Morning all.

As expected, Mikel Arteta was asked about the Barcelona rumours during his press conference. His reply shocked no one I’m sure. Is he leaving?

Who, me? No, that’s totally fake news. What you read yesterday, I don’t know where it’s coming from. It’s totally untrue and I’m really upset about it. I could not believe it. I don’t know where it’s coming from, it’s got no sources, it’s got nothing and I think we have to be very cautious when we talk about personal things, to put it in the way that it was put yesterday. I’m in the right place. I’m with the right people, I feel really good about it and, as I said many times, I’m immersed in a beautiful journey with this football club, these players, this staff and our people and I’m investing still a lot for them.

When someone makes mischief in a way somebody did when suggesting Mikel Arteta had told ‘people close to him’ that he was ready to quit Arsenal in the summer, that person clearly gives no thought to the damage it can cause to so many people. Especially Mikel Arteta. He’s now cross, he’s probably had to reassure the board that the story was fake, reassure fans, his players and his staff. I’m sure there are a number of fans who hoped there would be an element of truth to the rumour but I think the majority would be disappointed to see him leave. But, I’d imagine the players wouldn’t be because they all signed up to his and the clubs plan and vision. The owners wouldn’t have financed the building of his squad if they didn’t believe in what him.

With that silliness put to bed, we can all move on.

Arsenal play Nottingham Forest tonight. A tough test I think especially if Declan Rica and Gabriel don’t come through late fitness tests. Jakub Kiwior is a good backup in defence in my opinion but our midfield won’t quite be the same without Rice. Saying that, Jorginho isn’t a dreadful option to have in reserve but he’ll need help I’m sure.

The hope I had for Thomas Partey returning to the squad tonight was dashed yesterday when Arteta confirmed he’s not yet ready to return. Neither is Fabio Vieira.

Forest have a number of players missing too. Origi is injured, while six players remain on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Forest might be sat towards the bottom of the Premier League table but it wasn’t that long when they hammered Newcastle 3-1 and beat Man Utd too. Both results I believe, came after new manager Nuno Espírito Santo was appointed. This month though, they’ve only managed to win one game and that was against Bristol City in the FA Cup and only after a replay and extra time.

We’ve already played Forest this season of course. We won the game 2-1 thanks to goals from Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka but for Jurrien Timber, it was a rotten day. Arsenal’s opening game of the new season, his debut for his new club having arrived that summer and then just after the break, he suffered what turned out to be a terrible knee injury. That seems like so long ago now though and thankfully, he’s not too far off returning but I think next season will be his time.

What can we expect from Forest?

Arsenal’s Adrian Clarke says:

New head coach Nuno Espirito Santo has surprised plenty of observers from a tactical perspective, by adopting a far more positive and adventurous approach than we saw from him at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur. His teams will always work hard out of possession and press with hostility, but it appears he is willing to let Nottingham Forest’s players perform is a slightly less structured manner than expected. This freedom has led to some exciting contests. Nottingham Forest have scored 14 goals and conceded 12 in his seven matches in charge so far.

Nuno has started every match until this point in a 4-2-3-1, where he seems determined to get attacking midfielders Anthony Elanga, Morgan Gibbs-White, Callum Hudson-Odoi or Nicolas Dominguez onto the ball more often than they did under predecessor Steve Cooper. Their combined pace and guile from fast breakaways must be watched closely at the City Ground, as it played a big part in their recent victories against Newcastle United and Manchester United. In fact, no team has registered more counter attack goals (7) than Nottingham Forest so far in 2023-24.

One of our best strengths, set pieces, may cause the hosts a sleepless night ahead of this encounter though. Displaying fragility defending corners and wide free kicks all season, they have leaked a league-high 11 goals from dead ball situations. On our last two visits to the City Ground we have encountered a very well organised, super-defensive Forest side that relinquished possession. This time around we are still likely to enjoy the lion’s share of the ball, but there will be less emphasis of putting 11 men behind the ball.

They will try to build attacks when possible, but without the ball Forest will hassle and harry our players inside the middle third, before springing quick transitions. In-form Chris Wood is the danger man. The tall New Zealander is not just excellent at attacking crosses in the air. In recent weeks he has been a real threat from turnover situations too, running onto balls played in behind. He is a striker that will need to be shackled closely on the night.

Forest’s style of play now should suit Arsenal more than a side which concentrates on defending alone but even so, they clearly have the game to hurt us too if we’re not focussed and at it from the first whistle. We’ll miss Gabriel if he doesn’t play because above anything else, he’s fantastic in the air. At both ends of the pitch too. It sounds like Raya and the defence in general will be up against a high pressing front Forest line too so playing out from the back will need to be sharp and swift. Our own front men need to pressure Matt Turner too because we know he can wobble. Cause him problems early and he could crumble.

If Arsenal are to remain serious title contenders, these are the type of games which have to be won.

Enjoy the game guys, it’s a 7.30 kick off and it’s live on TNT Sport…

Catch up in the comments.