What a difference a few months can make for Nottingham Forest, as Steve Cooper’s arrival has sparked a surge up the table since their dreadful start to proceedings in the Championship, and challenging for the playoffs is a real possibility.
Forest did lose their final games of 2021 without scoring, though – going down 2-0 to Middlesbrough before being beaten at home 1-0 by Huddersfield Town – but they had embarked on a nine-game unbeaten run before falling short over the festive period.
Cooper’s men were due to take on Barnsley in their opening game of 2022, but after the Forest manager claimed that his side had been “riddled” with COVID-19 cases, the clash was one of a plethora of fixtures to be postponed amid the surge in Omicron cases.
The two-time FA Cup winners are not exactly renowned for any lengthy runs in this competition, failing to make it beyond the fifth round since the 1995-96 season and bowing out to Swansea City in round four of the 2020-21 edition.
Forest can take confidence in the fact that they have lost just one of their six home games in the Championship since the start of November – conceding a mere three goals in that run – but the tournament’s most successful side will have something to say about that.
It was truly fitting to see the first Premier League game of 2022 overshadowed by refereeing and VAR controversies – normal service resumed some might say – but unfortunately for Arsenal, they were often on the wrong side of said decisions against Man City.
After Bukayo Saka had given the Gunners a deserved lead in the opening period, Martin Odegaard was denied a penalty after Ederson’s challenge, Granit Xhaka gave Riyad Mahrez the opportunity to equalise from the spot, Gabriel Magalhaes saw red and Rodri scored a last-gasp winner in an incident-packed contest.
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Mikel Arteta’s Champions League hopefuls were able to leave the field with their heads held high after demonstrating clear signs of progress from their Etihad humbling earlier in the season, and the Gunners were due to take on Liverpool in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg before the Emirates encounter was postponed.
Arsenal had won five in a row across all competitions before going down to the champions, and Arteta is certainly no stranger to success in the FA Cup, but the 14-time winners saw the defence of their crown end in the fourth round last year at Southampton.
The most recent meeting between Forest and Arsenal in the FA Cup saw the Championship side secure a famous 4-2 win on home soil in 2018, but the Gunners responded with a 5-0 thumping in the 2019-20 EFL Cup at the Emirates