Pep Guardiola earns his first trophy as City boss after easing past a limp Arsenal
65 minutes on the clock. Danilo plays a beautiful slide-rule through pass to David Silva who duly latches onto it and arrows a left-footed strike across Ospina and into the bottom right-hand corner.
Cue the exits.
Arsenal had simply seen enough. Out-thought and outfought by the relentless City juggernaut, once again showing they can swat teams aside even when stuck in third gear (second at a stretch). Better teams have been played off the park by City this season (see the comprehensive routs of lauded teams such as Liverpool and Tottenham) but few have surrendered so meekly and in a game of such magnitude too. With each passing game, the calls for Wenger to do the ‘honourable’ act and resign grow louder and louder.
It could have been a totally different story too had Pierre-Emerick-Aubameyang (the club’s shiny new £57 million recruit) not somehow contrived to fluff his lines from barely three yards out after a pinpoint ball across from the otherwise anonymous Mesut Ozil after just eight minutes. That he was offside should not take away from the striker’s glaring miss, or Claudio Bravo’s reflexes when diving the other way, for that matter.
That vital save early on seemed to galvanise the oft-maligned and nervy Chilean who had an even bigger game-changing influence on 18 minutes with an accurate punt up-field. Sensing an opportunity, Sergio Agüero ran onto it, outmuscling the weak challenge of Mustafi before bearing down on the onrushing David Ospina and expertly guiding it in to the far corner with the deftest of chips.
First blood City.
Up until that point Arsenal had, in fairness, looked alive in what was a tight and tense affair but as is so often the case, they were let down by the shoddy and incompetent nature of their defending. “Pathetic” was the adjective Gary Neville used in commentary after Mustafi’s mishap and although it was hard to disagree with him on that score, the phrase “predictably pathetic” could easily have been inserted here instead.
The second goal was the clearest indication of where the difference lied between the sides. Whilst at one end, Mustafi got beat by a bouncing ball, at the same end, Vincent Kompany , up for a corner, showed the instincts of a possessed predator in diverting Ilkay Gundogan’s drilled ball across the box, into the net.
Cue the celebrations.
Having (temporarily at least) broken free from the shackles of his body, Kompany celebrated with the passion and vigour rarely seen in the so called ‘modern game’. The city fans appreciated how much it meant to Kompany and serenaded their ecstatic skipped with the chant “Heres to you Vincent Kompany, City loves you more than you will know.”
Oh how Arsenal wished they had their own leader to cherish. The closest any Arsenal player got to leadership status was Jack Wilshere, another player whose career has been blighted by more than his fair share of injuries. Wilshere with his usual wholeheartedness and desire tried his best here, not in the slightest bit assisted by any of his spineless teammates however, what will cause great alarm to England manager Gareth Southgate when he begins to plan his 25-man squad for this year’s World Cup, was how much Wilshere struggled to come to terms with City’s gilded central midfield trio of Fernandinho, David Silva and the masterful Kevin De Bruyne. That he increasingly resorted to diving in an attempt to level the playing field demonstrated his inferiority.
Back to the action. If City had been sauntering along quite nicely in third gear in the first half, they at least showed Arsenal some respect by moving up into second as soon as Craig Pawson blew his whistle to signal the start of the second half. Within three minutes of the start, Kompany came close to doubling City’s lead and effectively wrapping up the ‘contest’ once and for all with a deflected low drive that whistled just a foot past Ospina’s post.
It wasn’t all good news for City however with the loss of their grossly underrated, effervescent central midfield lynchpin Fernandinho to a muscle strain a few minutes later. Guardiola will pray to be able to welcome him back before City’s next engagement of any real importance in the shape of (with all due respect to Basel), a more than probable Champions league quarter final date at the beginning of April.
After David Silva had inserted his stamp on the contest with his beautifully taken goal on 65 minutes, City had further chances to add gloss to a completely unflattering scoreline (testament to how truly abject Arsenal were), however 3-0 it would remain and by the time Pawson put an end to Arsenal’s misery after 90 minutes, the only red still present in the Arsenal end was the empty seats.
After being at the centre of a mob in the on-field celebrations, Kompany hoisted the first trophy of the Pep Guardiola era in the air and the City fans duly applauded their captain and leader and his supporting cast of impressive teammates.
And there it was. Lift off for Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff.
With the Premier League already wrapped up, Guardiola and City will be confident of navigating themselves to a maiden Champions League final in Kiev.
Cue the treble?