Arsenal have their sights on the Premier League title as they kick off their campaign on Saturday 12 August against the side who put the final nail in their championship aspirations last season – Nottingham Forest.
A 1-0 win for the hosts at the City Ground in May proved decisive for both ends of the table, as Manchester City were crowned champions and Steve Cooper’s side confirmed their Premier League status.
Forest look set for another relegation battle this time around based on an underwhelming pre-season and the Gunners should get off the mark at home to help land a 20/1 #Pickyourpunt Bet Builder in the first lunchtime kick-off of the season.
Arsenal/Arsenal – Half Time/Full Time
After picking up the Community Shield at Wembley last Sunday following a penalty shootout win over Manchester City, Arsenal should be champing at the bit on the opening weekend.
They took the lead inside five minutes the last time they hosted Forest, a game they would go on to win 5-0, and can make their mark early again.
Only the Citizens had a better first-half record than the Gunners last term, with Mikel Arteta’s side ahead at the break in 20 of their 38 matches.
At home, where Arsenal won 14 of their 19 league outings, they averaged over a goal per game in the first half of matches and they’ll fancy their chances of maintaining that against the Premier League’s worst travellers from last season.
Forest collected the fewest points, scored the fewest goals and conceded the most of any top-flight side on the road.
Cooper’s men have had a difficult build-up to the 2023/24 season and with several key players missing, including two of the three central defenders from Forest’s win over Arsenal in May, the Tricky Trees are likely to be up against it from the off.
Eddie Nketiah – Last Scorer
With Gabriel Jesus currently out of action with a knee injury, a spot has opened up to lead the Arsenal attack.
That place went to summer signing Kai Havertz in the Community Shield and the German could keep his position ahead of Jesus’ understudy from last term, Eddie Nketiah.
Nketiah finished last season with nine goals in all competitions and lead the line admirably when Jesus was out of action.
However, Arteta seems keen to go in a different direction when Jesus is unavailable and that could mean a spot on the bench for Nketiah against Forest.
He is likely to see the field at some point and has a knack for having the last say in games, with six of his nine goals from last season being the final goal of the game.
Ryan Yates to be carded
Only Wolves and Leeds United picked up more yellow cards than Forest last season, Cooper’s side accumulating 84 yellows across 38 games.
With referees cracking down on bad behaviour on the field, they could exceed that number with Ryan Yates primed to be a player who often has his name taken.
Yates gave away more fouls per game on average (1.9) than anyone else for Forest last season while earned himself a fairly modest five yellows.
He may struggle to keep his nose clean initially as players adapt to the new guidelines, which led to an uptick in bookings across all three divisions in the EFL last weekend.