Arsenal 2-1 Nottingham Forest: Gunners survive late Forest pressure
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: Bukayo Saka of Arsenal celebrates after scoring the team's second goal with team mate Eddie Nketiah of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Nottingham Forest at Emirates Stadium on August 12, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Despite issues at the turnstiles delaying the kick-off for half-an-hour, Arsenal got off to a winning start in the Premier League by defeating Nottingham Forest 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium.

Following Manchester City's impressive 3-0 win at Turf Moor on Friday night, the pressure was on for Mikel Arteta's men to get off to a good start.

The Gunners were in complete control in the first half, with goals from Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka sending the home side into half-time two goals to the good. 

It was very much a tale of two halves, though, as Nottingham Forest piled on the pressure during the second, with substitute Taiwo Awoniyi grabbing a goal back for the visitors late on.

  • Story of the Match

It took just 90 seconds for Arsenal to look in complete control of the game, and it wasn't long before they had carved Nottingham Forest open. 

After only two minutes England international Saka was speeding down the right wing towards the Forest box, however, his dangerous looking ball was well intercepted by an opposition defender. 

Despite their confident start the Gunners were lucky not to be behind  early on, after Brennan Johnson found himself in behind the Arsenal defence and one-on-one with Aaron Ramsdale. The Welsh forward fluffed his lines, missing the target with a dinked effort on goal.

Forest were soon made to pay for their missed opportunity when the hosts broke the deadlock in the 26th minute. 

Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli produced a moment of magic to skillfully slip the ball through to Nketiah inside the penalty area, with the Arsenal number 14 making no mistake burying the ball in the back of the net. 

The home side continued to pile the pressure onto Steve Cooper's side, and doubled their advantage seven minutes later. 

William Saliba did excellently to regain possession high up the pitch and find Saka, who brilliantly controlled the ball to make space for himself, before curling the ball into top left corner, leaving the diving Matt Turner with absolutely zero chance. 

Martinelli and Nketiah nearly linked up for a second time in the game, when the Brazilian put a teasing ball into the box with the outside of his boot. However, the cross had a bit too much speed on it, gliding just past the outstretched Arsenal striker.

On the cusp of half-time Declan Rice came close to finding the back of the net on his Premier League debut for the Gunners

The former West Ham United captain did well to shift the ball onto his right foot, before making space for a shot and trying his luck from distance, but his effort towards the left post was excellently saved by Turner.

On the other side of the break, Arsenal were dealt a huge blow as new signing Jurrien Timber was forced off the pitch with an injury. He was replaced by Japanese defender Takehiro Tomiyasu.

Nottingham Forest looked the more dangerous of the two sides in the second half, and came close to getting a goal back on the hour mark. 

Ryan Yates found himself with the ball at his feet after a long throw-in was lumped into the Arsenal box. The 25-year-old was able to force a good save out of Ramsdale, although the midfielder was judged to be just offside. 

Forest had another good opportunity when new signing Ola Aina's shot from distance deflected just past the Arsenal post.

Arsenal looked to find their feet soon after, and midfielder Rice again came inches away from scoring his first goal the club.

The Gunners were playing some great football around the Forest penalty area, with Kai Havertz eventually cutting the ball back to the edge of the box where Rice struck a beautiful shot that looked destined to nestle in the bottom right corner, only to be denied by a fantastic save. 

With 10 minutes to go the visitors piled on the pressure and were able to peg a goal back. 

Substitute Anthony Elanga did brilliantly to race down the left flank, before finding Awoniyi, another substitute,  inside the box who coolly finished off a swift counter-attacking move. 

The tension was building inside the Emirates Stadium, and with their tails up Nottingham Forest almost scored an instant equaliser through Morgan Gibbs-White, whose first time effort from range flew just over the crossbar. 

In thrilling end-to-end action, both sides looked dangerous. Martin Odegaard saw his curled effort in the last minute fly just wide of the target, but ultimately, Arsenal were able to hold on and claim their first three points of the new campaign.

  • Player of the Match: Gabriel Martinelli

It was tough to pick between Martinelli and Saka this afternoon, with both of Arsenal's main men being on top form. 

Despite not getting on the score sheet, Martinelli had the better of Serge Aurier for large parts of the match, and caused trouble for the Nottingham Forest defence up until he was replaced. 

The 22-year-old showed off his Brazilian flair with a fantastic bit of skill to set up Nketiah for the Gunners' first goal. 

With 15 goals and five assists to his name in the Premier League last season, and if this performance is anything to go by, it looks as though Martinelli has picked up exactly where he left off in 2022/23 and will have another electric season for Arsenal.