Mikel Arteta lamented the defensive shortcomings of recent weeks as he tried to come to terms with the disappointment of a 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest that confirmed Manchester City would win the title. A blunt Arsenal became the first side in 16 games to fail to score against Forest, but a league they led for a record 248 days was not lost on Saturday. Arsenal, rather, were undone by a run of two wins in eight games that began with throwing away a 2-0 lead away at Liverpool.
“We conceded a lot of goals in those games, 16 goals,” Arteta said. “16 goals – it’s a lot.” Against a rival like City, that is too many. “You have to be exceptional in everything,” he went on. “They [Forest] are not a team that gives you any margins and we have extended those margins too far. Today we gave them a goal and chances for another goal. We can’t put the guilt on someone. We should have been better as a team and in the last few weeks we have fallen short.”
In congratulating City, Arteta acknowledged that they have huge advantages over Arsenal. “I know we are not at that level but we have to find a way,” he said. “We have to push, make the right decisions, think smarter.” He said there was “no question” this had been a season of progress, but insisted, “I want to win, I am here to win.”
Aaron Ramsdale said Arsenal have to remember this was a season to be proud about, despite having failed to win. “It’s hard,” said the Arsenal goalkeeper. “All that hard work over months has come to an end today. We just couldn’t find a way through today, credit to Forest. We struggled to break them down. We had a few games where we dropped points through individual mistakes, those three or four games is where it’s gone wrong. Deep down we know what we have achieved. When the dust settles we will be proud but this is a learning curve for us. It is a season to be proud of.”
Steve Cooper spoke of his pride after leading Forest to Premier League survival. “There’s a great sense of belonging, of being part of something really special,” he said. “I really engaged with the players. It was great day for the supporters, one that we deserved. In 20-plus years of professional coaching, this was always going to be toughest coaching challenge, but a real enjoyable one.
“This allows us to continue to build and that is what I am focused on. This club is special and everything needs to be at a really high level. This allows us to continue to grow and to be the club we want to be. But now maybe isn’t the time to talk about that. Today is about the supporters.”
The change, he said, came from accepting “this is who we are” or realising “this is how we are scoring goals”. That meant playing more on the counter and not trying to control possession – and that itself, Cooper believes, was a vital part of his development into somebody who can perhaps take Forest even further. “To become a proper manager, and I’m a long way from that, you have to experience everything,” he said. “I had to suffer.”