Nottingham Forest 1-0 Arsenal: Gibbs-White and Awoniyi crown Manchester City champions
Manchester City have won the Premier League title after Arsenal tested the concept of bottling even further with a timid 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest.
Steve Cooper’s Forest, who simultaneously guaranteed their Premier League safety with a well-earned victory, kept their first clean sheet since February 5 to protect Taiwo Awoniyi’s first-half goal.
Arsenal summarily failed to contain the record Forest signing and equally struggled to create much of note at the other end, registering their last shot on Keylor Navas’ goal in the 69th minute. Nice.
Gabriel Jesus floated a header onto the top of the bar at one point and Arsenal predictably dominated possession but could not translate having 81.6% of the ball into 100% of a goal. Morgan Gibbs-White was sensational.
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City’s champagne has been on ice for a couple of weeks as the Gunners, who also wilted badly at the end of last campaign, have won just two of their last eight Premier League games. However, they are confirmed runners-up going into their final game of the season next week.
For Forest, this was a real red letter day as they secured their survival against the odds.
For large parts of the season, which began with more than 20 new signings, they looked destined to return straight back to the Championship, not least when they were on an 11-game winless run going into the end of April.
But Awoniyi’s hot streak, with five goals in three games, helped Cooper’s side lift themselves out of the bottom three and they can no longer be caught by Southampton, Leicester or Everton.
It completes an impressive job by Cooper, who repaid Forest for the faith they showed when backing him amid their poor run, and his stock continues to rise.
Everton’s draw at Wolves earlier in the day meant Forest came into the game knowing a win would guarantee their safety.
And backed by a vociferous home crowd, desperate to see their side secure survival at the place where they have won so many of their points this season, they made a strong start as Arsenal’s defence survived some early pressure.
The Gunners began to assert some level of control and Gabriel Jesus was denied by Forest goalkeeper Navas, who came out quickly to smother the ball, while the Brazilian nodded over at the far post.
But the City Ground exploded in the 19th minute as Forest punished their visitors with a lightning counter-attack.
Martin Odegaard loosely passed straight to Gibbs-White who surged forward at pace before feeding Awoniyi, who enjoyed a bit of fortune as Gabriel’s challenge bobbled against his leg and he scuffed past Aaron Ramsdale.
Arsenal had plenty of possession but lacked the creativity and guile to break Forest down in the first half, with Leandro Trossard and Jesus sending efforts tamely off target.
1991 – This is the first time the English top-flight title has been decided at the City Ground since 1990-91, when (ironically) Nottingham Forest beat Liverpool 2-1 to ensure Arsenal's 10th league championship win. Throwback.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 20, 2023
Forest vitally ensured they took their lead into the interval and could have doubled it soon after the restart.
After recycling a free-kick, Renan Lodi’s ball back in found Felipe and his shot from close range was blocked.
It was more of the same for the Gunners, who had plenty of the ball but did little with it. Bukayo Saka did have a moment of promise when he was played in but he fired straight at Navas.
Instead it was Forest who were pushing for a second and Gibbs-White squandered a good chance when he found the side-netting after taking advantage of Ben White’s slip, before Lodi drilled wide.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes with the holy grail of survival in touching distance, Forest began to sit deep and invite pressure on themselves.
It is unsurprising that nerves were so fraught as no side have conceded more goals in the final 15 minutes of matches than Forest’s 17 and every tackle, block and clearance was greeted with cheers as loud as a goal.
Gibbs-White fired straight at Ramsdale as Forest looked to make it a less tense ending for them, but Arsenal’s poor attacking display meant they were able to hold on to spark mass scenes of celebration.
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