Arsenal fans often long for the glories of the Arsene Wenger era, but Mikel Arteta has matched an unflattering piece of his former manager’s history today. Arsenal have been eliminated in the third round of the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest, just as they were in Wenger’s final FA Cup game back in 2018. The 1-0 defeat closed the door on another chance at silverware for the Gunners, as the most successful side in FA Cup history fell at the first hurdle.
Forest started brightly, and took the game to Arsenal for the opening quarter of an hour. Their attacks lacked penetration, but carried plenty of desire and intent. The home side could not sustain the pressure, nor could Arsenal take full advantage of the drop-off. The Gunners enjoyed only half-chances in a cagey first half. Rob Holding sent a shot ballooning wide, while Eddie Nketiah hit the side-netting from distance. The latter was something of a surprise starter, considering he is expected to leave the club this month and would have been cup-tied if Arsenal had progressed.
The main talking point in a first 45 minutes that lacked cutting edge on both sides was the substitution of Nuno Tavares. The left back put in a hapless display during his time on the pitch, struggling to control the ball and sending a hospital pass back to goalkeeper Bernd Leno. Manager Mikel Arteta replaced the 21-year-old with Kieran Tierney. Tavares reacted furiously, throwing his gloves aside and refusing the acknowledgement of the Arsenal coaching staff.
One team did come out for the second half determined to get on the scoresheet, and that team was Nottingham Forest. On two occasions, Bernd Leno alone stood between Forest and a deserved lead. Brennan Johnson motored down the right on the break and found Philip Zinckernagel with his cross. The Danish forward powered in a shot which the Arsenal goalkeeper saved wonderfully. Then James Garner, the Manchester United loanee, sent a free kick curling towards the top corner, only for Leno to leap and meet it with another top-drawer stop.
Arsenal did create chances. Nketiah burst through the lines and got goal-side of debutant Steve Cook, before dragging a left-footed strike wide. Arteta endeavoured to give himself more attacking options, as Charlie Patino was replaced by the vastly more experienced Alexandre Lacazette. The France international’s first major involvement was failing to make the most of an inviting cross into the box, with the ball going between his legs under pressure from Joe Worrall.
Forest’s diligence since the break was finally rewarded late on, as another dangerous break paid dividends. Ryan Yates got away wide on the right, playing a superb cross in for Lewis Grabban to finish with aplomb. It was a brilliantly worked goal, and well-deserved considering the increased urgency Steve Cooper’s side had shown after half time.
Arsenal had no response, and will now be pinning all their trophy hopes on the Carabao Cup. Arteta’s side face Liverpool in the semi-final of that tournament, over two legs. A daunting prospect, particularly given their performance at the City Ground.