The first piece of domestic major silverware will be handed out early this evening as Arsenal and Manchester City go head to head at Wembley in a bid to lift the 2018 Carabao Cup and it is fair to say that neither side has come into this game with the best of preparations.
For Arsenal they lost to Ostersunds FK on Thursday by two goals to one, unfortunately for most neutrals they just got out of jail though thanks to their 3-0 win in Sweden the week before. They may be through to the Europa League Round of 16 but this was certainly a performance that drew the ire of their already fractious fan base.
While Manchester City’s quadruple hopes are now up in smoke as Will Grigg showed that is still responsible for the odd ploom of fire as his 80th minute winner for Wigan saw the League One minnows once again cause more cup upset for the runaway league leaders.
This fixture is going go to some way to defining whether or not Manchester City have a good season or a great season, this time last week we were talking about if they could do the unthinkable and win all four major trophies on offer come the end of the season.
Today’s presents a crossroads, firstly we should not forget that they are in the Champions League and all but already in the Quarter-finals but they are yet to really test themselves against the elite and that will be a real acid test as to whether they can go all the way.
Let’s assume that they fall short in Europe and also today, all off a sudden the quadruple hopes become just a league trophy. Yes it would signify a first title for Pep Guardiola, but after the heights they have set themselves this season to have just one the trinket to show for it would be something of a disappointment.
To use the word disappointment is quite a crazy one but it just sums up the state of football today where sometimes a single trophy is not enough, so it will be imperative for Pep Guardiola that his players do not fault at the final hurdle and suffer more Wembley misery to Arsenal.
Last season the two sides were paired together in the F.A. Cup Semi-finals with Manchester City the heavy favourites to go on to the final to face Chelsea. However the Gunners tore up the script with Alexis Sanchez goal in the first half of the extra time proving to be the difference.
As we know Arsenal went on to win the trophy and you could argue it was enough to save Arsene Wenger’s job, and with the club on course to finish 6th in the Premier League this season, will success in the Carabao Cup be enough to paper over the cracks once more.
There is no secret that three F.A. Cup trophies in four seasons has certainly strengthened any ‘Wenger In’ debates but if they cannot earn any silverware this season while coupled with a further slide down the table, then you do have to wonder if this Summer could finally see the day where the legendary French manager steps down.
Winning a trophy will no doubt boost your employment credentials but where Pep Guardiola has never won an English competition, this is the last one that Arsene Wenger is still to win so he would love nothing more than being able to complete the set later today.
However his team will have to perform better then they did in their last Wembley performance that is because they were bested by Tottenham in the North London derby, Harry Kane’s second half header was enough for all three points and local bragging rights for another few months.
While Manchester City’s last league outing saw them run riot at the Etihad as Sergio Aguero scored four of his side’s five goals against Leicester, a quite phenomenal performance that made Claude Puel’s side look incredibly ordinary, it was almost scary to see the Citizens go up through the gears so quickly in the way they did.
They will be looking to start quicker out of the blocks later today and if they do that is going to cause Arsenal real troubles, problem is though you just never know which version of the Gunners is going to turn up these days as one their day they are still more than capable of turning in a performance.
And with that in mind it makes it hard to make a prediction as in cup football anything is possible, as these two teams know only too well. But I’m not going to sit on the fence and I reckon that if Manchester City score first they will go on and win the game. Pep gets his hand on silverware at last with a Wembley success.