Nottingham Forest v Arsenal
FA Cup 3rd Round
Live on ITV1
Forest on the up under Cooper
To a certain era of Nottingham Forest fans, the FA Cup is the trophy that eluded Brian Clough. He went close when reaching the 1991 final against Spurs, a game Forest lost but perhaps is best remembered for Paul Gascoigne crocking himself with a wild tackle on Gary Charles.
Continuing the historical walk, Forest went out to Arsenal in 1992/93 and also lost to the Gunners in 1978/79.
However, the overall count is 2-2 in past FA Cup meetings. Forest went through in 1987/88 and, finally bringing things up to date a little more, blasted Arsenal 4-2 at this stage in 2017-18.
As for the absolute here and now, the men from Nottingham go into this third round tie at the City Ground sat ninth in the Championship.
For those not paying close attention, the identity of Forest’s manager is probably a guessing game. And that’s probably fair enough given that they’ve appointed 14 managers in the last 10 years!
The man in the hotseat now is Steve Cooper, formerly boss at Blackpool. And hauling Forest to ninth is an excellent effort given that he inherited a side that were bottom after taking just a single point from their opening seven games.
Gunners so hard to shock
To say Arsenal have a proud FA Cup history is something of an understatement. They’re the absolute kings!
Their count of 14 FA Cup wins is the most in history and they’ve absolutely racked them up since the turn of the century, lifting the famous trophy in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2020.
The latest came in Mikel Arteta’s reign two seasons ago, Arsenal going behind early to Chelsea but coming out 2-1 winners.
And here’s a stat: Arsenal have been knocked out in round three just once in the last 25 years. Of course, the one outlier was that defeat to Forest.
Rather like Forest, their start to the season was disastrous but has picked up considerably.
The Gunners lost their first three Premier League games without even managing a goal but now they’re leading the race for fourth place having bagged 35 points in 17 games since.
Looking at very latest form coming in, Arsenal had a five-match winning run going and looked set to extend it to six when leading Manchester City 1-0. Obviously it all went wrong after that but there was still lots of pluses to take from the last-gasp 2-1 defeat to the runaway Premier League leaders.
Their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Liverpool was called off after that but before the City game they’d flexed their muscles against lower league opposition by thrashing Sunderland 5-1 in the quarter-finals.
Arsenal are just 1.684/6 to get the win in Sunday’s tea-time kick-off. Nottingham Forest are 5.85/1 to pull off a shock while The Draw after 90 minutes is 3.953/1.
While Cooper has done an excellent job, it’s almost classic Forest that there has to be a ‘but’ somewhere. On this occasion it’s that they lost their final two games of 2021 – 2-0 at Middlesbrough and 1-0 at home to Huddersfield.
Those two are sixth and seventh in the table but it’s not ideal prep and suggests Arsenal will have too much.
Only Cardiff have lost more home games than Forest and just four wins out of 13 at the City Ground is poor. It’s clearly improved under Cooper but that 1-0 loss to Huddersfield was a reminder that the locals are right to be cautious about everything suddenly being rosy.
Although Forest pulled off a shock in 2018, Arsenal just seem in too good a place this time. So, how do we play it?
Trying to predict team news is a nightmare at the moment and Forest’s line-up is unclear after their game against Barnsley was called off due to Covid in the camp.
Arsenal have lost several players – Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pepe and Mohamed Elneny – to the AFCON and there are Covid problems too but I think they’ll have enough to get this done.
Forest have managed just 14 goals at home in the Championship so I’ll back Arsenal to win to nil at a decent 2.8815/8.
That obviously rules out Both teams to Score which is 1.824/5.
Emile Smith Rowe has been mainly starting on the bench for Arsenal in recent times but this looks an ideal match to give him the full 90.
Despite the limited minutes, his scoring record is pretty extraordinary with nine goals in his last 17 matches. That includes four in his last six.
I’m going to head to the Bet Builder and back Smith Rowe to score in an Arsenal win at 4.77/2.
Not much was known about Gabriel Martinelli when he appeared in a League Cup tie against Forest in September 2019. But recognition went up after he scored two goals in a 5-0 hammering.
Fast forward to this season and he’s one of Arsenal’s in-form players after four goals in his last eight Premier League games. That included a brace at Leeds.
Martinelli is 7/4 anytime but I’ll add him in as part of the Smith Rowe bet. That gives Martinelli and Smith Rowe to score in an Arsenal win at around 10.09/1.
Arsenal have won five of their last six meetings with Nottingham Forest in all competitions, though the exception was a 4-2 loss at the City Ground in the FA Cup third round in 2017-18.