Gunners Boss Emery Salutes Holding After Forest Rout

Gunners Boss Emery Salutes Holding After Forest Rout

Unai Emery hailed Rob Holding’s “perfect” return from long-term injury after Arsenal crushed Nottingham Forest 5-0 in the Carabao Cup. Centre-back Holding, out for more than nine months with a serious knee problem, nodded home to double the Gunners’ advantage as they blitzed Sky Bet Championship Forest with four goals in the final 19 minutes.

Seconds before his towering 71st-minute header, the 24-year had taken the captain’s armband from the substituted Mesut Ozil.

Related: Emery Hails Holding Impact

Brazilian 18-year-old Gabriel Martinelli started and finished the scoring at the Emirates Stadium with his first Arsenal goals on his full debut, with academy graduates Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson also on target after Emery changed his entire starting XI for the tie.

Speaking about Holding, who was injured at Manchester United on December 5, Emery said: “Every day in training he helps us to have more performances like a team. He needed to take minutes, take confidence.

“And I think tonight – the first match after playing with the under-23s – is perfect. He was a little tired at the end of the match but he scored and he’s happy tonight and we’re happy for him.”

Emery used the fixture to hand a debut to £25million summer signing Kieran Tierney, available after arriving from Celtic with a groin problem, while substitute Hector Bellerin joined Holding in returning from a long-standing knee issue.

Bellerin marked his return with the assist for Willock’s goal, moments after replacing impressive left-back Tierney in the 77th minute.

Despite losing 19-year-old forward Emile Smith Rowe to a first-half head injury, Emery was left to reflect on an extremely positive evening. “It was an opportunity for different players to take confidence, to take minutes. The game was for us in 90 minutes very consistent,” he added.

“I think it was a good match, a good result, a clean sheet, there are a lot of pleasing things and we can be positive with different options for the next matches.”

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