Arsenal began their bid to lift the Premier League title away from Manchester City as Bukayo Saka’s fine strike earned them a narrow victory over Nottingham Forest.
Eddie Nketiah and Saka struck in the first half after a half-hour delay before kick-off at the Emirates Stadium, but the hosts could not build on their lead and were anchored by Taiwo Awoniyi as they ran out 2-1 winners. .
A problem with the turnstiles meant kick-off was delayed by 30 minutes, but there was no danger of spoiling the expected atmosphere as Arsenal looked to go one better than their second-placed finish last season.
Defeat at Forest in May ended that title challenge, but a repeat here never looked likely since Forest goalkeeper Matt Turner – making his debut following his arrival from Arsenal earlier in the week – saw a clearance from Nketiah as the ball flashed.
The visitors were already spurning a great start, Brennan Johnson unable to hit the target after being slipped in from behind.
A moment of magic from Gabriel Martinelli set Nketiah free inside the Forest box and his low shot found its way past Turner thanks to a rebound from Joe Worrall as Arsenal hit the front just after the first-half mark.
Saka then took center stage, collected a pass from William Saliba and looked to double the lead before half-time.
It wasn’t all smiles for Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, however, as summer signing Jurrien Timber limped off with what appeared to be a knee injury after just 50 minutes.
The Dutch defender went down in pain when he was fouled at half-time but came on for the second half only to be forced off soon after.
The second half looked to be largely played with Arsenal controlling possession, Declan Rice forcing a low stop from Turner with a deflected drive before the £105m man converted for another shot.
But from the resulting corner from Rice’s second effort, Forest stepped up and substitute Anthony Elanga raced down the left before heading square for Awoniyi to finish.
Arsenal eventually held on for victory, Gabriel Magalhaes replacing Martinelli to secure the defence, while Forest pounced on the likes of Chris Wood in a late attempt to salvage a point.
Arsenal player ratings vs Nottingham Forest (4-3-3)
GK: Aaron Ramsdale – 6/10 – A couple of simple saves early on before his concentration levels had to up after Awoniyi’s goal.
RB: Thomas Partey – 6/10 – Asked to operate in a slightly different role to usual but adapted well. Tucked into midfield throughout.
CB: Ben White – 7/10 – Looks so comfortable in whatever role he’s asked to play. Arguably Arsenal’s most important defender at the moment.
CB: William Saliba – 6/10 – Comfortable for much of the afternoon until Forest suddenly piled the pressure on late.
LB: Jurrien Timber – 6/10 – Untroubled from a defensive point of view and then suffered a worrying-looking knee injury.
DM: Declan Rice – 6/10 – Used to being the star of the show at West Ham but a completely different role here. Roamed forward more than he’s used to.
CM: Martin Odegaard (c) – 7/10 – Nobody created more chances for Arsenal than Odegaard last season and the Norwegian was again bright in that regard.
CM: Kai Havertz – 6/10 – Moved into the channels when Martinelli came short and was effective enough at ticking things over.
RW: Bukayo Saka – 8/10 – Stepped up into the world class category last season and scored a world class goal here. What a talent Arsenal and England have.
CF: Eddie Nketiah – 7/10 – Only seems to score goals when Mikel Arteta hands him starts. Smart finish aided by a deflection off Joe Worrall.
LW: Gabriel Martinelli – 8/10 – “He can be unplayable at times,” the words of TNT Sports commentator Darren Fletcher after a trademark Martinelli breakaway in the first half. He wasn’t wrong.
SUB: Takehiro Tomiyasu (49′ for Timber) – 6/10 – One effort from distance when Arsenal were 2-0 up but attention then switched to defending the lead.
SUB: Leandro Trossard (73′ for Nketiah) – 6/10
SUB: Gabriel (86′ for Martinelli) – N/A
Subs not used: Hein (GK), Kiwior, Jorginho, Vieira, Smith Rowe, Nelson
Mikel Arteta – 6/10 – Bold team selection looked to have paid off when Arsenal got themselves two goals up. The Spaniard’s side didn’t go for the jugular though, with Forest’s late rally scaring the life out of the Gunners. An early lesson learned.