Forest beat Arsenal to clinch survival as Man City crowned champions

Nottingham Forest secured their Premier League survival at a buoyant City Ground with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Arsenal which confirmed Manchester City as champions.

Arsenal, four points behind City ahead of kick-off, needed to win to keep the title race alive, but could not recover after Taiwo Awoniyi struck his fifth goal in three games in the 19th minute.

Forest defended superbly from then on, limiting the listless Gunners to a handful of half-chances and clinching a deserved win which takes them to 37 points, putting them out of reach of Everton and Leicester as well as already-relegated Southampton.

For Arsenal, meanwhile, the defeat was a continuation of their 3-0 reverse against Brighton last weekend, their title challenge running out of steam with another poor performance which allows City to claim the crown with three games still to play.

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Watch Taiwo Awoniyi’s winner as he blows the roof off City Ground

Player ratings

Nottingham Forest: Navas (7), Aurier (7), Worrall (8), Felipe (8), Niakhate (8), Lodi (8), Yates (7), Mangala (8), Danilo (7), Gibbs-White (9), Awoniyi (8)

Subs: Kouyate (6), Johnson (6), Boly (6), Hennessey (n/a)

Arsenal: Ramsdale (6), White (5), Gabriel (5), Kiwior (5), Xhaka (5), Partey (5), Jorginho (5), Odegaard (5), Saka (6), Trossard (5), Jesus (5)

Subs: Tierney (6), Nketiah (6), Vieira (6)

Player of the match: Morgan Gibbs-White

How Forest got over the line

Knowing what was at stake after Everton could only draw with Wolves, the home supporters generated a frenetic atmosphere ahead of kick-off, the hosts subjecting Arsenal to an immediate bombardment of long throws and passes into the box.

Arsenal survived that early storm and created the game’s first scoring opportunities when Gabriel Jesus had an effort charged down by Keylor Navas, then headed over the bar following a corner.

Team news

  • Nottingham Forest were unchanged from their 2-2 draw with Chelsea but the fit-again Emmanuel Dennis returned to the bench.
  • Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta brought Thomas Partey and Leandro Trossard into his team, with Partey at right-back and Jakub Kiwior at left-back.

But Arsenal, using an unfamiliar shape which included Thomas Partey in a hybrid right-back role and Jakub Kiwior at left-back, lacked zip and imagination from the start and soon they were behind.

The opener came when a loose pass from Martin Odegaard allowed Morgan Gibbs-White to spring forward and feed Awoniyi. Gabriel Magalhaes slid in and tackled the striker, but the ball bounced back off him, beating Aaron Ramsdale and sparking wild celebrations.

Martin Odegaard appears dejected. It was the Arsenal captain's misplaced pass that led to Forest's opener
Martin Odegaard shows his dejection at the City Ground

From there, the hosts were content to sit back and soak up pressure, their compact defensive shape ensuring Arsenal, despite dominating possession, could only create one other meaningful chance in the first half, with Leandro Trossard firing a yard wide after being picked out by Bukayo Saka from a corner.

Forest provided a reminder of their set-piece threat straight after half-time, with defender Felipe sending a low, deflected effort narrowly wide following a Gibbs-White delivery, and up at the other end the listless visitors continued to flounder.

There were occasional glimmers of attacking threat, with Saka on one occasion forcing a parry from Navas and Jorginho sending a couple of speculative efforts wide, but Forest were largely comfortable and, despite having only 18 per cent of the possession, looked dangerous in attack too.

Taiwo Awoniyi scores for Nottingham Forest
Taiwo Awoniyi scores for Nottingham Forest against Arsenal

Most of their best moments involved the outstanding Gibbs-White, who fired an angled shot into the side-netting and forced a late save from Ramsdale with another stinging effort.

Arteta threw on Kieran Tierney, Eddie Nketiah and Fabio Vieira in an attempt to spark some kind of response, but it did not materialise, confirming the inevitable for Manchester City following their 11-game winning run as Forest celebrated another year of Premier League football following their promotion last term.

Cooper: We had to suffer to survive

Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper hailed his side’s never-say-die attitude after what has been an at-times challenging season.

“It’s a day for the supporters, a day for the players,” he told Sky Sports. “A unique season in how we’ve gone about our work. Nobody has given up and in the end we’ve managed to get over the line.

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Steve Cooper was elated after Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 win against Arsenal

“I’m really proud, I’m really pleased. But if I’m honest it just gives us a chance to keep building. I know how much work needs to continue at the football club to get to where this football club belongs in a real operation.

“We’ve had to catch up with so many things since we got promoted. Everyone knows what went on in terms of how we put the squad together and then the injuries we got.

“There’s so much behind the scenes that we need to keep growing. That’s really the exciting bit but the important bit as well.

“The atmosphere has been brilliant here all season. It wasn’t exactly the game we want to be doing but the guys stuck to the game plan, and I’m just really pleased to get over the line.

“It’s dealing with the hard times that defines you. This is my fourth season, my first three seasons I won a lot of games. I remember in the summer thinking this would be the first year where we’d probably lose more than we win.

“I said to myself: ‘try to be your best after a loss’. But it’s been good for me. I needed it. You have to suffer to get to where you want to be. That’s what the players have done.

“In an age where it’s easy to give up on people, the fans have never done that once and they’ve got their reward for that.”

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Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis says it was a ‘wise decision’ to keep Steve Cooper as head coach and says the club is ‘happy’ after securing Premier League football for another season.

Gibbs-White: Survival is thanks to fans

Player-of-the-match Morgan Gibbs-White thanked Forest’s fans for their role in the club’s survival.

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Watch the moment Nottingham Forest secured the survival and crowned Man City champions

“You physically can’t thank them enough,” he told Sky Sports. “They have been unbelievable from the get go, from the first game of the season to the very last.

“Without them, this wouldn’t be possible. This club is like a family. It’s a special feeling right now.

“It’s the best fans, the best crowd in the league by a country mile. I don’t care what anybody says. Hats off to them. They have been behind us all the way, it’s beautiful.

Taiwo Awoniyi (right) celebrates with team-mate Morgan Gibbs-White after scoring
Morgan Gibbs-White was outstanding against Arsenal

Of his performance, he added: “I just want to hep the team as much as possible.

“We would like to be a lot higher in the league than we are, but we’ve been fighting, working hard, day in, day out. This team is a special team and hopefully next year we can kick on properly.”

Captain Joe Worrall added to Sky Sports: “It’s fantastic. It’s been a tough season for us; really, really tough.

“For every single person involved in the club, the lads who were signed, the lads who came on loan, the fans, the manager, it’s absolutely fantastic. It means so much to so many people.”

Arteta: It’s very painful and extremely sad

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta admitted he and his players will need to recover from the pain of their title challenge collapsing.

“First of all, congratulations to City on winning the Championship,” he told Sky Sports. “Obviously, a really sad day for us after everything we have done in the season, but now we have to face the reality.

“Today, we gave a goal away and we weren’t good enough to break them down. We could have played here three hours. So, face it, it’s my responsibility and I have to take it.

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Mikel Arteta congratulated Manchester City on winning the title, but admits it is ‘sad’ and ‘painful’ to accept that Arsenal’s title challenge is over

“The pain is very intense. It’s a very sad day because we have been working for 11 months with one aim and, being on top for so many days and building that enthusiasm, that belief and that quality that is necessary to compete against Manchester City, we’ve done it but in the end we didn’t have enough for many factors.

“Now, heal. Heal for the next few days. It is very painful and extremely sad. I have to find a way to lift the players. We have a difficult week ahead of us and we have a huge responsibility, playing in front of our fans [against Wolves].

“They have been incredible all season and they deserve a really good match.”

Speaking in his press conference, a downbeat Arteta added: “From my side, I apologise because we have generated belief that we could do it, and at the end the team wasn’t able to do it, and that is my responsibility.”

What’s next for Forest and Arsenal?

The final day of the Premier League season is on May 28 with every game kicking off at 4.30pm. Free match highlights will be published across Sky Sports’ digital platforms shortly after full-time.

Nottingham Forest head to Crystal Palace in their last outing of the campaign while Arsenal host Wolves.

Forest joy, Arsenal pain – Opta stats

  • Nottingham Forest’s victory secures their status in the Premier League for next season – it’s only the fourth campaign in which all three promoted sides have stayed up, after 2001/02, 2011/12 and 2017/18.
  • Nottingham Forest had just 18 per cent possession against Arsenal, the lowest tally on record (since 2003/04) for a winning team in a Premier League match.
  • Arsenal have lost three of their last five Premier League games (W2), as many as they had in their first 32 this season (W23 D6).
  • Nottingham Forest’s victory means Manchester City have won the Premier League title for the third consecutive season, making them the fifth different side to win three consecutive English top-flight titles (Huddersfield, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United twice).
  • Taiwo Awoniyi’s 10 goals have been worth 12 points to Nottingham Forest, the seventh highest total of any Premier League player this term.
  • Arsenal have failed to score in consecutive Premier League games for the first time this season. Indeed, they’d only failed to score in two of their first 35 games this term.

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