Arsenal FC look to capitalize on their recent offensive outburst against Crystal Palace as they head north to take on Nottingham Forest in a Tuesday night clash ahead of what could be a massive match in the title race when Arsenal host league leaders Liverpool on Sunday.
The win over Crystal Palace on the 20th of January saw the offense put together a dominating performance following a much-needed break after a dismal December in front of goal. It was the type of result fans were clamoring for. It was fun, it was open, it was…followed immediately by another long layoff.
After another chance to recuperate and recover, the Gunners now need to prove that their showing against Palace wasn’t a mere fluke. All of the stats and metrics point to this Arsenal side being firmly among the three best in the league, but stats don’t win you much more than moral victories if they don’t amount to points.
Arsenal opened the season against Forest with a 2-1 win. Both teams have been on opposite trajectories since then, but Forest have begun to stabilize under new manager and familiar PL face Nuno Espírito Santo after Steve Cooper was sacked in December. The club enjoyed their New Manager Bounce with victories over Newcastle and Manchester United in December, but had the legs kicked out from under them when the league leveled charges in late January that the club was in breach of profit and sustainability rules for the 2022/23 season.
Here are three talking points ahead of Tuesday’s match:
Nottingham Forest have become one of those sides in recent seasons that Arsenal just cannot manage to beat away from home under Mikel Arteta. The last victory for the Gunners at City Ground came back in 2016, when Arsenal won 4-0 in the League Cup. Since then, it’s been a string of frustrating results for the Gunners, losing twice at Forest in the FA Cup in consecutive campaigns and, most painfully, at the end of last season in league play. That late loss secured not only Forest’s place in the PL the following season, but it also secured a third straight Premier League title for Manchester City and extended Arsenal’s title drought for another season.
Blocking out the Noise
One of the most unique problems to have as a club is being run by a young, promising manager. The expectations start off relatively low, but the better they do, the faster the rumors begin to swirl when positions at other top clubs become available. Mikel Arteta found himself an unexpected victim of the managerial rumor mill this weekend when he was alleged to have told Arsenal that he would be stepping down at season’s end, a rumor spawned in the wake of the announcement from Xavi that he would not return as Barcelona’s manager after this season.
Those claims were quickly slapped down by Arsenal, but the fact remains that rumors, no matter how outlandish or unsubstantiated, can have a way of lingering in unsavory ways. Arteta publicly called those reports “fake news” today, but that doesn’t stop the rumor from being a talking point in the media that could have a distracting effect on the club as they mount a title challenge and a Champions League push.
Fresh Legs for February
Despite the rest between matches, there are still a few players that could be given further rest - namely Declan Rice and Gabriel Magalhães. Thomas Partey, who returned to first team training this week, was ruled out by Arteta, but Rice and Gabriel, who were both subbed off against Crystal Palace with knocks, are potentially subject to late fitness tests. Jorginho, who came on late against Palace, could feature if the gaffer chooses to rest Rice with Liverpool on deck.
There are also selections to be made in the midfield and the attack. Gabriel Martinelli came off the bench in a rare sub appearance last match and proceeded to score two confident goals in transition. But, in fairness, Leandro Trossard also scored, which could give Arteta some food for thought. Emile Smith Rowe, who has been champing at the bit, had a solid 20 minute cameo last outing as well. Could he get a rare start at Forest in lieu of Kai Havertz? With players returning from injury and with several crucial fixtures in the weeks ahead, Arteta could opt to shake things up against a Forest side in the midst of a potentially detrimental FFP issue.
Considering Forest’s stabilizing form under Nuno and the impending massive match against a red-hot Liverpool at the Emirates this weekend, the Gunners should have zero excuses to not be fully motivated and focused on Tuesday, especially after having ten days off between matches to rest and recover. Arsenal have not been as sharp at times as they were last season, but they still have everything to play for. Tuesday will be a great chance to keep the pace and keep their momentum as the second half of the season kicks on.
WHAT: Arsenal at Nottingham Forest
WHEN: Tuesday, January 30th, 2:30pm EST/11:30am PST/7:30pm GMT
WHERE: City Ground, Nottingham
HOW TO WATCH: Streaming on the Peacock app.
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