Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta apologised for his side’s display after they were knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round by Nottingham Forest for the second time in four years. Lewis Grabban slid home Ryan Yates’ inviting cross seven minutes from time to shock the 14-time winners. The Gunners appeared to have turned a corner of late but were lacklustre against their Championship opponents. Arteta made numerous changes but England winger Bukayo Saka, Norway playmaker Martin Odegaard and in-form Gabriel Martinelli all played at the City Ground. Forest, resurgent under manager Steve Cooper, can now look forward to an East Midlands derby and another meeting with a Premier League side, holders Leicester City, in the fourth round.
The Championship side, who beat the Gunners 4-2 at the same stage in 2018 and have not lost a home tie in six years, were physical from the start. Cooper was delighted with his side’s battling display, the latest in a series of impressive performances since he took charge in September. Arteta’s frustration was illustrated when he substituted left-back Nuno Tavares – whose performance was summed up by a wild back pass that visiting keeper Bernd Leno had to chest away from goal – for Kieran Tierney after 34 minutes. The Portuguese defender threw his gloves away as he left the field and did not acknowledge his manager on the sidelines. After the break, Leno denied Philip Zinckernegal when he connected sweetly with Johnson’s inviting cross then kept out Joe Garner’s powerful free kick.
But with eight minutes left, substitute Grabban met Yates’ cross to condemn Arsenal to another third-round exit in the East Midlands. There were nearly 25,000 packed into the City Ground and the crowd clearly inspired Cooper’s men, who won battles all over the pitch. Djed Spence, on loan from Middlesbrough, was particularly impressive at right-back, nullifying Martinelli. Arsenal had been warned of the threat Forest posed from crosses early in the second half, but they didn’t learn and paid the price on a miserable night for Arteta’s men. Arsenal, who were wearing an all-white kit in support of the ‘No More Red’ campaign against knife crime, have improved their form in recent weeks so this is a setback they will not have expected. They were unlucky against Premier League leaders Manchester City on New Year’s Day but failed to show any of the same application here.