Arsenal ready for season to end after conceding Premier League title with a whimper in Nottingham Forest loss
The title race is officially over and, in the end, Arsenal went down without throwing a punch.
Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 victory over the Gunners means Manchester City are Premier League champions - and with three games to spare.
It is their fifth title in the past six seasons and completes a remarkable late charge from them. Arsenal were eight points clear of City at the start of April.
Since then, though, Mikel Arteta’s side have taken nine points from a possible 24 and their season has ended with a whimper.
This was an especially sorry finish here at the City Ground. Arsenal had over 80 per cent possession, but they did nothing with it. Instead, they gifted Forest the only goal of the game as Taiwo Awoniyi struck and the hosts kept their first clean sheet since February 5.
At the full-time whistle, there were wild celebrations in the stands as Forest’s Premier League safety was confirmed. The Arsenal players, meanwhile, were ushered down the tunnel by security as their race ended in disappointing fashion.
After their crushing defeat to Brighton last weekend, you expected Arsenal would come out the blocks firing.
Instead, however, the first-half was 45 minutes of possession with no penetration and Arteta’s side carried no threat. The Spaniard experimented for this game - perhaps because the title race was over - with Thomas Partey starting at right-back and Jakub Kiwior on the other flank.
Partey was tasked with essentially playing the ‘Oleksandr Zinchenko’ role, with the Ukrainian out for the rest of the season with a calf issue, but just on the other side of the pitch.
The Ghanaian tucked in, leaving Arsenal with a back-three when in possession, however it ended up playing into Forest’s hands. The Gunners were so narrow and lacking width, which allowed the hosts to sit deep and be compact.
Arsenal played in front of them and their only rare glimpses of goal came from set-pieces or when Gabriel Jesus somehow turned one of Forest’s three centre-backs.
For all their lack of penetration Arsenal had control of the game, but they gifted Forest the lead in the 19th minute. Martin Odegaard gave the ball away in midfield and the hosts pounced. Morgan Gibbs-White played in Awoniyi and he diverted the ball home after Gabriel’s tackle only proceeded to deflect the ball onto the Forest striker’s foot.
That was the hosts’ only shot on target during the first-half and they knew if they held out then Premier League safety would be secured.
Arteta sent his Arsenal side out early for the second-half, seemingly unhappy with their offering during the opening 45 minutes.
It was Forest, however, who started quicker after the break and only a great block by Gabriel stopped Felipe making it 2-0.Arsenal were still lacking creativity and again Jesus was their only source of joy going forward, with the Brazilian booked after protesting Joe Worrall had pulled him down inside the box.
Finally, after 60 minutes, Arteta scrapped his experiment and Kieran Tierney came on for Kiwior and Eddie Nketiah replaced Granit Xhaka.
Still, though, it was Forest who had the best chances and again it was down to sloppiness from Arsenal. Partey overhit a pass to Ben White, who miscontrolled it, and Gibbs-White fired into the side-netting after having the ball presented to him.
The Gunners still had 20 minutes to find the two goals that would keep the title race going one more day, but they created nothing. Instead they were met with a wall of Forest defenders, who dug deep to claim the three points that means they will be playing Premier League football next season.
On the basis of this performance, next season can’t come soon enough for Arsenal.