On a glorious afternoon at the Emirates, bottom-of-the-table Nottingham Forest were sent packing after a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of a resurgent Arsenal. After their loss at PSV, Mikel Arteta said his men needed a reset. That reset appears to be well underway. Goals from Gabriel Martinelli, Reiss Nelson, Thomas Partey, and Martin Odegaard sent the Gunners back to the top of the Premier League in style. Below are five Hits and one Miss from a thoroughly dominant showing.
When Arsenal were only a goal to the good and Bukayo Saka was forced out of the match with injury, you could be forgiven for feeling nervous. Arguably the Gunners’ best player was off the pitch and Arteta’s men have not been great at maintaining a high level after going ahead. But on stepped Reiss Nelson, who changed the match. At the start of the second half, Nelson received the ball in Forest’s box and skillfully dropped a defender before lashing the ball at Dean Henderson and then blasting the rebound into the net. For his second goal, he tucked in a dinked cross from Gabriel Jesus. Partey did much of the work for Nelson’s assist, but it counts nevertheless. Nelson has surely earned himself a start against Zurich on Thursday.
For the last few matches, Arteta has deployed Tomiyasu at left back to mixed success. Against Leeds and Southampton, the Japanese defender struggled, begging the question of whether Kieran Tierney would finally start at the position he once had all to himself. But the manager persisted with Tomiyasu. Today, although he did not face much of a challenge from Forest’s attackers, he looked much more adapted to the role. He inverted well as usual, but he also displayed some bombing runs up the left flank and played more on his left foot than he had previously. He played a role in the first goal, winning the ball back before playing it to Martinelli. For as long as Oleksandr Zinchenko is out, Tomiyasu has probably earned Arteta’s trust at the position.
Jesus had an incredibly productive outing against Forest, finishing with a hat trick… of assists. The Brazilian forward set up both of Nelson’s goals. His first assist was particularly impressive, receiving a pass from Granit Xhaka on the spin before spotting Nelson’s late run into the box and playing him in. He also teed Odegaard up for the Norwegian’s goal. Yes, Jesus did not score for yet another match on the bounce. But it was not for a lack of trying; he took seven shots on the day and got into some great positions. The goals will come. But regardless, he now is in double digits for goal contributions with five goals and seven assists. He may not be hitting the back of the net, but he still makes Arsenal’s attack tick.
After a couple down matches in which Gabriel had to save the day a bit, Saliba was back to his imperious best against Forest. On the few occasions in which Forest mustered up a counterattack, the Frenchman handled the physicality and pace of Taiwo Awoniyi with ease. Multiple times, Forest would try to play a ball in behind him, but the center back won every race he was asked to run. As his side dominated the opposition in all aspects, Saliba was always there at the back, ready to clean up any potential threat and cycle the ball back up the pitch. And he did it all without getting carded, meaning he should be available for Chelsea next weekend.
Next to Saliba was White, who also put in a commendable shift. The Englishman too dealt with Awoniyi rather comfortably, cheekily bumping the Nigerian off the ball twice during the match. He continued those great overlapping runs on the flank for Saka and then Nelson, creating space for the wide men to operate in. He was never out of position, and also great on the ball. Despite Forest primarily attacking down White’s side of the pitch, he was untroubled in his defense of Arsenal’s clean sheet. More than so many others, Ben White deserves to go to the World Cup.
The lack of protection of Bukayo Saka
It finally happened. After multiple years of the Premier League and its referees allowing opposition players to relentlessly try to kick Bukayo Saka off the pitch, Forest’s were successful. Early in the match, a cynical challenge from behind by Renan Lodi brought down the English winger. However, Saka still managed to assist Martinelli’s goal before the discomfort of his knock forced him off. Hopefully, it is only a short absence for Saka and he will be available for the World Cup and perhaps even Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge. But the repeated failure of the league to discourage this treatment of one of the nation’s brightest young talents could very well contribute to a shortened career. Just look at Jack Wilshere, who is already well into his coaching career at only 30 years old. It needs to stop. The Premier League needs to protect one of its best players.
Sham writes and podcasts regularly about The Arsenal, and spent his Halloweekend dressed up as a barista and writing horrifically incorrect versions of people’s names on their beverages. He can be followed on Twitter @dopegooner.