“The emotional level is very high, the expectation is very high… every kid who goes with their father to a cup final never forgets it. When you’re a child, it’s like a baptism. You’re forever marked with the club and on a day like that you want your fans to go home and be happy.”
It’s been a while since Arsene Wenger’s cup final “baptism” - Strasbourg in 1966 to be precise - but at Wembley on Sunday there will be Arsenal fans experiencing that buzz for the very first time.
Wenger’s an old hand at finals - this is his 13th with us - but he’s still driven by that desire to send our fans home happy and delight millions more around the globe. More often than not the boss has delivered.
The 27-point chasm between us and Manchester City crystallises exactly why this Wembley task will be stiffer than most. But on this page hopefully you’ll find reasons to be optimistic as we chase our first League Cup in 25 years.
In today’s brief: classic goals, team news, a quiz, an exclusive chat with the boss and some tips on where Sunday’s game could be won and lost.
ONE TO WATCH… SET-PIECES
No Premier League team has scored more goals than us from set-piece situations this season and that could be a vital weapon at Wembley against a City side that can be vulnerable to dead-ball deliveries.
“It’s become a strength because we worked on it,” says the boss. “We work every year on it, but as well we use more people who have been efficient in the box, like Koscielny and Monreal.
“It’s about the quality of delivery and the timing of your runs, so the timing is something that you have, you can work on it, but most of the time the players need to smell where the ball will go. That’s very difficult to give to somebody.”
ARSENAL: Lacazette (knee), Mkhitaryan (ineligible)
MAN CITY: Mendy, Jesus (both knee), Delph (suspended)
KEY BATTLE: OZIL v DE BRUYNE
“The two most creative playmakers in English football go head to head at Wembley,” says The Breakdown host Adrian Clarke, “and the ‘pass master’ who performs best is likely to end up on the winning side.
“If you give De Bruyne time to look up and pick a pass or a cross, he has the quality to punish you in a flash. To combat De Bruyne, Arsenal’s players must get touch-tight wherever he is inside their half, and try to push him sideways or backwards. Give De Bruyne room to deliver a ball into the box and it could be fatal.
“Second only to De Bruyne, with 72 key passes this term, Mesut Ozil is a player City will fear. He has the talent to slide match-winning passes in for the likes of Aubameyang and pierce City’s defence with driving runs down the side of their central defenders.
“To win the League Cup for the first time since 1993, I suspect Arsenal will need Ozil to outshine De Bruyne.”
THE FINAL WORD… HOW WE CAN BEAT CITY
“Overall, we need to have a great unity, a great belief, and that personality on the day can be decisive,” says the boss.
“Also, you want to play without any handbrake and come out of the game feeling that you have given your absolute best together. In our life we all have days where we perform better than others, and the target on the day is to put all our energy together to push ourselves as far as we can to be efficient and positive so we can come home with a positive result.”
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