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It seems improbable but we play only our second league match of 2024 and only our third in all so far this year when we meet Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Tuesday night. When someone mentions Nottingham Forest to me I am transported back to January 1959. My grandfather arrived at our house round about midday on the first Saturday of the year with two tickets for a third round FA Cup tie between Forest and our nearest club – Isthmian League’s (when the Isthmian League was the strongest amateur league in the country) Tooting and Mitcham, at their homely ground about a mile away:  Sandy Lane. I was heartbroken at not being able to accompany them although at seven my mother wouldn’t let me go in the freezing cold to a  primitive ground filled to the gunwales.

I followed progress as best as I could on Grandstand. Forest were a good First Division side but to everyone’s amazement they trailed 2-0 into the second half. Tooting were then subject to two enormous bits of bad luck. Firstly a pass back hit a rut on the awful, frozen pitch and skipped past the keeper into the net. A few minutes later, the Tooting left-half chested a ball in his penalty area and whipped it clear. The referee gave a penalty. Afterwards Murphy of Tooting showed the mark of the ball on his chest. It was an appalling decision and the penalty was converted, the game drawn 2-2, and in the replay Forest triumphed 3-0. They won the FA Cup that season for only the second (and last) time in their history. Had VAR existed the FA Cup would have had a different name on it that season.

I attach a link to the replay game here: https://youtu.be/_4yOnZy5O2I

It wasn’t the greatest period in Forest’s history (that came under Clough and Taylor when they won two European Cups) but it defined Forest to me as a seven year-old, soccer-mad little boy who had never seen a professional game then. I’ve seen them many times since, not only at Arsenal but at Chelsea, Fulham, Palace and a small ground in N13. I’ve even seen them play at Bristol City and Norwich.

Forest are a very old club. In 1865 a group of shinty players met at a pub called the Clinton Arms (now renamed The Playwright) which lies at the junction of Nottingham’s Shakespeare Street and North Sherwood Street. A proposal to play association football instead of shinty was agreed (football is a LOT less dangerous than Shinty!) and Nottingham Forest Football Club was established. It was also agreed that the club would purchase twelve tasselled caps coloured ‘Garibaldi Red’ (named after the leader of the Italian ‘Redshirt’ fighters). That is how the club’s official colours were chosen. Matches were originally played at Forest Racecourse, the source of the word ‘Forest’ in the team’s name.

Forest have played their home games at the City Ground since 1898. They have won two European Cups (now the UEFA Champions League), and are  one of six English clubs to have won the European Cup. They have also won one UEFA Super Cup, one League title, two FA Cups, four League Cups, and one FA Charity Shield. The club has competed in the top two tiers of English football since its admission to the Football League, with the exception of five seasons in the third tier. Its most successful period was under the management of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which included back-to-back wins in the then European Cup in 1979 and 1980.

Forest famously demonstrated a benevolent and charitable approach to their rivals and helped clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal and Brighton & Hove Albion to form. In 1886, Forest donated a set of red shirted football kits to help Arsenal establish themselves. It is a nice link between the clubs. Many years later as if to pay them back for their generosity we sold them Joe Baker, one of the best strikers in our history and a great favourite of Goonerholic – and me! Forest also donated shirts to Everton and helped secure a site to play on for Brighton.

Fast forward to the present day and we find Forest struggling in 16th position in the Premier League having lost three of their last five games. They are now managed by Nuno Espírito Santo, after parting company with Steve Cooper. He managed to weld thirty new players into a functional squad last season and kept them up, ensuring survival in their final home  game with Arsenal. Their owner Evangelos Marinakis also owns Olympiakos and famously was blamed for giving a Covid infection to Mikel Arteta in 2020, which led to the temporary shutdown of English football in March 2020.

They have struggled at home this season but on recent visits to the City Ground we have lost 1-0 (last time in the league last season), and gone down twice in the third round of the FA Cup – 4-2 in 2018 and 1-0 in 2022. Our intrepid travellers Countryman100 and CountrymanJunior were present for our last two defeats, and will be back at the City Ground on Tuesday night. That is sterling support at this time of year.

So what might we expect? Forest appear to have a number of injuries, including Awoniyi who notched against us last season and at Arsenal in the first game of the season. Morgan Gibbs-White is their playmaker and is reportedly doubtful for the game. But they have the squad to cope, at least numerically! On Friday night they produced a stalemate in a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup fourth round at Bristol City . Hopefully this will have drained their energy before they meet us. We may welcome back Thomas Partey at last ( although he is likely to be on the bench) and expect Rice and Gabriel to recover from their injuries sustained against Palace.

My suggested team is


White — Saliba — Gabriel — Zinchenko

Rice — Odegaard — Havertz

Saka — Jesús — Martinelli

Trossard may retain his place out wide and Jorginho may replace Havertz to provide more control in midfield but I suspect Arteta will play quite an attacking side as Arsenal really need to win this match.

A lack of energy should not be a problem for us.  Fresh from our trip to Dubai we had a comfortable runout against Palace last week and might fear ring rust rather than fatigue as we face a vital game. Forest away has often been a game that was pivotal in Arsenal seasons that ended in triumph. In the first double season we won 3-0 at the City Ground in our run-in to the title. In  1979 we were drawn to play Clough’s almost unbeatable team at the City Ground. Dave Faber recounted the peril of being chased to and from Nottingham Station by a welcoming party of Forest thugs. When he arrived at the match he saw a marvellous defensive display garnished by a classic Stapleton header which took us back eventually to Wembley where we beat United. In 1989 George Graham’s emerging side thrashed Forest 4-1in Nottingham in an early indication of the quality we had. That season ended in glory at Anfield.

Will we be able to produce a similarly significant performance on Tuesday night? The following facts from the bookmaker show pretty positive trends

• The most common result in matches between Nottingham Forest and Arsenal FC is 0-1. 3 matches have ended with this result.

• During the last 8 meetings with Nottingham Forest playing at home, Nottingham Forest have won 4 times, there has been 1 draw, and Arsenal  have won 3 times. The goal difference is 11-10 in favour of Arsenal.

• During the last 15 meetings, Nottingham Forest have won 4 times, there have been 2 draws while Arsenal  have won 9 times. The goal difference is 29-13 in favour of Arsenal FC.

• Arsenal’s last away win against Nottingham Forest was in 2016.

The bookmaker (Oddspedia) suggest Forest are 7-1 to win, a draw is 41/10 and an Arsenal win is priced at a shade under 2-1. Those are very unattractive odds but Bet365 are offering 13/2 for a 2-0 Arsenal win and were I a betting man that would be my wager.

NES is a canny, if slightly negative manager and the first goal on a cold January night will be very important. Forest will attempt to play at a high tempo but the impact of an FA Cup tie a few days before will be significant and if Gibbs-White is absent that will be very important. Expect us to have the bulk of possession (as usual) but let us hope we use it better than we did in Nottingham last year and in some of our recent less creative performances.

This is a chance for us to prepare for the titanic clash with Liverpool in a positive frame of mind and to continue to further fuel a renewed title challenge. Safe travel to the Countrymen and let us hope they return full of a super East Midlands curry having witnessed a fine Arsenal performance and a comfortable win.

68 Drinks to “Recollections of days spent in (with) the Forest”

  1. 1
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks TTG, great stuff and stirred some old memories. I know Sandy Lane well or knew anyway as it’s a housing estate now I think and though I wasn’t around in 1959 I did see some later FA cup games there in the 70s, freezing cold Januarys in a ramshackle stand watching football of doubtful quality, what could be better 😃

  2. 2
    Ollie says:

    I keep forgetting we have a match tomorrow. Weird day to play non European football.
    Cheers TTG.
    Let’s hope we set ourselves up nicely with a comfortable confidence-boosting win ahead of Sunday.

  3. 3
    OsakaMatt says:

    The team looks about right though I feel MA will make a change or two, and 2-0 to The Arsenal would be dandy.

  4. 4
    BtM says:

    Tuesday night football, the antidote to its Thursday night cousin.

    A good read that, TTG.

    Just win.

  5. 5
    TTG says:

    Lovely memories Matt
    Tooting located to a ground at Bishopsford Road in 2002 but I believe several of the roads on the estate are named after old players who included Alex Stepney
    I once sea Arsenal win a London six a side tournament there in about 1964 . I got two autographs afterwards – Jon Sammels and George Armstrong !

  6. 6
    Trev says:

    A very pleasant ramble down memory lane, TTG.
    Thanks for an excellent preview and thanks too for stepping in to help me out while still under pressure. Clough had some remarkable successes with a team he built from lardy lumps and old has beens – let’s hope Nuno is not as successful – not tomorrow anyway.
    Interestingly, my spillchucker tried to change “lardy” lumps to Larry lumps – ironic really as the lumps I had in mind were Larry Lloyd and his centre back partner – Kenny something I believe, although I can’t remember his surname. I’m sure he also had Fatty Robinson on the wing too …..
    Anyway, I’ll leave that to you historians as there’s work to do here.

  7. 7
    Trev says:

    Burns ! Kenny Burns 👍🏻

  8. 8
    Jax says:

    Sandy Lane’s been developed for housing now, and T & M moved to somewhere out Morden way.

  9. 9
    bt8 says:

    Thanks for the preview TTG and your Forest memories.

    Responding today to the Arteta to Barcelona rumors circulated by Sport magazine in Spain that you cited in the last drinks, Mikel has responded strongly in the negative saying “That’s totally fake news.”


    “I don’t know where it is coming from, it’s totally untrue and I’m very upset about it.”

  10. 10
    bt8 says:

    Rice and Gabriel to have late fitness tests apparently,

  11. 11
    Sancho Panza says:

    Oh for an icy rut.
    Fantastic bit of nostalgia from the picture alone.
    The keeper looks like he has frostbite yet he still clings to the ball even though he probably can’t feel it.

  12. 12
    North Bank Ned says:

    Wonderful preview, TTG. Brought back memories of trips to Sandy Lane for Isthmian Leage games, usually Tuesday nights for some reason. The days of pitches, muddy pitches with enough sand in the goalmouth for a beach or rock hard bare pitches, but never the carpets they play on these days.

  13. 13
    Bathgooner resting says:

    An excellent preview, TTG, peppered with personal experiences and fine historical detail.

    I think you have the team spot on and I would’ve delighted with 2-0 to the good guys.

    Clough was a remarkable manager and was capable of making both good and average players believe that they were ‘great’ and his man management style, while abrasive, was astonishingly successful at both Derby and Forest (whilst hilarious at Leeds) until his fondness for the sauce began to affect his judgment. He certainly should have been England manager during the 70’s or 80’s. The current chap seems a nice man but isn’t in the same universe.

    It looks like the match is only on Peacock in the USA and none of the sports bars in Vail take that channel so given that I’m having a rest day today to rest aching thighs and to do some laundry, I won’t be interrupting tomorrow’s skiing at 12.30 tomorrow to find a dodgy stream.

    Just win, Arsenal!

  14. 14
    Ollie says:

    Enjoy the skiing, bath!

  15. 15
    North Bank Ned says:

    So Arteta has poured cold water on the idea of replacing Xavi at Barca, and Bayern has done the same for Tuchel, both with some sharp words for an unnamed source of the rumour. They seem to know who it is. I think we should be told.

  16. 16
    TTG says:

    Aren’t Sport seen as a mouthpiece of Barca just as Marcia are for Real Madrid? They waged a ceaseless campaign to drive Fabregas back to Barcelona and this looks to me to be an attempt to unsettle Arteta . Interesting it was picked up so quickly by C100’s favourite journal the Daily Fail. Bad news is good news as fair as that organ is concerned Nice to reflect back on the glory days of the Istmian League . I remember watching Hendon, Enfield , Wimbledon ( often) and Sutton. I also remember my first trip to Wembley was to see Hendon beat Kingstonian in what I think was the 1960 Amateur Cup Final. I also saw Eddie Reynolds score four ( all with his head) as Wimbledon beat Sutton in about 1963 . .

  17. 17
    bt8 says:

    Bath, Never having been to Vail I have zero knowledge of its sports bars, but it is a well known tourist destination on an international scale so I am a tad surprised that none of its sports bars offers the game on Peacock.

    Its rival ski resort Park City, Utah (where I happened to be at the time) had a packed house at one of its sports bars for the European Championship final that England lost a few years ago (a bigger event of course than tomorrow’s game, but still.)

    In any case, enjoy the skiing!

  18. 18
    Sancho Panza says:

    Speaking of Hendon they play another old Isthmian league side, and past rivals, Wealdstone in the 5th round of the FA Trophy. Neil Banfield once of this parish has joined the management team at Wealdstone. Bit of drop from Rangers.

  19. 19
    OsakaMatt says:

    Tried to get tickets for a Wimbledon vs Sutton local derby last season when I was over.
    Sold out! Both in league 2 for now but worrying times down Gander Green Lane…..

  20. 20
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks TTG,
    Robin Hood, Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck, Little John and all the Merry men – your boys will take a beating. 3-0

  21. 21
    Malcolm Andrews says:

    Well as always i am enthralled with the latest at GHF…I think i’m on a par (age-wise at least) with TTG, so am enthused with Tooting & Mitcham. In my later teens we moved to Bromley (my Dad was a soldier so we lived all over) and have been to a few games. Prior to this in our Scotland days, Saturday mornings were Subutteo days (c.1964).. rule was Isthmian or other now forgotten leagues…Hendon, Hayes, Bromley, Enfield etcc..Anyway as they say near there…”nea bither”..aka dribbling on…so thats my intro for an out there projection…Mbpappe has said he will leave PSG this Northern Summer…so i know nothing about him but expect he came from an “impoverished” background..and of course he’s a bit good…now he must be extremely wealthy…so what if our lot offered him £300k++ pw. to play in the top league in the world (at least at the moment). i realise he could get multi X £300k pw if he moved to Spain or Saudi…but where’s the challenge? £15M pa (pre-tax)??Not bad for kicking a football..and of course to be truly recognised amongst the elite..TH14 par example ou Petit, Vieira or the man himself DB10…Just saying…by the by its wine o’clock here in Sarf Ostraya (in case you hadn’t picked up on that)…early start for me against Forest…UTA

  22. 22
    MMTWP says:

    Blew my cover Malcolm A aka MMTWP
    Oh well…i’m doing my best to reduce the wine lake!!

  23. 23
    21st century gooner says:

    After a month of hardly any Arsenal action I am very much looking forward to the prospect of Arsenal games every four or five days for the next few weeks.

    We have 6 games in the next 25 days including the first leg of our first UCL knockout tie in 7 years. We will know a lot more about our title aspirations in a month’s time.

    Tonight will be a tough one. Forest generally perform well at home especially against the big sides. They beat United not long ago, and both us and Liverpool left the CG last year empty handed.

    However I am expecting a strong performance and 3 points. After a 13 day break, followed by another 10 day break, fatigue really shouldn’t come into play for us tonight. Forest played Bristol city in the cup on Friday and now have to contend with another replay so let’s see if that impacts the side NES puts out tonight.

    2-0 to the Arsenal is what my sources have informed me…..

  24. 24
    TTG says:

    Good to hear from you
    Nice to share recollections of senior Amateur football
    back in the day . I used to watch Wimbledon in the Isthmian and Southern Leagues and they had a centre back , Roy Law , who could have played in the First Division so good was he . I remember winning a bet with my boss that Wimbledon of the SL would beat Burnley of Division One at Turf Moor …and they did. They then held mighty Dirty Leeds at Elland Road . There were some good non-league teams in those days
    I omitted from my preview that Forest have about six players at the AFCON . That should help us

  25. 25
    Countryman100 says:

    Off to Nottingham in about an hour. Will write the report tomorrow but due to techie availability it won’t go up until late afternoon.

    Come On You Gunners!

  26. 26
    bt8 says:

    Six players at the AFCON. Somebody ought to be able to make a song out of that.

    Six players at the AFCON. 🎵

  27. 27
    Esso says:

    Cheers TTG!

  28. 28
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@16: I was also at the 1960 Amateur Cup Final. Can’t believe I missed you 🙂

    If Rice’s fitness is at all doubtful, I would play Jorginho today to ensure Rice’s availability for the Liverpool game on Sunday. I might well do the same with Gabriel.

  29. 29
    North Bank Ned says:


    🎵 One man went to play,
    Went to play at AFCON,
    One man and his team,
    Went to play at AFCON.

    Two men went to play,
    Went to play at AFCON,
    Two men, one man and his team,
    Went to play at AFCON.

    ..and so on, ad nauseam


    On The Twelfth Day Of AFCON

    Cote d’Ivoire Sent To Me:

    Twelve Pharaohs Failing

    Eleven Bafana Bafaning

    Ten Djurtus Dogging

    Nine Leopards Losing

    Eight Mambas Missing

    Seven Stallions Stalling

    Six Elephants Exiting

    Five Scorpions

    Four Desert Foxes

    Three Super Eagles

    Two Black Stars

    And A Mohamed Elneny

  30. 30
    TTG says:

    You’re a creative genius .
    Sorry I missed you at Wembley sixty four ( Eek) years ago !
    I think your point on Rice and Gabriel is sensible . I do expect Arteta to play Rice ( at least today. ) The London Standard suggests they have both passed fitness tests
    Safe journey to the Countrymen !

  31. 31
    TTG says:

    I’m getting concerned because for once ( in a sense ) I found myself agreeing with Piers Morgan- a very unhealthy situation. He was claiming that we needed to sign a striker but pointed out that the reason we couldn’t was the signing of Kai Havertz. Ornstein confirmed on Twitter that he is our highest paid player on £275 k a week and his transfer fee was £65 million. It’s inconceivable to me we could pay a peripheral player more than Rice , Odegaard, Saka , Saliba, Martinelli , Gabriel, Jesus and Timber . That’s been a truly ridiculous transfer . Chelsea ( and his agent) must still be pinching themselves .
    Who signed off on that deal ? It has completely banjaxed our season because we can’t add to the team and Havertz hasn’t yet made anything like the impact that such an outlay and salary would justify .

  32. 32
    bt8 says:

    Seconding TTG praise of Ned’s creative genius. I never have liked the thought of a missing mamba though, let alone five of them. Go forbid!

  33. 33
    Esso says:

  34. 34
    TTG says:

    Two big bits of news
    ESR starts and C100 is in the curry house!

  35. 35
    North Bank Ned says:

    A start for Smith Rowe with Havertz on the bench. Both Rice and Gabriel starting.

  36. 36
    Esso says:

    Interesting midfield. Smith-Rowe and Odegaard. Presume ESR at left 8? Not sure that’s his best position.

  37. 37
    Uplympian says:

    Firstly a quick thank you to TTG for those were the days – a big trip down memory lane.
    For us Norf Londoners the teams to watch were Walthamstow Avenue, Hendon and Finchley.
    An interesting and challenging switch ESR for Havertz, one I feel it’s the right time for the experiment. ESR is marginally more suited to the left side, and Martin appears to play more on the right. I suspect Martin will play a little further back on the pitch.
    We should be well up for this with so little football this month – fatigue shouldn’t be part of the story. A nice 3-1 for the good guys.

  38. 38
    ClockEndRider says:

    Much better than his position for the last 2 years on the bench, Essex. And he can’t be less impressive than Havertz…

  39. 39
    Esso says:

    Oh yeah agreed CER but please please please dont ever associate me with Essex ever again.

  40. 40
    ClockEndRider says:

    Apologies, Esso. Very poor proof reading in my part….

  41. 41
    Sancho Panza says:

    TTG you are far more balanced in your views than Piers Morgan. He’s an hysterical cry baby. We may well have spunked too much money on Havertz but it wasn’t as if any strikers of any merit are available this January.

  42. 42
    Esso says:

    Come on you Arsenal!

  43. 43
    ClockEndRider says:

    Twice in the first three minutes, the referee has given fouls for Forest when their players have seen nothing in front of them and simply flopped over. Compare and contrast with some of the obvious fouls that Saka doesn’t get…

  44. 44
    ClockEndRider says:

    Third time one of their players has feigned injury thus far.

  45. 45
    ClockEndRider says:

    4th player feigning injury. This is getting ridiculous.

  46. 46
    OsakaMatt says:

    Frustrating stuff but got to keep at it 2nd half

  47. 47
    ClockEndRider says:

    What a finish

  48. 48
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yes! 1-0

  49. 49
    OsakaMatt says:

    2-0 Saka and a relaxing end.

  50. 50
    OsakaMatt says:

    Or finish as we say in football

  51. 51
    OsakaMatt says:

    Bollocks, so much for the relaxing finish

  52. 52
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well, in for the half-ton, OM, if that is not too premature, with the dubious pre-assists committee still to rule.

    A workmanlike performance, which had it ended 2-0 would have been satisfactory enough since we haven’t won at that ground this century. Conceding the late goal to lose the clean sheet took a bit of the bloom off the rose, though.

  53. 53
    OsakaMatt says:

    3 points and on we go
    ESR did fine and good to see Jesus and Saka back on the scoresheet.

  54. 54
    TTG says:

    I didn’t rate Turner when I saw him in goal for us and that was a shocking error tonight for the first goal . Who picks our keepers? Do we rely on the goalkeeping coach ?
    That aside it was an important win. We were well on top for much of the game but we didn’t look very assured at the end when they went more direct
    Saliba should have handled Awoniyi better . On the positive side I thought our midfield was well balanced and Saka had a more creative game than of late . I’d like to see us switch wingers a few times to become less predictable . Partey could be a huge asset to team . Jesus was a fair MOTM. He worked tirelessly and showed a lot of flair

  55. 55
    North Bank Ned says:

    Ødegaard is our Stakhanovite. I lost count of the number of times he chased down an out ball and beat their full back to it to regain possession. He leads by example.

  56. 56
    Bathgooner says:

    I missed the game as it was on here at 12.30pm and I wasn’t inclined to interrupt an excellent day skiing with my daughter to watch a club that refuses to sell me a ticket. I exaggerate they have sold me one ticket all season. However I was there in spirit and was delighted to find, on coming off the mountain, that we had one, albeit failing to keep a clean sheet to ensure a comfortable finish and deliver TTG’s prediction. I managed to watch 3minutes of highlights courtesy of a VPN and if they were representative, we completely dominated the game, as indeed the stats confirm, so it was the same old failure to crack a massed defence until Jesús’ miracle. I thought Turner was at fault for both our goals as were Zinchenko and Saliba for theirs. However an away win isn’t to be sniffed at and it sets us up nicely for a game that will tell us whether we are good enough to mount a proper title challenge.


  57. 57
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bath@56: you can blame Turner for Jesus’s goal but he would have had to pull off a pretty good save to stop Saka’s. Otherwise he was competent.

    You were probably better off skiing than watching the game.

  58. 58
    TTG says:

    Recent stats re our defending and goal concessions
    Food for thought
    Forest: 3 shots on target, 1 goal
    LFC: 3 shots on target, 3 goals
    Fulham: 4 shots on target, 2 goals
    West Ham: 3 shots on target, 2 goals
    LFC: 3 shots on target, 1 goal
    Villa: 3 shots on target, 1
    Luton: 4 shots on target, 3 goals
    Wolves: 3 shots on target, 1 goal

  59. 59
    Ollie says:

    That will have to do. Big match on Sunday.
    Well in for the half-ton, Matt. Would have been more relaxing if coinciding with a third goal. 🙂

  60. 60
    Trev says:

    A very good result on that ground, yielding three most important points.
    There was barely room to squeeze another player from either side into Forest’s area, let alone find space for a telling pass or shot. Forest made it a difficult watch, especially in the first half, which, of course, was exactly what they planned to do.
    I’m still banging my “move the ball more quickly and arrack the space behind” drum but, in all honesty, there was very little space to attack, especially in the first half. It does drive me mad though when having made forward progress and with the chance to develop an attack, we turn and pass backwards at the first sight of a defender.
    The worst offender at slowing us down last night was, once again, Twisty McTurny – although he as usual played a couple of brilliant through balls in our left channel – and he was again absent – I presume, with leave – in the build up to Forest’s goal. That left back position really does have to be sorted out – starting this weekend when, even without Salah, Liverpool will look to walk straight through that side of our defence.

  61. 61
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@58: My thought is that those numbers show a mixed picture.

    With the exception of Luton, all the teams you mention had fewer shots on target against us than their average in Premier League games this season — which I think was one of the goals, so to speak, of Arteta’s defensive changes.

    As for the conversion rates, Forest, Villa and Wolves’ numbers were below their league averages. Liverpool’s four-from-four is an outlier; the Scousers are bang on the league’s average across the season, with 34% of their shots on target scoring. Luton was a madcap game. West Ham and Fulham outperformed (and we played badly at Fulham).

    On the whole, we allow teams fewer shots on target (2.5 a game) than the league average, but opponents have a higher-than-average conversion rate against us (36%).

    If anything, with one in three shots on target scoring — and in our case, 40% of our shots on target scoring — it shows how important it is to get off shots and work the keeper.

  62. 62
    TTG says:

    Aston Villa are about to seal the transfer of Lino Sousa the Arsenal left back. Sousa was signed from West Brom but hasn’t made a first team appearance despite being highly rated . This seems a blow and underlines the difficulty we have in finding pathways to the first team for promising young players .
    I suspect a negligible fee will be involved for the 18 year old

  63. 63
    TTG says:

    Your analysis adds interest to those stats .
    My point was the conversion rates are quite high and several of those sides are not prolific scorers . We have only had two clean sheets in the last eleven games and my sense watching yesterday’s game was that we look quite vulnerable defensively especially against counter attacks .
    I am a huge fan of Saliba and can’t think of a better player to handle Haaland or other top forwards but I thought he really struggled against Toney last year at home and yesterday I thought he was unsettled by Awoniyi who is a big unit . I think it is part of his Premier League learning curve

  64. 64
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@63: Saliba did not have a lot to do defensively against Forest, but when he did, I thought he wasn’t at his imperious best. He handled Wood OK without ever having him in his pocket, but, as you say, he found the bulkier and faster Awoniyi a handful.

    To your general point, we are vulnerable to counterattacks; we play a high defensive line and rely on our back four winning their individual duels. Mostly, they have managed to do that. Zinchenko is the obvious vulnerability, not least because he is often not to be found at left-back. Big Gabbi does a lot of covering for him.

    I would echo what you say about Sousa.

  65. 65
    bt8 says:

    Very interesting dialogue above about our defensive stats between TTG and NBN, two extremely knowledgeable gents. Awoniyi knows how to throw his weight around, and it is annoying how he keeps scoring against us. Seeing as it is a maxim not to let the ball drop in your own area, Saliba was caught out trying to stop that from happening but it wasn’t pretty when he missed his header. Neither was it good that Zinchenko was not there to prevent the cross. A preventable goal at an awkward time, but allowing one goal at an away ground is probably par for the course.

  66. 66
    TTG says:

    It will be interesting to see Rice and Partey together in midfield and they should ensure greater defensive security . Partey playing as the lone holding midfielder last season was immensely effective and one hopes that he and Rice can be deployed very efficiently in tandem. Both can play a variety of roles but I suspect Rice might be pushed forward nearer to Odegaard. This will mean less opportunities for ESR but I would alternate him wide left with Martinelli who is less effective this season. ESR was excellent coming in off the left wing two seasons ago and he will bring a bit less predictability to our attack which can sometimes have a bit of Groundhog Day about it

  67. 67
    Countryman100 says:

    Match report is with the techies

  68. 68
    scruzgooner says: