That’s how you bounce back from a dip in form. Arsenal smashed an overmatched Nottingham Forest side 5-0 at the Emirates to return to the top of the table. The visitors never really threatened, despite it being a one-goal match at halftime. The Gunners quickly took care of that, however, scoring three goals in 13 minutes to start the second 45 and put the match out of reach.
Arsenal score a lot of pretty goals, and the opener today was no different. Takehiro Tomiyasu made a nice interception to prevent a Forest counter. Gabriel Martinelli played a cross-field ball to Bukayo Saka, who picked out the Brazilian with a lovely cross for a diving header into the corner. Martinelli, who seemed to be on the outside looking in for the Brazilian World Cup squad, is making a really compelling case for his inclusion.
The Gunners nearly gifted Nottingham Forest an equalizer late in the first half when Gabriel Magalhaes got his signals crossed and essentially cut the ball back for Jesse Lingard in the box. Ben White, who had a really good defensive game, made a crucial block. Other than that glaring mistake, Gabriel had a really good game, using his speed and physicality to snuff out several Forest counters. William Saliba did that same opposite him as well.
Arsenal put the game out of reach through the unlikeliest of candidates. Reiss Nelson, on the pitch only because Bukayo Saka went off injured in the first half, scored a quick brace to start the second half. The first was off a lovely, sweeping move from the Gunners. Thomas Partey picked out Granit Xhaka with a long, line-breaking pass. Xhaka cut it back for Gabriel Jesus, who found Nelson. Nelson sat down the first defender, had his initial shot saved, and calmly put away the rebound. Nelson’s second was a deft near post flick to the far corner off a Gabriel Jesus cross. Thomas Partey and Martin Ødegaard rounded out the scoring, both with rocket shots into the top corner.
The only real negative from the match was Bukayo Saka being forced off midway through the first half with an injury. It didn’t look super serious — he was able to keep playing for a bit — but it’s something to keep an eye on ahead of Chelsea next weekend.
It’s frustrating to see as an Arsenal supporter, or a football fan really, because you knew it was coming at some point. Bukayo Saka gets fouled hard and repeatedly every week. Nottingham Forest fouled him two or three times in the opening 15 minutes of the match. Referees can’t seem to figure out that fouling Saka is a tactic that every team employs, and the asinine “permissive stance” they’ve taken on fouls more generally is to blame for his inevitable injury. It would be easy to avoid having star players get hurt, too. Defenders foul because they know they can get away with it / without a card. If you start calling the fouls and showing cards, they’ll stop. But for some stupid reason (they say “game flow”), we’ve decided that repeatedly hacking at star players is something we’re okay with. And this is the unavoidable result. Great job, Premier League.
It’s a bit of a bummer that Gabriel Jesus didn’t score. He hasn’t found the back of the net in seven matches, and it would have been nice to break that streak. He did manage two assists on the afternoon, worked really hard, and got himself into good positions for chances. He’ll score again soon. All told, it was an encouraging performance from him.
For all the hemming and hawing about a dip in form (which was reasonable, Arsenal hadn’t looked as good in the last few matches), the Gunners finished October 7-1-1 in all competitions. They had 9 matches in 30 days and are still top of the Premier League and will win their Europa League group with a home win over FC Zurich, who are bottom of the group. That’s pretty good. I don’t think there is anybody who wouldn’t have taken all that if you offered it at the start of the month.
As said, Arsenal have an important midweek match at the Emirates against FC Zurich in the Europa League. They’ve got a tough test away to Chelsea next Sunday, then Wolves away after that before the World Cup break. It would be really nice to stack up three more wins. They’ve got a good chance to do it, too.