Unai Emery praised “fighter” Gabriel Martinelli for making the most of his opportunity after the teenage forward scored twice in Arsenal’s 5-0 Carabao Cup win against Nottingham Forest. The 18-year-old summer signing made his first competitive start in the third-round game at the Emirates. Martinelli opened the scoring with a powerful header before scoring a superb long-range second in injury time. Arsenal were playing only 48 hours after coming back to defeat Aston Villa 3-2 in the Premier League, but they put in a dominant display against their Championship opponents.
As well as Martinelli’s brace, Rob Holding marked his return from 10 months out through injury with a headed goal while Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson were also on the scoresheet. Nottingham Forest, who like Arsenal made a raft of changes for the tie, barely troubled their opponents with their only shot on target a late Sammy Ameobi strike that was comfortably saved by Emiliano Martinez. A big win was capped by the return from injury of defenders Holding and Hector Bellerin after lengthy spells on the sidelines while summer signing Kieran Tierney also made his long-waited debut after recovering from a groin issue.
Few fans had heard of Martinelli when he became Arsenal’s first signing of the summer, joining for £6m from Brazilian club Ituano in July. However, back in his homeland he is viewed as having the potential to become one of Brazil’s superstars and he certainly impressed on his home debut for the Gunners. The teenager, who made his Premier League debut with a late substitute appearance against Newcastle in Arsenal’s season opener, played futsal as a youngster and the close control and dribbling skills developed from that sport were on show against Forest.
This was a fine display of attacking football from Arsenal but what will have been just as pleasing for their fans was the clean sheet. Arsenal had conceded 10 goals in their last five Premier League fixtures and this game provided Unai Emery with the perfect opportunity to give some minutes to those returning from injury. All eyes were on full-back Tierney as the £25m summer signing from Celtic made his debut after recovering from a groin problem, while centre-back Holding made his first start following 10 months out with a knee injury.
Holding’s goal will have gone a long way to helping him put recent injury woes behind him while Tierney put in a hugely impressive performance full of excellent crosses and surging runs down the left flank and he could now be in contention to face Manchester United in the Premier League on Monday. The standing ovation he received on being substituted spoke for the fans’ appreciation and the applause continued for his replacement, Bellerin, who made his return to first-team action after nine months out with a knee injury and even managed to provide the assist for Willock’s goal.