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Guardiola's Man City deliver on their rich promise

SLICKERS: Manchester City lift the League Cup at Wembley

“NEXT YEAR we’ll be stronger,” promised Pep Guardiola. The Manchester City head coach uttered those words after his side succumbed to Arsenal in last season’s FA Cup semi-final; a 2-1 defeat that consigned the Catalan to a trophyless first campaign in England.

What a difference ten months makes. Back at Wembley, Manchester City swatted aside Arsenal with without leaving second gear in a Carabao Cup final that marked two teams moving in divergent directions.

City were short of their fluid best, otherwise the three-goal margin of victory might have been even more emphatic. In the event, goals by Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and David Silva delivered their first silverware of the season. With a 13-point lead at the top of the Premier League it is unlikely to be their last. A fair wind in the Champions League could even deliver a treble. So much for those who thought Guardiola might struggle in England.

Arsenal’s ambitions are decidedly more modest these days and their hopes here rested on once again rising to the occasion against more-fancied opponents in a Wembley showpiece. Instead, they produced the other face of the late-Wenger era: carelessness in defence, insipidness in possession, and toothlessness in attack. Not that victory would have eased fan pressure on Wenger, whose one remaining salvation in another frustrating season is the Europa League.

The Gunners competed gamely for most of the first period and even drew an early double save from Claudio Bravo, but the holding pattern gave way with a moment of incisive brilliance from Aguero as Arsenal lapsed into old habits.

By the time Kompany extended City’s lead before the hour mark, Guardiola’s side were ascendant and it was a mercy for Wenger that his team conceded just one further goal.

The first came on 18 minutes when Bravo punted a goal kick in the direction of Aguero, who got goalside of a dozing Shkodran Mustafi. The Argentine made space with his first touch and adroitly lobbed a hesitant David Ospina with his second. Three touches for 1-0.

Kompany plundered the second following a Kevin De Bruyne corner in the 58th minute. Ilkay Gundogan received the ball from the younger Belgian and whipped the ball across Arsenal’s penalty area for City’s captain to apply the killer touch in a sea of static red and white shirts.

The strike, coming as it did at the blue end of Wembley, provided a wonderful moment for a City fan favourite who has been blighted by injuries in recent seasons. His ecstatic celebrations were repeated the moment he hoisted aloft the trophy at the conclusion.

At the other end, Kompany was masterful in City’s efforts to keep Arsenal at arm’s length, particularly on a day when his side often failed to spark and his doggedness proved useful.

City’s third goal was the best of the lot. Arsenal coughed up possession once again and within seconds Danilo delivered reverse pass to pick out Silva, who took a touch then lashed a left-footed shot beyond Ospina.

The Blues have now won this trophy three times in five seasons, while Guardiola’s personal tally of major honours as a coach now stands at 22.

It will not be his last. Ominously for Arsenal, these two sides meet again at the Emirates on Thursday evening.

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