Time stands still for no man, however, and these days, Arsenal fans will look at those sky blue shirts and fill up with the searing dread of those facing their very own modern-day hoodoos. This was City’s second win over the Gunners this season and second occasion they scored three times.
To do so in a cup final is to wipe the floor with your opponent with some disdain.
For those dreaming of a Wembley occasion flooded with the soundless swish of pass and move, there was to be an initial shock, however. City and Arsenal dropped the niceties of stylish possession for a good old session of thud and blunder. If Richard Dunne and Jeff Blockley suddenly appeared from the Wembley smoke, it would not have been a great surprise. It was not meant to be like this.
City’s rise under Pep Guardiola has involved a passing ethic seldom seen in the English game. How fitting it was, then, that Wenger’s old pass masters themselves should be reduced to the shuddering image of Jack Wilshere, once England’s great white hope for midfield panache, reduced to trying in vain to get Fernandinho sent off with a series of flapping arms and wide-eyed displays of angst to ref Craig Pawson.
In amongst the flying tackles and wayward passes stood two members of Guardiola’s side, who are not exactly new to the scene: having contributed a combined total of 18 years to the City cause. For bandaged and repackaged Vincent Kompany to be man of the match alongside little David Silva, the metronome to whom City have looked for beat and poise for eight long years, felt deliciously apt.
Kompany left nothing to chance, barging the stringy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang off the ball in a solid shoulder-to-shoulder and sliding in the critical second goal.
Silva did what Silva does best. From the eighth-minute slide-rule pass that put Sergio Aguero through inside the box to the wonderfully calibrated shot that sealed the game at 3-0, the little Spaniard produced his umpteenth masterclass in a career of look, pass, and go. Simple things deserve simple rewards. For the Spaniard, yet another afternoon of tireless prodding and probing brought him his sixth trophy in the service of City. Along with Yaya Toure, he has earned the right to be spoken of in the same breath as City’s greatest ever players. A tiny colossus, crafted from granite and felt.
Aguero’s scintillating record also demands attention. A goal here, fashioned from his tree trunk thighs and finished with the delightful aplomb of a ballet dancer, mirrored his down-the-middle score against the same opponents in last year’s FA Cup semi-final. Even the ref, chugging in his slipstream, was the very same man, who failed to award City a potential match-winning goal a year ago. Here was rich compensation.
City’s fifth League Cup victory confirms many things: a team on the march under Guardiola, a platform for the rest of a season that could yet deliver untold reward to a club still contemplating how to accept that greatness is being thrust upon them.
When Arsene Wenger’s immaculate side visited Maine Road in 2003, winning the match at a canter (5-1) after sauntering into a four-goal lead after just 19 minutes, the home crowd sat back and took the decision to applaud the Gunners off at half-time. Here Arsenal’s support had long chosen to melt into the North London streets around Wembley instead of remaining to see the trophy lifted. City bossing Arsenal at Wembley. Times they are a-changing.