An entertaining match for the neutral but another disappointing outcome and performance by the Gunners. Arsenal, who appeared to adopt a 4-2-1-3 setup, dominated possession and field position but their attack was once again blunt with Arsenal’s goals coming from a scrappy goal mouth scramble following a corner and an error from the Nottingham Forest keeper.
In terms of the individual performances of Arsenal’s players:
There wasn’t much Ospina could do to prevent either of Forest’s penalties or Lichaj’s volley and he wasn’t helped by Wenger’s decision to play two slow central defenders and employ a high defensive line. To that end, the Colombian did come up with a couple of fantastic saves to prevent further humiliation for the Gunners. That said, Lichaj’s opening header acutely exposed Ospina’s aerial weakness.
Debuchy wasn’t particularly challenged defensively as his opponent Clough rarely dribbled at him. In the few instances Clough attempted to cross the ball from Debuchy’s flank, the Frenchman’s positioning was very good and he was able to intercept the ball. He was unlucky with the penalty call as replays showed he got the ball first. Offensively, he needed to be more aggressive with his dribbling (1 for the match) and while his crossing intent was great (6 attempts for the match) none of his attempted crosses were accurate.
Attempting to play a high line with Per’s lack of pace was always doomed to fail. While his positioning at times was okay (2 interceptions) and Forest channelled most of their attack down the left flank, Per’s lack of speed meant he was a virtual bystander when Forest’s attack drew him into action. On a positive note, he was very strong aerially and he took his goal well.
An aggressive tackling display by Holding (4 tackles for the match) who was kept very busy by Forest’s striker Brereton (5 attempted shots, 4 of which were on target). While his tackling was aggressive (and in the case of the penalty he conceded, too aggressive), his positional play was poor (1 interception) and that he failed to adjust his defensive positioning to account for his lack speed relative to that of his opponent. Holding, like Per, was another victim of Wenger’s decision to play a high defensive line, despite his evident lack of speed. Aerially he was quite strong with 4 successful aerial duels.
LB: Maitland Niles
Another aggressive tackling performance by Ainsley, with 3 tackles for the match. Positionally he struggled as he was beaten by his opponent Cash on at least 3 occasions which led to dangerous crosses, one of which resulted in a goal to Lichaj. Offensively, he was very strong with 3 successful forward dribbles and 5 attempted crosses. That said, much like Debuchy on the opposite flank, Ainsley’s crossing accuracy let him down with none of his attempted crosses reaching an Arsenal player.
It was a poor tackling performance by Elneny (1 tackle for the match) but his defensive positioning (3 interceptions) was very good. Offensively, his passing accuracy (95%) was exceptional but he failed to offer anything in terms of forward dribbles, through passes or attempts on goal.
A very poor defensive performance from Willock, both in terms of his tackling (1 tackle for the match) and positional play (0 interceptions for the match). His poor defensive performance resulted in Dowell having a substantial influence on the game. Offensively, his passing accuracy was almost perfect (98%), though he, like Elneny, offered nothing in terms of forward dribbles, through passes or attempts on goal.
A solid performance from Iwobi, who showed good goal scoring intent (3 shots for the match), made some nice forward dribbles (2 successful dribbles) and attempted Arsenal’s only through pass for the match, which ultimately resulted in Welbeck’s goal. His passing accuracy (85%) was also very good. Unfortunately, his shooting accuracy (0/3) continues to let him down.
A strong showing from Walcott. He showed plenty of goal scoring intent (3 shots for the match), tried to provoke danger with 4 forward dribbles and completed 83% of his passes. Like Iwobi though, Walcott struggled with his shooting accuracy (0/3). In addition, he needed to be more creative with his passing (no attempted through passes).
A battling performance from Welbeck who got limited accurate service from the likes of Debuchy, Walcott, Elneny, Iwobi, Willock, Nelson and Maitland-Niles. His goal was good reward for his hard running in the lead up. That said, he needed to adapt his game in order to offer more of a goal scoring threat when it became evident Arsenal’s midfielders and fullbacks were in effectual at creating opportunities for him (only 2 attempts on goal for the match). Aerially he was very strong with 5 successful aerial duels for the match.
Was Arsenal’s best player on the field. His forward dribbling was excellent, with 6 successful dribbles for the match. His passing accuracy was also excellent (87%). My only criticism of his performance was his lack of goal scoring intent (only 1 off target shot for the match) and his lack of creativity with his passing (no attempted through passes for the match).
With the systemic issues plaguing Arsenal this season, it wasn’t a total shock to see Nottingham Forest get the win. That said and what was most concerning about Arsenal’s play in this match and in recent seasons, is the lack of clear cut goal scoring opportunities Arsenal have been creating and the team’s reliance on possession of the football as their defensive strategy (as opposed to actual defending). Until Wenger addresses those tactical issues and deploys players with complimentary skills to implement his desired tactics, I fear more bad results are to come.