Nottingham Forest live to fight another nine months at the start of the 2023-24 Premier League season after Steve Cooper’s men fought desperately on the banks of the Trent river at The City Ground to guarantee their survival in the top rung of England’s footballing pyramid thanks to a 1-0 win over Champions League-bound Arsenal.
Though Forest was not consigned to relegation if they tasted defeat in front of raucous home support, any breathing space going into matchday 38 was surely going to be welcomed with open arms, especially against a Gunners outfit who, tough in a spot of bother of late, have been one of the top sides in the country for the vast majority of the current campaign.
The Gunners crafted a good goalscoring chance a little after ten minutes when combination play just outside the area led to Martin Ødegaard playing Gabriel Jesus through on goal in the right-half space, but the tight angle and the slightest heavy touch from the Norwegian presented Keylor Navas with enough time to come out and claim before Jesus could chip the Costa Rican.
Forest was hardly on the back foot though, and began proceedings with plenty of intent both in the press as well as when they looked to break forward given what is at stake for the former two-time European champions.
Jesus popped up again five minutes later with another chance at the back post after a Bukayo Saka corner was poorly cleared by Moussa Niakhaté which ultimately fell to the leaping Brazilian forward, but his headed effort back across goal could only loop over the bar and on to the top of the net.
Nigerian international Taiwo Awoniyi would end up breaking the deadlock not long after to send Forest supporters into rapture, after Ødegaard turned possession over in the middle third of the pitch to send Morgan Gibbs-White off to the races before the English forward slipped the former Union Berlin front man in on goal, with his dispatched effort first bouncing off Gabriel Magalhães only to rebound back off his shin and past Aaron Ramsdale.
It was his tenth Premier League goal of the season which saw him continue his recent hot run of goalscoring form which had proven to be gold dust for Steve Cooper’s men and their efforts of staying up in the top flight of English football.
Tactical changes that were made by Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta which saw Thomas Partey deployed at right-back had not proven to be the right decision as the clock drew closer to the half-time interval, with the Ghanaian international star’s poor run of form hardly coming good while being utilized well out of position on the day.
No tactical shifts were introduced by either manager during the half-time break, with the balance of play mirroring the opening 45 minutes almost perfectly.
Forest nearly made it 2-0 in the 68th minute after Ben White gave possession away with a poor touch in Arsenal’s penalty area, but Gibbs-White could only lash his low drive at the near post into the side netting due to the acute angle of attack.
Both Cooper and Arteta made changes to reload for the final phases of proceedings at the City Ground, with Forest still happy to sit back and frustrate a Gunners side that simply could not get out of first gear all evening away from the capital.
Those changes did little to alter the order of things in Nottingham, with Forest securing their Premier League future for at least one more season thanks to a heroic performance against one of the giants of English football, who no doubt will be fielding even more questions after another poor performance at the tail-end of what has otherwise been an unexpected campaign in north London that ultimately ended in Manchester City’s third successive league title.