A quadruple quashed but a tempting treble still awaits Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City team. But Arsene Wenger may be the joker in the park. The final of the League Cup pits City against Arsenal in what is supposed to be a David versus Goliath content – looking at the chasm between the teams on the league table.
But this is all about 90 minutes (plus extra time and penalties) with Wenger not necessarily happy with people saying Guardiola has redefined the way the game is played. The French man has always insinuated that City are spending money they have not earned to buy the best players.
A short description of that spend shows Wenger has spent £349 million in his 21 years at Arsenal while Guardiola has spent £371 million in his 21 months in charge of the Citizens.
Wenger’s Arsenal beat City in last season’s FA Cup semi-final before beating Chelsea in the final and Wenger insinuated that players are actually more important than managers and their philosophies using Barcelona as the perfect example.
“Look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe,” Wenger told the Guardian.
“You have to accept that the modern game has changed with the recruitment of the best players in a short number of clubs.
“We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”
He was definitely referring to Lionel Messi, who made Guardiola’s Barcelona stand out but is still the talisman for the Catalan club.
For Guardiola, the seeds of doubt will be sown if he loses out in another Cup match, a week after the unexpected loss to Wigan in the FA Cup. In that match, City started without Kevin De Bruyne and looked listless until the Belgian orchestrator came on and created some scoring chances they did not take.
Current Form: Arsenal [L-W-L-W-L]; Man. City [L-W-W-D-W]
Head to head
05/11/17 PRL Man. City 3 – 1 Arsenal
23/04/17 FAC Arsenal 2 – 1 Man. City
02/04/17 PRL Arsenal 2 – 2 Man. City
18/12/16 PRL Man. City 2 – 1 Arsenal
07/08/16 CLF Arsenal 3 – 2 Man. City
One trophy Wenger has never won in England is the League Cup and in what could become the last season for the astute manager, beating the new kid on the block, suffused with so much resource, would be a good way to bow out.
One thing both managers agree on is that their teams must play with calm heads at Wembley on Sunday.
“In your first finals you are more nervous than the next ones,” Guardiola told Goal. “What I try to say to the players is try to play more like a friendly game.
“In the final, you want more calm [but also] it has to be with more courage. That’s all and on Sunday we are going to try again.
“I think it’s a game we have to try to enjoy the most. It’s a final. We are here to play these types of game, why be nervous? Why be worried about win, win, win?
“It’s just a game. No regrets after the game – ‘Oh, it’s too late now, I didn’t do what I should do’ – because it’s a final,” Guardiola added.
While being calm, Wenger knows his players have to raise their collective game. “We have to raise our level to create the surprise.”
Arsenal’s squad is worth about $605 million while City have a squad worth $975 million but will it be about money or passion at Wembley?