Arsenal 5-0 Nottingham Forest: Arsenal thrash Nottingham to go top but Bukayo Saka limps off injured

Arsenal reclaimed top spot in the Premier League after sweeping aside Nottingham Forest with Reiss Nelson the unlikely support act in the rout. Nelson proved a more than handy replacement for the injured Bukayo Saka with the winger, who spent last season on loan at Feyenoord, scoring two goals in three minutes at the start of the second half to propel Arsenal to their biggest win of the season.

Despite lasting only 27 minutes, Saka still created the opening goal with Gabriel Martinelli heading home to cast aside any notion of travel fatigue from Mikel Arteta’s pacesetters. Nelson took full advantage of his rare opportunity with a quickfire double before Thomas Partey electrified the Emirates with a thumping fourth. Martin Ødegaard added the fifth goal for the rampant hosts to complete a ghastly afternoon for Forest. In truth Steve Cooper’s spooked team never threatened Arsenal and the chasm was predictably wide between the league’s top- and bottom-placed clubs.

Arteta reverted to the team which started in the draw at Southampton last weekend following a midweek Europa League defeat by PSV Eindhoven. Forest’s only change from the side which stunned Liverpool last week was Renan Lodi promoted to the defence in place of Neco Williams.

The suggestion that Arsenal’s heavy workload of Thursday night football was starting to take its toll was swiftly dispelled by their sharp start. It was an impressive response to their poor showing in the Netherlands and this one-sided romp enhanced their hopes of taking the Christmas No 1 spot. Trips to Chelsea and Wolves before the World Cup break will test Arsenal’s resolve but Manchester City are being kept honest by a team that have won 10 of their opening 12 league matches.

Arsenal opened the scoring from their first attack of the game with Forest’s gameplan going out of the window within five minutes. Saka curled in a deft cross from the right and Martinelli planted his header past Dean Henderson. Martinelli raced away to the corner flag and held up a shirt with Pablo Marí’s name on it in a heartfelt tribute to the Arsenal defender, after his stabbing during a knife attack in a Milan supermarket on Thursday night.

Gabriel Martinelli and Granit Xhaka hold up a Pablo Marí shirt after Arsenal’s opening goal against Nottingham Forest
Gabriel Martinelli and Granit Xhaka hold up a Pablo Marí shirt after Arsenal’s opening goal against Nottingham Forest.

Forest were braced for a long afternoon and Gabriel Jesus curled a shot narrowly past the far post. Cooper knew chances were likely to be scarce and Remo Freuler’s long-range shot was fired straight into the arms of Aaron Ramsdale.

Saka appeared to be struggling with a knock, having fallen awkwardly under a challenge by Lodi, but the England attacker carried on after treatment.

Martinelli was denied a second goal after Granit Xhaka teed him up, with the Brazilian’s low shot blocked on the line by Lodi. Saka blasted the rebound over the bar but the winger still looked aggravated by his injury. It was not long before he went down again and Nelson replaced him midway through the half.

Forest’s struggle to make any attacking inroads was summed up by Jesse Lingard’s wild strike which careered hopelessly away from the target. Ødegaard set up Jesus for another attempt but his fierce strike rose harmlessly over Henderson’s crossbar.

Arsenal ran into trouble of their own making before the break, via Gabriel Magalhães’s wayward pass straight into the path of Lingard, but his shot was charged down. Xhaka required treatment after a late challenge from Morgan Gibbs-White which resulted in a booking for the Forest attacker but the Switzerland midfielder was able to play on.

The home side made an explosive start to the second half with Xhaka releasing Jesus who played in Nelson. His first attempt was parried by Henderson but the rebound fell perfectly for him to tuck the ball home.

Nelson’s remarkable impact off the bench, in his first Premier League appearance since the opening day of last season, was rubber-stamped within a couple of minutes, the 22-year-old volleying home his second goal from close range after Jesus’s low delivery.

Arsenal were in complete control and Forest had no answer to the wave of attacks. Partey was next in on the act, firing a stunning strike from the edge of the area past the flailing arms of Henderson after the excellent Nelson turned provider.

It should have been 5-0 shortly afterwards but Jesus missed the target after bearing down on goal. Jesus, who was a constant threat, was handed another opportunity to score but Henderson sprinted off his line to block the effort.

Arsenal did not have to wait long for a fifth goal, though, with Jesus teeing up Ødegaard and the captain rifling a shot into the roof of the net.

There have been some horror shows already this season from Forest – conceding six goals at Manchester City and losing 4-0 at struggling Leicester – with this another to add to the list. Their recent defensive improvements disintegrated in the face of Arsenal’s swaggering display.

This was target practice for the Gunners and Ben White’s header from a corner almost enabled Jesus to score the goal his all-round play merited; but the striker was unable to get a touch on the ball at the far post. His wait for a first goal since the start of October against Tottenham goes on

For Forest it was a chastening experience and Arsenal will have few easier afternoons as they extended their unblemished record at the Emirates this season.

Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool:Conte asks Spurs fans for ‘time and patience’ after boos in Liverpool loss

At times in the first half of this thrilling, occasionally messy Premier League fixture, there was a sense of two games taking place simultaneously. In the foreground the feature presentation: a tight, bruising affair, and a meeting of two depleted teams who have spent much of the season trying to bolt their own wheels back on while speeding through the weekly chicanes. A 2-1 victory here was Liverpool’s first away league win this season.

Behind this was the other game, the one taking place in the Darwin Núñez universe. This was a looser, chancier affair, a place where the physical rules are a little more vague but which seemed, at times, to bleed through into the real world, to exist alongside it.

It was at these moments, drifting through into the Núñez-verse, that Liverpool looked most energised. Mainly Núñez was just great fun to watch during his 86 minutes on the pitch, which included one assist, a twanged crossbar, endless sprints, moments of exhilaration and moments of oddity.

It is necessary to see Núñez in the flesh to really get his energy. He is a magnificent spectacle, all upright grace, loose shoulders, lithe power. Núñez is 6ft 5in. Núñez is the second-fastest clocked player in the league, just behind Anthony Gordon. When he moves he just looks a pedigree human. Some players look like a natural on the ball. Thiago Alcântara appears to have been born on the half-turn. Núñez conveys this with his movements, the easy acceleration, the hunger for the ball, with which he has a passionate, if slightly on-off, relationship with – a kind of rom-com chemistry.

Here he carried the ball with purpose at times, finding space down Spurs’ right side in the first half. Núñez doesn’t really dribble. He passes to himself, runs, catches up, the ball just an addendum to his splendid athleticism, snagging it under his hooves, hauling it back in, like watching a stallion trampling a beachball.

Antonio Conte hit back at Tottenham’s fans for booing his side off at half-time during their side’s 2-1 defeat by Liverpool on Sunday. Spurs were made to count the cost of another slow start after an impressive second-half comeback failed to yield a late equaliser.
Two goals from Mohamed Salah were enough for Liverpool to earn their first away win of the season but Conte was not unhappy with his side’s performance. The Italian argued Spurs deserved a point and he said that their fans have to understand that their side are a work in progress.

“First of all, I think that we have to show in every moment a great respect to our fans because they are our fans,” Conte said. “They pay for their tickets. At the same time, if you ask me if I was happy or disappointed, yes.

I continue to repeat since from the start of the season that we have just started a process and I think after one year we made a lot of improvement. If someone thinks we are already ready to win, I have to be honest and tell you it will be really, really difficult because when you start a process you need time and patience.

Darwin Núñez unleashes a volley during Liverpool’s victory at Tottenham
Darwin Núñez unleashes a volley during Liverpool’s victory at Tottenham.

“If you understand this, everybody is OK. Otherwise we can lose the passion, the enthusiasm. I can’t promise, in this moment, trophies to our fans. I continue to ask for time and patience because I have the experience to do this. We are far from other teams that are used to winning. If we understand this it will be good. Everybody wants to win, I am the first but we need time and patience.”

Spurs, who have ceded third place to Newcastle, were given hope by Harry Kane’s goal. But Liverpool, who are seven points behind Conte’s side, dug deep for the points. 

“We had to keep fighting,” Jürgen Klopp said. “We did that. We like that. People who know us know if you want to win an away game this is a normal way to do it. This is a completely normal game for us. We drew twice against Tottenham last season, so winning here is incredibly difficult. We have to show this attitude and commitment to defending. We have to show that we are not punched too hard when we concede a goal.”

For all his occasionally random qualities Núñez is also relentless. At one point he just ran past Eric Dier to the byline, sweeping the ball along in a wide arc, as though dragging it on a piece of string, but leaving Dier for dead all the same. A little later Rodrigo Bentancur tried to jockey him out of his stride and Núñez quivered his back muscles and left him literally face down in the turf. At times like this there is a vague sense of some future-engineered Andy Carroll, the Carroll T200,with added speed and grace, but still, at his heart, that old snorting fury.

Núñez also helped make the opening goal from that left side. Firmino came deep and played a lovely little flighted dink out to Robertson. His pass inside found Núñez, who had time to look up and see Salah free to his right. The pass was just the right weight for Salah to flip it up and bury it low and hard into the corner.

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