The goal came from the figurehead of Arsenal's brave new world, but there was a touch of the old Gunners about the way Forest's home guard was finally overcome.
"We set out to play in a way not dissimilar to the way Forest play," Bruce Rioch, Arsenal's manager, said. "We set out to have a solid back four, a solid midfield four, to get people behind the ball, invite them to come at us and try to catch them on the counter-attack."
"Boring, boring Arsenal," the home crowd chanted, reviving an old favourite. In truth, the boring team were Forest who, in the words of their own manager, lacked "wit, invention, quality."
Arsenal possessed more of all three and would have won more convincingly had they come out of their shell sooner. "We were happy just to regain possession and come out slowly in the first half," Rioch said. "But that's not the way counter-attack works. In the second half we broke out much quicker and could have put the game out of reach."
As it was, one goal was enough to deal another setback to Forest's hopes of matching last season's top-three finish. The way things are going, they might finish 10th and still be in Europe; but that is beside the point. By proper standards they do not look worthy contenders and for their own pride's sake they will need to improve substantially if they are to test Bayern Munich next month.
That it was their first defeat at home in more than a year is the least of Frank Clark's concerns. "I'm more disappointed that we did not create enough chances to win the game and lost it through very poor defending," he said. "We did not play well enough to break Arsenal's defence down. Then we lost possession in a dangerous area and tried to play offside when it was never on."
In doing so they played right into Arsenal's hands, allowing Ian Wright to combine with Dennis Bergkamp in the simplest of one-twos. The Dutchman would have had a second had he not tried to return the favour when a shot looked the better bet. Wright, in the meantime, hit the crossbar with a header - badly defended again - from Bergkamp's cross. At least he recorded his first win as captain.
Clark misses his captain. With Stuart Pearce, sidelined for his fourth game in a row through injury, Forest lacked fire, apart from their other deficiencies.
They will also shortly lack Jason Lee, for what that is worth. The dreadlocked striker, sent on with 17 minutes left, did not make it to the end, receiving a red card after committing two cautionable offences within a minute, the second involving reckless use of the elbows.
Goal: Bergkamp (60) 0-1.
Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Phillips; Stone, Gemmill (McGregor, 64), Bart-Williams, Black (Lee, 73); Roy, Campbell. Substitute not used: Haaland.
Arsenal (4-4-1-1): Seaman; Dixon, Linighan, Keown, Winterburn; Merson, Jensen, Hillier, Helder; Bergkamp; Wright. Substitutes not used: Hartson, Morrow, Hughes.
Referee: R Hart (Darlington).
Sending-off: Nottingham Forest: Lee.
Bookings: Nottingham Forest: Lee. Arsenal: Keown.
Man of the match: Wright.
Attendance: 27,222.Reuse content