Date: 26th February 2018 at 4:54pm
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Manchester City lifted their first piece of silverware under the stewardship of Pep Guardiola at Wembley yesterday. The Carabao Cup might not have been top of his priorities when the season got under way, but it is a trophy one collects early in the season and often signs the blue-print for what follows.

Arsene Wenger’s Ashburton Grove Bottling Factory lived up to its billing as a team unable to summons what it takes as City overpowered them in every department to cruise to an easy Sunday-stroll-type victory in the capital.

Sneaking off to Wembley comes with an added cost as I had to call in a favour to get tickets for Liverpool-West Ham so that dear Sue could see “her boys” before I was driving down the motorways, with the Pedsisters, to face a team from London. That in itself is a bit odd as there is no one to have a chat to at the service stations and when you arrive at Wembley there is a kind of aloofness where the Gooners believe they have a divine right to win. The radio stations told us City were overwhelming favourites to win, but Arsenal have been known to spoil the party on more than one occasion and were capable of producing a gritty performance as they did in this year’s semi-final and last season’s FA Cup semi-final and final. It never looked likely at all in this match.

Pep allowed Bravo to guard the goals behind Walker, Kompany, Otamendi and Danilo. As usual, Fernandinho was the security department. De Bruyne, Gundogan, David Silva ahead and Sane, in my opinion looks a bit out of sync behind Aguero.

The Gooners clearly set up to go man-for-man in midfield and for ten minutes had a limited amount of success, but you can’t fool Guardiola for long. The Catalan simply sent out an instruction to go long. After Arsenal had a couple of quarter chances easily snuffed out by the City back line which for the purposes of this includes Bravo.

Giving his “cup” goal tender the nod to go long, he dutifully did so after 18 minutes. Mustafi got under the ball and wrong side of Aguero, who gave him a kind of bump and scampered clear to lift it over Ospina to open the scoring. Sergigol rewriting the history books again.

Effectively that was game over as the Bottlers simply had no reaction and no tools to compete with.

The midfield marking lost its efficiency as Ozil absenteed himself. One word that did not describe Xhaka was Granit, Ramsey ran around in circles, Bellerin found himself in the book. Only Wilshere seemed to be playing with any kind of passion, but even he spent most of the afternoon trying to use whatever devices he could to get Fernandinho sent off, even diving and screaming for the physio.

Yes, he did milk a yellow card out of it, but his attempts to improve that to a red were pitiful and Wilshere himself should have been binned by the ref for his continued simulation. That Fernandinho had to retire early to nurse a hamstring injury didn’t look good for City, but once he had left the field to be replaced by Bernardo, suddenly City looked a bit better balanced and immediately clicked into gear.

Ahead of the hour City forced a corner on the right. The usual suspects took up their usual positions but De Bruyne drilled it to the edge of the box and to Gundogan, hitherto profligate with his passing, but this time the German hit it first-time goalward and Kompany had the presence of mind to divert it into the other corner. Wenger screamed for offside against Sane, but after his pat-a-cake referee consulted the VAR, he pointed to the centre circle and it was 2-0 for the second-gear Blues.

Less than 10 minutes later, City built up down the left with Danilo, having his best game for his club, drove into the Gooners’ rearguard. He managed to gather a cluster of cement-welly defenders ahead of delivering an exquisite reverse pass to open the door for David Silva. El Mago had a slight corridor to the far post and just as exquisitely slid the ball along it and past Ospina.

That might have concluded the scoring, but City were able then to effectively take a 20-minute in-play break without ever coming under threat from Arsenal.

I have to say that this is the worst Gooners XI I have ever seen. The team lacks leadership on the field, looks frail in defence, lazy in midfield and misfiring up top. Aubameyang has slotted into the groove already, offering no real threat, happy to fit in Kompany’s pocket. The VAR has added to Wenger’s repertoire of excuses, but using such excuses only masks the fact that Arsenal are in decline, they are not good enough and the ownership appear to lack the desire to do anything about it, hoping that Wenger will leave of his own free will.

Yes, City have spent big. But they have a definite goal. Arsenal have spent big on rubbish. Is Aubameyang better than Aguero, or even Mo Salah? I don’t think so. Is Lacazette? Definitely not. Does Ozil have the engine of any of City’s midfielers? No. Can he affect the game like they do? No.

So, you are left with a sub-standard creative department and, yesterday, a non-existent attack department. It is a sad indictment when your jet-heeled centre forward is caught and robbed by an aging defender who has spent much of the last three seasons in the physio’s office.

As City could call upon Bernardo and De Jesus to give players a break, the Bottlers have to rely on Stretford reject Welbeck and the never-was Iwobi. It doesn’t look good, does it?

The biggest giggle of the day was when the third goal arrived for City, Mr & Mrs Dyson must have brought their latest innovation to the Arsenal end as it emptied almost as fast as Old Trafford when City whacked the Stretfords 6-1. It was a big plus for the safety people as the tube station was deserted by the time the Cup Ceremony was completed a little ahead of 7pm.

The Blues won’t have to train today because this so-called Cup Final was little more than light training for Pep Guardiola’s Rolls Royce outfit. How classy was it that rather than go up to the podium to be the “big I-am”, Pep proudly observed his team from the pitch as Kompany held the Cup aloft setting off the post-match celebrations. How many managers, after the team photos have been shot, puts his back-room staff on the ceremonial stage to pay tribute to them and underline their importance to the running of the team? Could you imagine Maureen doing that?

Arsene Wenger clearly had in mind that he could emulate Maureen in securing the budget-double of the League Cup and Europa League, but Guardiola eased rug one from under his feet and with teams like Atletico de Madrid waiting in the Europa League wings, who believes that this Arsenal team is equipped to go into battle with Diego Simeone’s men?

The Blues are home and dry with their first trophy in the bank and can now set their sights on repeating the process at the Emirates on Thursday and then hopefully against Chelsea, smarting after falling foul against the Stretfords a short time before the Carabao Cup Final went live.

It’s one game at a time for Pep’s boys. It is amazing how the FA continue to support Arsenal’s plight allowing the match to be played on the Europa League Sunday-Thursday schedule, but if City can win in one of their graveyard stadia, they can re-position themselves sixteen points ahead of the field.

Who knows, it may not be long before Captain Kompany, written off on many occasions in these tidings, finds himself below another trophy, allowing us to remember him as a winner-legend, rather than injury-prone.


 

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