Manchester City have claimed the first major trophy of the English football season with a 3-0 victory over Premier League rivals Arsenal at Wembley.
The Citizens, who are still in the running for a historic treble, made it three League Cup wins in the past five seasons.
In a week that started with the quadruple bid coming to an end following a shock FA Cup exit to League One Wigan, City were delighted to avoid double cup disappointment as they turned on the style against Arsenal. Much has been spoken of City’s young team and foundations for the future, but it was the established trio of Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, and David Silva who came up with the goals. On the other side of the coin, Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka endured a miserable day for Arsenal.
As the late afternoon atmosphere at Wembley came to life and Manchester City dominated the early possession, it was actually Arsenal who carved open the first big chance of the game in the 8th minute. A fast paced move and inch perfect cross found Aubameyang in front of goal, but the big name striker fluffed his lines as he hit it straight at Claudio Bravo from six yards out. Kyle Walker’s important last ditch tackle may have put the Gabonese forward off, but you would certainly have expected him to put it in the back of the net.
The often maligned Claudio Bravo grew into the game after that early save, and despite not having to repeat Caballero’s penalty heroics that won the cup for Manchester City two years ago, he was still hugely important in the victory. His long goal kick in the 18th minute found Sergio Aguero, who shrugged off a clueless Mustafi and lobbed David Ospina in the Arsenal goal to put the sky blues in front and register goal number 199 for the club. It was route one stuff from a team who are more known for their intricate short passing than long balls forward, but it was equally effective against this schoolboy Arsenal defence.
Fans who leapt to complain about Aguero being offside were swiftly reminded that a player cannot be offside from a goal kick, a rule that is often forgotten in football.
The remainder of the first half was fairly cagey with both teams keeping each other at arm’s length, as Arsenal struggled to get their more attacking players into areas to hurt the City defence, however, a few minutes into the second half they nearly pulled themselves level with a Bravo miskick nearly allowed Aubameyang in, but a lack of anticipation from the forward saw the chance go begging. Just four minutes later, City scored a second.
Kevin De Bruyne’s low corner found Ilkay Gundogan in acres of space, and his drive from the edge of the box was deflected into the far corner by skipper Vincent Kompany. Following an injury nightmare that has plagued the big Belgian for over three years, that goal meant the world to him. It also reasserted the lasting influence he has on this ever changing City side, and he was the best player on the pitch by a country mile.
By the hour mark, Arsenal were down and nearly out as they still struggled to find ways to test the Manchester City defence, and in the 65th minute, David Silva added to their misery.
The Spaniard was slipped in down the left hand side far too easily and whilst goalscoring perhaps isn’t one of his best attributes, he took the chance superbly by smashing it into the bottom corner from a tight angle.
From that point onwards it was essentially cruise control for Manchester City, who were able to reintroduce striker Gabriel Jesus after eight weeks out as well as give a late cameo to 17 year old Phil Foden. By the time the final whistle went in the 93rd minute, City had effectively sealed the victory over a lacklustre Arsenal side long before.
With a 13 point lead at the top of the Premier League and one foot already in the Champions League quarter finals, this trophy could be Pep Guardiola’s first of many this season. As for Arsenal, they still languish in 6th in the league and are also out of the FA cup, with the Europa League being the last realistic chance of silverware for them this season. A daunting tie against AC Milan awaits, and Gunners fans will be hoping for far more than what was on show tonight if they are to have any hope of progressing.