For the third time in his career, Arsène Wenger has led Arsenal to a League Cup Final loss. The other two times occurred at the hands of Chelsea and Birmingham City, this time Pep Guardiola’s Man City team were the conquerors. The Sky Blues ran out 3-0 winners at Wembley, handing Arsenal their second consecutive loss in games at the national stadium. Funnily enough, the two will do battle again on Thursday.
Here’s what went wrong for Arsenal in their EFL Cup Final.
No Midfield Presence
There’s no way you can go toe to toe with the best passing team in England without a competent midfield. Arsenal deployed a midfield pivot of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey a pairing that has proved to be completely ineffective this season.
To be able to combat City’s midfield superiority, the Frenchman should have gone with a compact midfield three that deprived the likes of David Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho of space & time on the ball. Instead of shafting Jack Wilshere out onto the left flank, the Englishman should have been in the middle in a 4-3-3.
Off the ball they were porous and ill-disciplined, on the ball, they were just as bad. As a pivot, Ramsey & Xhaka only completed 53 passes, David Silva completed 66 on his own. City dominated the flow of play from start to finish, as can be seen by the 455 passes they completed.
As a team, Arsenal misplaced 98 passes throughout the 90 minutes. It’s already hard enough to play against Manchester City, why make it even harder for yourself by gifting them possession? This slack attitude in passing just invited more pressure onto themselves, allowing Manchester City to stay camped in Arsenal’s half. So, if Arsenal’s game plan was to sit back and counter, why didn’t they ensure their passing on the transitions were accurate?
On the few times they ventured into City’s box, Arsenal only created 2 goal scoring opportunities all game. Arsenal’s £350,000-a-week talisman Mesut Özil went hiding, as usual, the German himself led by example as he completed an abysmal 29 passes and created ZERO chances. What was the point in giving him a new contract if he’s not going to perform in the games that matter?
No service for Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang
While Mesut Özil was casually strolling around the pitch, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang was busy busting a gut up front, chasing every single loose ball down. The Gabonese striker pressed Man City’s defenders to the best of his ability, but without any support off the ball, his efforts were in vain.
Apart from his great chance in the opening minutes of the game, the 28-year-old had no other opportunities to score. His teammates failed in providing him with the adequate service, especially as Mesut Özil refused to dominate the final third. That isolation caused the 28-year-old only to have 18 touches of the ball, David Ospina had FIFTY. What’s the point in signing a £56m-rated striker if you’re not going to give him support in the attack?