The English League Cup changes sponsor more often than Chelsea sack managers. Every year it seems to have a new name. Football fans are in perennial confusion about what to call it in the first place. The competition continues to divide opinion on its prestige. Every year, the English football fraternity debates on the competition’s need. The early stages of the league cup see almost all top teams field second string teams. At times, the tournament gives the feel of being glorified friendlies. Despite that, the notion changes in the latter stage of the tournament. Every fan loves a trip to the Wembley, every club loves to lift a trophy. Manchester City and Arsenal will get that opportunity this Sunday.
The Carabao Cup final will see Manchester City and Arsenal clash at the Wembley Stadium. The encounter will be a chance for both teams to lift the season’s first trophy. Ironically, both these teams were on schedule to meet in the premier league this weekend. That encounter will take place only 3 days after the cup final at the Emirates Stadium.
Both Manchester City and Arsenal have had challenging runs into the final. City has had to go through two penalty shootouts to reach the final. The Citizens faced a shootout against Wolverhampton Wanders and Leicester City in the round of 16 and the Quarter Final. Further, they took on Bristol city. While they got the expected victory, the two matches were much tougher for them than anyone’s anticipation.
On the other hand, except for Norwich City stretching them into extra time in the round of 16, Arsenal had it fairly comfortable to reach the last four. In the third round and quarterfinal, they beat Doncaster Rovers and West Ham 1-0. The semi saw them face London Rivals Chelsea. After holding to a 0-0 draw in the first leg at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal won the second leg 2-1 to reach the final.
On Sunday at Wembley Stadium, it will not just be the first trophy of this season on a stake. While Arsenal and Manchester City will desperately want to give their fans the joy of lifting the trophy, there is a lot more riding on the match.
In 20 years as Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger has won the Premier League thrice and the FA cup a record seven times. His failure to lift the champions league in his career is well documented. But there is another trophy he has never won, that is the league cup. Its a competition the Frenchman has never taken seriously. Most of the times it has led to an early exit. Under him, Arsenal lost the final in 2007 to Chelsea and 2011 to Birmingham City. The 2011 loss is famously remembered for being the catalyst in Arsenal’s season crumbling when they were more than likely to win the Premier League. With his career in its last leg, Wenger might not get another opportunity to lift his trophy.
Last season was the first in Pep Guardiola’s career as a coach where he ended trophyless. While they are set to win the premier league, the former Barcelona coach is yet to open his account in England. Sunday presents him with the perfect opportunity to get his hands on silverware for the first for Manchester City. As things stand, it could very well be the start of something in the blue half of Manchester. A golden era of dominance could possibly begin at the Wembley Stadium.
Except for the defeat in the Premier League to Tottenham Hotspur (a PL away game), Arsenal has won on their last 9 appearances at the Wembley Stadium. This has included 3 Community Shields, 3 Fa Cup semi-finals and 3 Fa cup finals. Incidentally, two of these victories were against Manchester City. Certainly, Arsenal will feel more confident than usual playing at England’s national stadium. Last season in the Fa cup, they beat Manchester City in the semi-finals and Chelsea in the final. The Carabao cup gives them the repeat the feat vice versa. Quite like this season, they were given no chance by pundits last year to win the cup.
It is no secret that Manchester City is an extremely dangerous attacking team. They are comfortable on course to break the Premier League’s all-time goal scoring record for a season. A team required an incredible performance to get one over them. Crucially, your defense must have a rock solid game to avoid a humiliation. Unfortunately for Arsenal, their defense has been shambolic, to say the least, this season. No matter what combination of defenders they play, the backline has been bound to leak goals and silly mistakes. If the trend continues at Wembley, the night could be a pretty disastrous one for them.
Manchester City- Sterling (doubtful), Gabriel Jesus (doubtful), Mendy (Long-term injury), Delph (suspension)
Arsenal- Lacazette (injured), Ramsey (doubtful), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (cup-tied), Santi Cazorla (long-term injury)
The final will kick off at the Wembley Stadium at 4:30 PM Local time. This means a 10:00PM start for Indian viewers.