Scottish Daily Mail
GUNNERS ARE CUP FALL GUYS
Forest shocker is beyond the pale for boss Arteta
IT’S more than two decades since Nottingham Forest graced the Premier League and here was a reminder of what they once brought us, courtesy of ex-Motherwell loan player Lewis Grabban’s 83rd-minute sucker-punch.
Playing bravely and cleverly in their traditional red, Steve Cooper’s Championship side were too good, eager and ambitious for an Arsenal team dressed entirely in white.
Arsenal were pale in every single way. Insipid and without heart. They ended the game without a single shot on target and headed home with the unfortunate status of being Sunday’s FA Cup fall guys. It was fully deserved.
On TV Roy Keane — a former Forest captain — was withering. Arsenal’s strip, that included some utterly pointless all-white numbers, was worn as part of the club’s admirable ‘No More Red’ campaign, designed to highlight the scourge of youth gun crime in the capital.
Keane’s half-time take was that Mikel Arteta’s team looked like Real Madrid but played like a pub team. Even the Dog and Duck have the occasional strike on goal.
Forest were certainly the more dangerous side in a game not awash with clear chances. They had two, while Arsenal fashioned just one.
When the home team finally sprung forward to dismantle the Gunners with seven minutes to go, it brought them a quite wonderful goal.
Young Albert Sambi Lokonga was Arsenal’s villain — giving the ball away in his own half with seven minutes left — but over the course of the game he was not alone. Nevertheless, when he lost it to Forest’s Ryan Yates and the ball was fed wide to Brennan Johnson, Arsenal were in trouble.
The only question was whether the ball across goal from Johnson was going to be of the required standard. There were Arsenal bodies between him and his target at the far post. As it turned out, the low cross was perfect and substitute Grabban rammed it home at the Trent End to spark mayhem among more than 20,000 home supporters here among a heartening full house.
It was a Forest goal reminiscent of better times and more than enough to see off an Arsenal team that did not have the gumption to rally. It also owed something to Forest manager Cooper.
He had handed loan signing Keinan Davis a start up front and the Aston Villa player had put in a good shift. But when he tired, Cooper sent on Grabban, the club captain who no doubt feels he would like to start more often.
Grabban, who will be 34 on Wednesday and played at Fir Park earlier in his career, has already scored goals as a sub this season and this was arguably the most important.
It is hard to suggest this Arsenal team does not care or was not trying. Some of Arteta’s players looked emotionally shattered at the end. They must be better than this if they are to make good on some of the promise they have shown this season. Cooper spoke afterwards of his team’s style of play and his idea of how a Forest team should use the ball. The former Swansea manager wishes to be true to his new club’s traditions. Arteta (left) has similarly entrenched ideas but too often his team fall short of other, more basic standards, such as application and mental toughness. Seeing his team struggling down their left side after half an hour, Arteta was forced to remove defender Nuno Tavares and replace him with regular left-back Kieran Tierney. The 21-year-old responded by throwing his gloves to the floor and the young player’s sulk on the bench perhaps served as a reasonable summary of Arsenal’s evening.
Arteta picked a side strong enough to win but they never looked like doing so. Forest had the game’s outstanding player in the Dane Philip Zinckernagel and others were almost as impressive. Johnson and the right wing-back Djed Spence among them.
Neither team really came close to scoring in a first half that began brightly but fizzled out. After the break, Bernd Leno saved well from Zinckernagel and from a James Garner free-kick. For Arsenal, the only threat arrived not long before Forest’s goal when Eddie Nketiah