In Review

Carabao Cup: Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have ‘unfinished business’ in final

Gunners determined to banish memories of 2011 defeat against Birmingham

Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1 (Arsenal win 2-1 on aggregate)

Arsenal fought back from an early goal by Chelsea to claim a 2-1 victory last night, securing a Wembley date with Manchester City next month in the final of the Carabao Cup.

The last time the Gunners reached the League Cup final, in 2011, they suffered a shock defeat to Birmingham City - and Arsene Wenger admits that still stings.

“It is unfinished business, yes, because we didn’t win [against Birmingham],” the Arsenal boss told reporters. “But we are in the final again and we can take our fans there. That’s what you want, but of course, now we are in it we want to win it and we will play against a very strong side, so it could become a very interesting game.”

Unlike the 2011 final, when Arsenal were the overwhelming favourites to beat Birmingham, the north London outfit will be the underdogs against City. “They are dominating the Premier League at the moment, but we’ll see in the final,” said Wenger. “They are a strong side, they look unstoppable, but at the end of the day we have one chance to beat them and if you play at your best, that is what we will try to do.”

Arsenal put in one of their best defensive performances of the season to Chelsea after giftin an early goal to Eden Hazard. The Belgian ran onto a defence-splitting pass from Pedro on seven minutes and calmly rolled the ball under the advancing David Ospina.

The Arsenal fans groaned, fearing another night of humiliation, but the home side were soon level, courtesy of a pinball goal that found its way into the Chelsea net via the heads of Nacho Monreal, Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger.

Rudiger also had an inadvertent hand in Arsenal’s second goal, on the hour mark, deflecting a pass from the industrious Alexandre Lacazette into the path of Granit Xhaka, who showed striker reflexes to stab the ball into the far corner.

The victory comes at the end of a turbulent month for the Gunners, who lost ground in the race to finish in the top four of the Premier League, and suffered a shock exit in the third round of the FA Cup. The team has also seen Alexis Sanchez sign for Manchester United.

“I felt that in January we paid a heavy price for uncertainty in our dressing room,” said Wenger, when asked to account for the slump. “Now we are back with more clarity. We know what we have to do. We can focus on our game.”

Asked to elaborate on the “uncertainty”, the Frenchman explained: “We lost a great player in Alexis Sanchez but when a team doesn’t know what’s going on in the dressing room there is less clarity and focus on performances. We know we have to deal with it now.”

The win against Chelsea gives Wenger a chance of winning the only domestic trophy that has eluded him in his 22 years at the Emirates. Then again, as Wenger pointed out, who knows what might happen in his corner of north London between now and 25 February.

“Somebody once told me that at Arsenal you are never more than five minutes away from a crisis,” he said with a wry smile. “I said, no, three.”

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