'Confident Arsenal are right in Premier League title race'

 
Gabriel Jesus of Arsenal celebrates his goal during the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Arsenal FC at City Ground on January 30, 2024 in Nottingham, England. 

Arsenal's scenes of celebration at the final whistle at the City Ground were in the sharpest contrast to their last visit to Nottingham Forest, when defeat brought the curtain down on a season-long Premier League title quest.

It was Forest celebrating back in May when Taiwo Awoniyi's goal not only assured their survival but completed Arsenal's misery as a late collapse made Manchester City champions.

Here, on a cold night beside the Trent, Arsenal's title ambitions were not on the line but defeat was unthinkable, especially with Premier League leaders Liverpool the visitors to Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

And this was why there was an outpouring of elation from manager Mikel Arteta, his players and the travelling fans when the final whistle sounded on a hectic five minutes of stoppage time, after what looked like a routine victory until Awoniyi struck for Forest late on.

It was not a night or performance without its stresses, not because Forest gave Arsenal any serious anxiety until those closing stages, but because for the first 45 minutes the Gunners appeared to be sleepwalking towards the sort of result that could inflict damage on their season.

Arsenal lacked urgency and penetration in a lazy, lacklustre opening half, sucked in by Forest's strategy of sitting back in blocks of defence waiting to hit them on the counter.

Too many passes, too many stodgy attacks, not enough chances. Arsenal might, with some justification, say they were being calm and measured, showing maturity, but there was no doubt a lot more was needed.

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