it would be selling Forest short, by calling the result Arsenal’s defeat. It was Forest’s victory. The visitors arrived in pristine white kits to raise awareness about their “No More Red” anti-knife crime initiative. Forest, on the other hand, had a strong line-up. Gunning for a result and spurred on by the home supporters. Given the facts, there were inklings of an upset in the air and, the Forest supporters latched on.
Arsenal’s Frustration and Nottingham’s Jubilation
Arsenal looked crisp but their play lacked the same grace. Arsenal’s squad has been impacted by injuries, the AFCON and, COVID. Consequently, they were forced to make changes. However, the squad was strong enough for a Premier League opposition.
Right from the kick-off, Forest looked more motivated and prepared for a battle. Therefore, it was no surprise when they threw the first haymaker. Garner’s sublime pass found Johnson and, Arsenal were almost carved apart. Arsenal made some advances but never threatened Nottingham Forest in the first half.
Mikel Arteta promptly made changes. Nuno Tavares was substituted in the 35th minute and Patino made way for Lacazette. Patino, a central midfielder had made fewer passes than the Forest keeper. The changes did spark something but, Forest was brighter, snappier and more motivated.
Even though Arsenal had more passes, possession and pass accuracy than Nottingham Forest, they registered zero shots on target. Meanwhile, Forest created chances and threatened them throughout the match. The tricky trees ended with three shots on target. Djed Spence was particularly sensational for Forest. The wily wingback was composed, decisive and aggressive. In addition to his defensive duties, Spence’s marauding runs made life difficult for Arsenal’s backline.
The game settled into a pattern after sixty minutes. As Arsenal would attack but couldn’t break through the organized Nottingham Forest defence. Forest would immediately pounce on errors and attack on the counter. Consequently, the winning goal also came from a similar beat. Lokonga’s error allowed the hosts to counter which resulted in Lewis Grabban netting the winner.
The victory pushes Nottingham Forest through to the next round, setting up a derby against Leicester. While Arsenal would rue their sloppiness to end their cup run so prematurely.