UNAI EMERY celebrated the perfect Arsenal evening as his young rookies racked up the biggest win of his Emirates reign.
Teenager Gabriel Martinelli marked his first start with two goals, Rob Holding celebrated his long-awaited return to duty with another and youngsters Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson also got in on the act.
And just when Gunners fans thought things couldn’t get any better, news filtered through of Tottenham’s embarrassment at Colchester.
In fact the only person who wasn’t smiling at the final whistle was Mesut Ozil, who left the pitch with a face like thunder when he was subbed with his team only one goal up.
The £350,000-a-week superstar had been hauled out of mothballs to captain this team of kids, well and truly rested after just 71 minutes of action all season.
But on the night that two men were charged with attempting to rob him and team-mate Sead Kolasinac, Ozil still appeared to have the weight of the world on his shoulders.
He was accompanied out of semi-retirement by his German pal Shkodran Mustafi, who was filling in for Granit Xhaka as the man the fans love to hate.
Yet it was only after Ozil had been replaced by Dani Ceballos in the 70th minute that the Forest dam was well and truly burst by a late flurry of goals.
The Championship visitors arrived at the Emirates on the back of a nine-match unbeaten run and buoyed by the memory of their shock FA Cup win against Arsene Wenger’s team last year.
But it was evident right from the start that there were not going to be any upsets this time as Arsenal’s much-maligned defence enjoyed a rare trouble-free 90 minutes.
Martinelli, a £7million summer signing from Brazilian fourth division club Ituano, opened and closed the scoring, heading in Calum Chambers’ 30th minute cross and then sticking one into the top corner with the last kick of the match.
Emery said: “We have been watching and waiting to see how Martinelli could improve with us and his work tonight was perfect.
“He’s a very humble player and I told him to be patient because he was really hungry to have the opportunity to help the team. So he really deserved those goals.”
Holding, sidelined by a cruciate injury since last December, put the tie beyond doubt when he headed in Reiss Nelson’s corner a minute after taking the armband from Ozil.
“It’s been a long process with a lot of days in the gym with Hector,” Holding said.
‘PANNED OUT BRILLIANTLY’
“I couldn’t have written that comeback any better. How it panned out was brilliant.
“I was so happy when Mesut passed the armband to me and it went perfectly as I went and scored straight after.”
Bellerin was just as pleased to be back, coming on for the final 15 minutes after eight months on the sidelines to tee up Joe Willock for a simple tap-in.
“Everyone was wishing to have Hector back on the pitch and his assist for Willock was very important for him,” Emery said.
“He wanted to play the full 90 minutes but we decided to give him less time because we need to go progressively with him.
“I don’t think he’s ready to play a full game at Manchester United on Monday and we need to listen to the doctor.
“But tonight was an amazing 15 minutes for him.”
Nelson also got in on the act with his first Arsenal goal from another Chambers assist as Forest collapsed late on.
But it wasn’t all good news for Emery and he is still waiting to discover if Emile Smith Rowe was concussed after a clash of heads with Jack Robinson which forced him off just before half-time.