We start our 2023/24 Premier League campaign at home for the first time in five years when Nottingham Forest head to north London for a lunchtime kick-off.
Having clinched the Community Shield last Sunday at Wembley, Mikel Arteta will be hoping that we can pick up where we left off at Wembley and embark on a similar start to last season, which provided the springboard to our title challenge.
We welcome a Forest side who picked up the fewest away points in the division last term, and Steve Cooper will be well aware they must improve their away day displays if they’re to avoid being sucked into another basement battle.
A quieter summer on Trentside
Just 84 days will have passed since Cooper’s team beat us 1-0 to clinch their Premier League status, as he attempts to become the first Forest boss to record consecutive victories at our expense since Brian Clough in 1978.
After signing 29 first-team players last season, Forest’s summer transfer dealings have been relatively tame in comparison. Manchester United's Anthony Elanga was joined at the club by Matt Turner earlier this week, who is expected to line up against his former side on Saturday having lifted the Community Shield with us just six days earlier.
Former Chelsea defender Ola Aina [above] is the other major new face, while Chris Wood’s loan move from Newcastle United has been made permanent. Jesse Lingard, Jack Colback, Andre Ayew, Sam Surridge, Cafu and Steve Cook are the biggest-name departures.
On the pitch, results have been disappointing. They won just two of their seven friendlies, which came against Notts County and Levante. As well as defeats to Valencia and PSV Eindhoven, alarmingly they were beaten 2-0 by relegated Leeds United and 5-0 by Rennes, and netted just three times all summer.
What the managers say
Arteta: “I’m super excited, I think it’s a new challenge and a new opportunity. We’re very fresh to start again and we’re excited to play our first game at home as it’s been a while.
“[Forest beat us last season] in a really clever way and they deserved on the day to get the points. Tomorrow we’re going to have to play better to deserve more.”
Cooper: “We are pleased with the players who have come in. Would we have liked to do more business by now? Absolutely. Me, for sure.
“But at the same time, as I always do, I will commit to the guys who are here and make sure they get everything we can give them, to help them prepare for a game. If we can strengthen and add to the squad in the next few weeks then that is going to be really beneficial to help us progress.”
Mikel Arteta has given the majority of his squad a clean bill of health, with the exception of Mohamed Elneny who continues to rehab the knee injury he suffered back in January, and Gabriel Jesus who underwent a procedure on his knee and is expected to be out for a couple more weeks.
That means that Jorginho could return after missing the Wembley win last week with a knock, as well as Oleksandr Zincheko who didn’t play during pre-season as he managed a calf problem.
Taiwo Awoniyi, who was in red-hot form at the end of last season and netted the winner against us in May, is set to miss out having not recovered from an ankle issue in time. This game also comes too soon for centre-back Moussa Niakhate whose dislocated shoulder hasn’t fully healed.
The pair are back in training, as is Brennan Johnson who is expected to play after picking up an ankle injury on Wales duty earlier in the summer. Defender Felipe is out though with a knee problem.
Adrian Clarke, writing in the official matchday programme: Cooper likes to keep opposition managers guessing when it comes to formations, but towards the end of last season a robust 3-4-2-1 built to counter-attack proved to be Forest’s most reliable tactical ploy.
They are usually content to sacrifice possession, drop into their own half in a well-organised shape and try to force turnovers that spring breakaways. No top-flight side averaged less possession than the East Midlanders last term (37.9 per cent) or made fewer successful passes inside the opposition half (46.3 per 90 minutes).
As soon as possession changes hands they go from back to front quickly, releasing dangermen Johnson or Morgan Gibbs-White as early as possible.
However, Forest shipped a league-high average of 2.3 goals a game on their travels, causing them to win just one league away game last season. That, plus 16 set-piece concessions across the campaign, hurt them badly.
Facts and stats
We are unbeaten in our last nine home league games against Forest (W5 D4) since a 3-1 defeat in March 1989. One of those nine unbeaten games was a 2-1 win in our first game of the season in 1998/99.
This is the 11th time in the last 12 seasons that we have begun our Premier League campaign with a game in London, with the exception being a 1-0 win at Newcastle United in 2019/20. This is our first opening game on home soil since losing 2-0 to Manchester City in 2018/19.
Forest have lost their opening league game in each of the last four seasons – they've never done so in five consecutive campaigns before.
Cooper’s side won fewer away points than any other Premier League side in 2022/23 (8), winning just one of their 19 games. However, they scored more goals in their last four away games (6) than they did in their first 15 last season (5).
Gabriel Martinelli has scored three goals in his two home games against Forest in all competitions, opening the scoring in our 5-0 win last season. His first-ever goals for us also came against them, in a 5-0 League Cup win in September 2019.
Leandro Trossard has provided 10 Premier League assists for us, which is more than any other player in the competition since his debut in January.
Michael Oliver’s first appointment of the season sees him head to north London, which could be a good omen for us as we have won each of our last five home matches he has officiated, stretching back to March 2021. However the last time we encountered him was our 4-1 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium back in April.
We have won just 24 of the 52 games he has officiated, drawing 11 and losing 17. However, Forest have won just three of the 13 he has taken charge of, although the last was their 4-3 triumph over Southampton in May that all-but secured their survival.
- Referee: Michael Oliver
- Assistants: Stuart Burt, Dan Cook
- Fourth Official: Darren Bond
- VAR: Jarred Gillett
- Assistant VAR: Darren Cann
Previous visits from Forest
Last season saw Forest make their first-ever appearance at Emirates Stadium, but it was to be Reiss Nelson’s day as he came off the bench to score twice during a 5-0 success back in October, with Martinelli, Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard also getting on the scoresheet.
It had been 23 years since their last visit to N5, when in August 1998 goals from Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars sealed a 2-1 victory for Arsene Wenger's reigning Double holders.
However, during the Reds’ top-flight exile we did meet four times in cup competitions, although just once on our own patch. That came in September 2019 when we again ran out 5-0 victors in the League Cup on a night that saw Martinelli bag his first Gunners goals, with Rob Holding, Joe Willock and Nelson also netting.
Our live matchday show is back for 2023/24, which starts at 11:30am on Arsenal.com and the official app - and we have a stacked line-up during the perfect matchday build-up for any Gooner!
Sharky will be dropping by to chat about our US tour with new face Jeremiah Asiamah and Adrian Clarke, while our legendary former striker Charlie Nicholas will give his take on how we’ll fare this season. Fresh from starring in our away kit reveal, Mabel, Theo Ellis and Kev Kharas will be popping into the studio, and ahead of his clash with Dmytro Mytrofanov, we’ll welcome boxer Hamzah Sheeraz.
As well as all the usual facts and analysis ahead of the game, live commentary comes from Dan Roebuck and Nigel Winterburn who will take you through all the action as we hope to start the season with three points. Make sure you tune in!
Ahead of the new season, you can swat up on all the new rule changes and other tweaks to the Premier League, as well as look back on six of our best opening-day wins to whet your appetite for the big kick-off.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.