Before the first ball was kicked this season, few could have envisaged Nottingham Forest coming away from Stamford Bridge with a point to their name, let alone one that could have very well been three following a frenetic 11-minute period in the second half.
Frank Lampard’s out-of-sorts troops were 1-0 down at the break courtesy of a Taiwo Awoniyi header before a brace from Raheem qSterling turned the tide in the hosts’ favour, but Awoniyi joined his counterpart in the two-goal club with another header just four minutes after Sterling’s second.
Even with Chelsea in their current predicament, avoiding a hiding in West London would have been the overriding goal for Steve Cooper and his charges last weekend, and that hard-earned draw leaves the Tricky Trees on the brink of survival in 16th place in the table.
With a three-point gap to the relegation zone, Forest will secure their top-flight status if they can match or better the results of 18th-placed Leeds United and 19th-placed Leicester City –
who face West Ham United and Newcastle United respectively – and successive home wins over Brighton and Southampton is just what the doctor ordered before the visit of Arsenal.
Cooper’s men have also found the back of the net in each of their last five Premier League games and have lost just two top-flight matches at the City Ground in 2023 – going down to
Manchester United and Newcastle – but they are without a clean sheet in 15 top-flight contests since shutting out Leeds in February, and Arsenal have plenty of attacking mistakes to rectify.
Defeat at the City Ground would mathematically hand Man City the title, a draw would more or less do the same given the champions’ vastly superior goal difference, and even if Arsenal can produce the goods on Saturday, their wafer-thin hopes will be extinguished if Pep Guardiola’s men beat Chelsea a day later.
With just two wins from their last seven heading into the weekend, it is proving to be a bitterly disappointing end to another campaign of promise for the Gunners, who have been defeated in their final away fixture in two of the last three seasons.
On a brighter note for the visiting contingent, their side ran out comfortable 5-0 winners when Nottingham Forest visited the Emirates back in October, but the Tricky Trees downed Arsenal at the City Ground in last year’s FA Cup and could now close off another avenue to silverware for their capital counterparts.