Unai Emery’s young guns gave him plenty of positives, as Arsenal brushed aside Nottingham Forest 5-0 in the Carabao Cup fourth round.
It was a ‘perfect’ return for Rob Holding, according to the manager, while 18-year-old Gabriel Martinelli scored, as did academy graduates Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson.
Emery even provided a positive update on 19-year-old Emile Smith Rowe, who was substituted with a first half head injury.
Holding returned after more than nine months out with a serious knee problem to score, as the Gunners struck four times 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.
“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 also handed a debut to £25million summer signing Kieran Tierney, who has also been injured, while substitute Hector Bellerin joined Holding in returning from a long-standing knee issue.
Bellerin marked his Arsenal return with the assist for Willock’s goal, moments after replacing impressive left-back Tierney in the 77th minute.
“It was an opportunity for different players to take confidence, to take minutes,” Emery added. “The game was for us in 90 minutes very consistent.
“Some different players gave us the performance, also coming back after injuries of Holding, Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin.
“And 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.”
Live on talkSPORT
Check out all the live commentaries coming up across the talkSPORT network this week
- MK Dons vs Liverpool (Wednesday, 7:45pm) – talkSPORT
- Manchester United vs Rochdale (Wednesday, 7:45pm) – talkSPORT 2
- Stoke vs Nottingham Forest (Friday, 7:45pm) – talkSPORT 2
- Sheffield United vs Liverpool (Saturday, 12:30pm) – talkSPORT
- QPR vs West Bromwich Albion (Saturday, 12:30pm) – talkSPORT 2
- Chelsea vs Brighton (Saturday, 3pm) – talkSPORT 2
- Everton vs Manchester City (Saturday, 5:30pm) – talkSPORT
On Smith Rowe, he said: “It was for a precaution we changed him. I’m thinking he’s not going to be a serious problem.”
Martinelli, whose only previous appearance since joining from Brazilian club Ituano in the summer was a six-minute cameo at Newcastle on the opening weekend of the season, also pleased his boss.
“Martinelli is a very young player but he came here and we were waiting and watching him, how he could improve with us,” Emery explained.
“He played very well. He was working each training with a big spirit and with a big performance.
“I spoke with him to have some patience to get his opportunity to play, to do like he was doing in training and in the matches in pre-season and tonight he did that and really he deserved it because he’s a very humble player.
“He fights, he is hungry to have that opportunity to help us and his work was perfect tonight.”