Over two legs in the semi final, Arsenal edged out London rivals, Chelsea on a 2-1 aggregate score to book, yet another place at Wembley. The Carabao Cup final it is this time and against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
Arsenal’s last three visit to Wembley for a Cup final has seen them triumph on all fronts. They’ll be looking to maintain their recent impressive record at the place they call their ‘Second Home’.
That said, there is a whopping 27-point gap between the two sides in the Premier League. In terms of points, Arsenal are closer to West Brom at the bottom of the table than City at the top. Based on that alone, Arsenal might not stand a chance.
But then, this is the Cup Final and anything can happen! After all, we had a lovely example of a cup game when City were knocked out of the FA Cup by League 1’s Wigan Athletic last Monday.
For all of their goals, brilliant and fabulous football, Manchester City’s defence is still a weak link – somewhere Arsenal’s needs to punish. This is theoretically the weakest area of Manchester City’s team. Aymeric Laporte is still bedding in, John Stones still isn’t quite convincing, Nicolas Otamendi has improved but is still prone to diving in recklessly, and then there’s the fragility of Vincent Kompany . The full-backs are good, but you suspect that against some of the very best, this back line could still be exposed.
Same can be said about Arsenal too. You could go to town picking out the individual flaws in the Arsenal defence. But more than single players being bad, their biggest problem at the back is an endemic fragility, a lack of common sense that you’d expect from a youth side, and an absence of conviction that has already seen them concede as many goals as they did when finishing second in 2015-16.
But for all of City’s perceived fragility in defence, they make up for it in their midfield. This might be a wild claim, but I think they arguable have the best midfield in the league. No other team comes close. Kevin De Bruyne on his own would probably be enough to give.
City have the edge in this department. With Fernandinho holding the fort and either David Silva or Ilkay Gundogan to go alongside the Belgian maestro – Kevin De Bruyne, it’s difficult to see where Arsenal stand a chance. It’s not that the likes of Jack Wilshere , Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka are demonstrably bad; it’s just that, like much of what Arsenal do, they’re not good enough.
This is more reason Arsenal need to find their rhythm in the middle of the pack, if they harbour any dream of lifting the Carabao Cup.
Arsenal’s forward line is potentially excellent. A combination of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang , Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan(cup tied) could be very impressive indeed. But you get the sense that they haven’t quite gelled yet, and at least one, or possibly all three of those trio, have the tendency to go missing in big games. Once again, the front line just have to click and take their chances so spot on
The good news for Arsenal is that it’s touch and go whether Gabriel Jesus will be fit in time for this tie. The bad news is that he might be, and furthermore even if he isn’t then Sergio Aguero will be City’s man up top. Raheem Sterling is an injury doubt with a muscle problem, but throw in either Leroy Sane or Bernardo Silva , and the options are fairly frightening.
Another key area is Arsene Wenger finding the right tactical balance, he need to go down the archive and bring out the tactics that brought home the Premier League “Invincibles”
Perhaps Arsenal’s lengthening history with failure might actually serve them well in this game. Both teams come into the final on the back of chastening defeats to weaker opposition – City to Wigan in the FA Cup and Arsenal to Ostersunds in the Europa League (even though they went through)
The thing is, Arsenal are used to this sort of thing, and used to dealing with it. Straw-clutching perhaps, but that might give them a mild boost. Also, it can’t be forgotten that everyone expects City to win: the pressure from that perspective is on them. Not Arsenal.
Arsenal have shown they could stand up and be counted among the best on their day. Tomorrow shouldn’t be an exception. There has been enough shambles this season. Tomorrow is the time to make it count
Come On You Gunners, let’s go win a trophy!