Wenger’s era over as Man City just get going

Man City 3 - Arsenal 0: Pep Guardiola has his first trophy as manager of Manchester City and Arsene Wenger may have won his last in charge of Arsenal after the Premier League leaders dismantled their rivals 3-0 in the Carabao Cup Final on a day of bitter contrasts.

Wenger’s era over as Man City just get going

The polemic emotions of two sets of fans has rarely been more visible or more

significant as at one end of Wembley Stadium, City supporters relished what they hope — what they know — will be the first of many trophies in a thrilling new era, while at the other, embittered Arsenal fans rushed for the exit, many hoping their manager

follows suit.

The statistics will show that goals from Guardiola’s old firm of Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, and David Silva gave Premier League champions-elect City a convincing victory and finally made up for a trophyless season last year; but they cannot show what the result will mean in north London or how Wenger can possibly survive it.

The Frenchman had told his squad before kick-off that solid defence was the key to beating City but his words were undone after only 19 minutes when Aguero opened the scoring with a goal which was beautifully taken — but a total embarrassment to concede. And that set the tone for what was to follow in a second half which City dominated.

All it look to breach Arsenal’s brittle defence was one long ball, booted from one penalty area to the other by City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. Arsenal’s centre-backs watched transfixed as it sailed over them, Aguero gave Mustafi a gentle nudge, bouncing off him, and then exquisitely chipped David Ospina. Simple, beautiful — but a goal which should never be conceded in a cup final.

The frustrating thing for Arsenal was that the goal came at a time when, inspired by Jack Wilshere, they were playing well and trying to impose themselves on Guardiola’s side.

It had taken a remarkable last-ditch tackle from Kyle Walker to prevent Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opening the scoring after a Wilshere break and an Ozil ball across goal — had that gone in then maybe it would have been a different game.

Instead City came close to making it 2-0 before Aguero escaped the defence again and De Bruyne shot wastefully into the side netting.

The game until that point had lacked the technical excellence and free-flowing football which many neutrals had been looking forward to, but City certainly made up for that after the break with a performance which left Arsenal, rudderless and at times clueless, unable to react.

For Guardiola this was his first opportunity to lift a trophy with City, having failed to do so last year, and to keep up a remarkable record which has seen him lose just one major final as a manager, a Copa Del Rey final against Real Madrid for Barcelona in 2011.

For Wenger, the stakes were even higher, with the annual debate around his future starting to raise its head again with Arsenal pretty much out of the race for the top four and still smarting from a Europa League home defeat against tiny Swedish side Ostersunds in midweek (even if they managed to get through the tie).

It has been cup competitions, in particular the FA Cup, that have kept Wenger in a job in recent years. This occasion prompted defender Hector Bellerin to suggest the players wanted to win the trophy to save him again, saying: “We should do it for him. The boss has been here for more than 20 years and everyone knows he hasn’t won this competition yet.”

They were nice words but sadly Arsenal’s defenders were unable to back them up with any kind of quality on the pitch; and when City scored their second from a short-corner routine in the second half, it rather summed up the weakness which every regular on the North Bank knows has been there for years.

The Gunners’ back line mentally switched off as De Bruyne cleverly cut the back for unmarked Ilkay Gundongan — and his cross-cum-shot was deflected home by Kompany who was quicker to react than any Arsenal defender.

From that point on, City were ruthless, brilliant, professional, and dominant as Arsenal’s resolve faded. By the time David Silva made it 3-0, effortlessly turning the hapless Calum Chambers to drive home a left-foot effort, you felt that Arsenal’s — and perhaps Arsene’s — fate was sealed.

City too good, Arsenal not good enough — one era beginning, one ending.

Arsenal:

Ospina 7, Bellerin 6, Chambers 5 (Welbeck 66; 6), Koscielny 6, Mustafi 5, Monreal 6 (Kolasinic 26;6), Ramsey 6 (Iwobi 73; 6), Xhaka 5, Wilshere 7, Ozil 6, Aubameyang 6. Subs not used: Cech, Mertesacker, Maitland-Niles, Eleneny.

City:

Bravo 7, Walker 7, Kompany 8, Otamendi 7, Danilo 6, Gundogan 6, Fernandinho 6 (B Silva 6), David Silva 8, De Bruyne 7, Sane 7 (Jesus 77; 6), Aguero 8 (Foden 88; 6). Subs not used: Ederson, Stones, Laporte, ZInchenko.

Referee:

Craig Pawson

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