Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City: Pep Guardiola’s men outplay and outclass Arsene Wenger’s sorry Gunners
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Pep Guardiola won his 22nd trophy as a manager as his Manchester City side comprehensively beat Arsenal 3-0 in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.
Despite starting brightly Arsene Wenger’s men had no answer to a first half goal from Sergio Aguero followed by two strikes after the interval from Vincent Kompany and David Silva, as they lifted the first domestic silverware of the season – denying the long-serving Frenchman his first League Cup in his third defeat in the final.
The sorry Gunners simply had no response to City’s intensive pressing despite employing a back three intended to negate their attacking options in front of 85,671 fans in North West London.
The disappointment was in sharp contrast to the boost Arsenal were given when Aaron Ramsey recovered from injury to start the match. Alongside him was Jack Wilshere who survived the poor performance and result against FK Ostersunds in the Europa League at the Emirates on Thursday.
Record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also returned after being cup-tied for the 2-1 defeat by Graham Potters Swedes, while Henrik Mhkitaryan dropped out after playing for Manchester United in Sunday’s competition.
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Wenger has had a formidable record at Wembley over the years while counterpart Pep Guardiola was looking to add his incredible haul of 21 trophies gleaned as boss of Catalan giants Barcelona as well as Bundesliga behemoths Bayern Munich.
The pre-match talk from Hector Bellerin was that the team wanted to win the trophy for their long-serving Frenchman as it was the only piece of domestic silverware he had yet to capture.
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Guardiola on the other hand opted for a more selfless approach when insisting he wanted to deliver a triumph for the club.
The fierce Catalan nationalist, who had been unnecessarily brought to censure by the English FA for his wearing of a badge in support of local jailed politicians – and spoke powerfully and eloquently after the match about the subject too – had been diplomatic in football terms during the build-up to the game.
It was in contrast to the testy Wenger, who refused to admit the revolutionary manager had changed the face of football, preferring to focus on the bags of money City had at their disposal. It was a tactic unworthy of Wenger.
His tactics on the pitch were the subject of great discussion too as he started with a back three of captain Laurent Koscielny on the left, Shkodran Mustafi in the middle and Calum Chambers on the right.
Wenger revealed his thinking after the match by saying the back three had worked against City last season during the 2-1 victory in the FA Cup semi-final. But it was an unconvincing argument when faced with the reality of City’s effervescent attacking trident of Ageuro, Leroy Sane and David Silva, not to mention the subdued but ever-dangerous Kevin de Bruyne.
Wenger had also made a point of praising his ‘cup keeper’ keeper David Opsina beforehand, telling anyone who would care to listen he had two ‘world class’ netminders.
He also spoke about wanting Wilshere to sign on the dotted line. The player who disappointed three days previously in a Europa League nightmare showed enterprise early on by driving at the heart of the City defence, only to be thwarted when space had opened up during an enterprising start.
In a positive start from the North Londoners Granit Xhaka showed good anticipation in robbing David Silva to drive forward moments after Nacho Monreal went down in the box with Vincent Kompany in attendance. Despite unconvincing howls from many in the crowd a refusal to award a penalty was the correct decision from referee Craig Pawson.
However, City went 1-0 up on 18 minutes after Pawson got another decision right. Claudio Bravo played a long ball up to the heart of the Arsenal defence.
The dangerous Aguero may have nudged his marker Mustafi in attempting to win the ball and get ahead of him but it most certainly was not a foul despite the former Schalke man’s protestations – but the reality was simply weak defending from the German.
There were also suggestions of offside but the main issue should have been the fact Mustafi simply didn’t show a no-nonsense attitude to his duties as a centre-back, allowing Aguero to race through unhindered.
The prolific Argentine took the ball in his stride and advanced confidently towards Ospina before calmly lobbing the ball over the Colombian and into the net as the blue half of Wembley celebrated wildly.
There was another blow for Arsenal as the consistent Nacho Monreal limped off to be replaced by Sead Kolasinac on 26 minutes. The Gunners had to show strength of character and regroup as they looked bright before the goal deflated them.
Ageuro could have grabbed a second with another impudent chip over Ospina but his lofted shot did not enter the net as de Bruyne shot wide.
As it was the scoreline was an emphatic 1-0 lead for Guardiola’s men at the break.
City started in the same vein in the second half as Kompany fired narrowly wide moments after the restart. You have to say that despite his injuries the giant Belgian is simply one of the greatest players in City’s long history.
It was a warning Arsenal failed to heed as the Citizens captain diverted the ball into the net from a Ilkay Gundogan ball into the box following a corner from the left on 58 minutes.
Seven minutes later it was 3-0 as the impish Silva fired a left-footed shot past Ospina. In truth it was little more than Guardiola’s men deserved as the Etihad outfit threatened to turn the scoreline into a rout.
As it was the ‘Ole’s’ coming from the City support was humiliation enough as the game petered out as a contest.
Never mind Stan Kroenke – he probably didn’t even watch the match – but it would have been interesting to note what Raul Sanllehi, Sven Mslintat and Huss Fahmy made of Arsenal’s performance under Wenger here at Wembley.
For the empty seats, vacated by disgruntled and disappointed Arsenal fans here a good ten minutes from the end of this match spoke volumes and surely must signal the start of the end of Wenger’s tenure if the club is to ever again compete against the likes of top quality sides such as Guardiola’s City – who it must be said thoroughly deserved their victory.