Saka screamer helps Arsenal secure first PL win
Arsenal beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 in their opening match of the 2023/24 Premier League season thanks to two first-half goals from Eddie Nketiah and a thunderous strike from Bukayo Saka.
Kick-off was delayed by 30 minutes due to e-ticketing issues at the Emirates Stadium, which left thousands of fans unable to get in for the original start time of 12:30pm.
Even though Arsenal had Forest penned into their own final third for much of the opening stages of the match, the first big chance of the game fell to Forest’s Brennan Johnson. But, the Welshman failed to hit the target with only Aaron Ramsdale to beat in goal.
With 26 minutes played, after having a huge amount of the ball, Arsenal finally found a breakthrough. Eddie Nketiah found space in the box after some beautiful footwork from Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli and worked a position to net past ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner.
Just 6 minutes later, an Arsenal corner was cleared, and Bukayo Saka showed great strength to drive past the challenge of Forest new boy Ola Aina to wonderfully curl in a shot from outside the box.
Despite a comfortable lead at half-time, Arsenal failed to capitalise on their dominant position and the visitors brought the score back to just a one-goal deficit with a lightning-quick break from an Arsenal corner. Anthony Elanga led the charge and found Taiwo Awoniyi in the six-yard box who tapped home on in the 82nd minute. With just the one goal between the two sides, Arsenal managed to hang on for three crucial points.
Arsenal Up and Running for the Season
The first half showed signs of what Mikel Arteta has been aiming for in pre-season, which is for his side to be “more unpredictable”.
The back four that began the match missed the familiar face of Gabriel, with the Brazilian defender not starting for the first time in 73 games, to include Thomas Partey at right-back and Ben White in centre-back. This allowed Partey to invert and suffocate Forest further up the pitch, as the midfield pushed high with Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Martin Odegaard helping to control the game.
Nketiah was described as a “role model” and “a very good example for everyone” by Mikel Arteta after the game, due to his performances and attitude in training even when not selected in the Community Shield last weekend. He managed to repay his manager’s faith in him with the first goal of the game.
The highlight of the game came with Saka’s goal, and he got back into life in the Premier League right where he left off, bagging the Player of the Match award in the process.
Saka described his thoughts on his goal with TNTSports after the game
“It was one of those ones where when it leaves your foot you sort of have a good feeling. And when I look up and see where it landed, I was so happy.”