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Always the bridesmaid: could this be the year Arsenal breaks its League Cup curse?

Auba celebrates with Saka

Could this be the year that Arsenal breaks its League Cup “Always The Bridesmaid” curse?

Arsenal romped past a vastly inexperienced West Brom team, putting six past the hapless Baggies, including a hat-trick for Captain Aubameyang, which put an end to his miserable run of form, and hopefully gave the Gunners a much-needed lift before their Premier League match against City this weekend.

Mikel Arteta fielded his strongest side against a starting line-up of WBA U23s that had only 34 EPL appearances between them! Unlike his gloried predecessor, Arséne Wenger, who generally fielded youngsters for this the least significant English Trophy. Winning silverware may be the only way for under-fire gaffer Arteta to hang onto his current job – having started the Premier League season with two losses (and no goals).

However, with sides like Manchester City and Chelsea in rampant form, the chances of Arsenal winning the League Cup are slim, probably something similar to the odds of winning the Irish Lottery. The League Cup may as well be called the City Cup, since the Manchester Oilers have won it four years straight, and eight times in total – equalling Liverpool’s record.

Having missed out on European football for the first time this century, Arsenal find themselves in the enviable position of being able to focus on the local cups and the Premier League. With a bloated squad of senior players all demanding playing time, it may prove that the traditional blooding of Academy starlets in the League Cup and early FA Cup rounds is not possible for Arteta. This may be a good thing for Gooners, who have frequently felt cheated by early losses in the knockout and preliminary stages of some competitions, when coaches have insisted on fielding youngsters.

Whilst they have an impeccable record in the more glamorous FA Cup, with a record 14 wins, the Gunners have lost the League Cup Final more times than any other team – having been beaten six times at the final hurdle. It’s the one trophy that Arsene Wenger never added to his impressive tally. (Oh, no, wait – the Champion’s League and Europa trophies apparently proved a bridge too far as well… but I digress…)

In 2011, Arsenal were favourites to win their first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup and break the drought that accompanied their move to their new home at the Emirates, after leaving their beloved Highbury in 2006. Their oppononents for the day, Birmingham, scored first, with Robin van Persie equalising before half-time.

Szczesny and Koz collide

Then, in the 89th minute, goalkeeper Szczesny and centre-half Koscielny collided, comically, allowing substitute Obafemi a simple tap-in for the winner. It would be another three long years before Arsenal got to add silverware to their trophy cabinet – beating Watford 3-2 in a hair-raising extra-time FA Cup Final at Wembley.

More recently, in 2018, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City pounded Wenger’s flailing side into submission, seizing their third League Cup in five years, by beating Arsenal three-nil. Memories of Mustafi flapping his hands on the halfway line, appealing for a foul, as Aguero scored past Ospina, is an image this Gooner would sooner forget.

Mustafi appeals

In the chaotic Cardiff 2007 Final, Wenger’s Arsenal went ahead with a Theo Walcott goal, only for Drogba to bully an equaliser moments later. John Terry received a welcome kick in the face while attempting a diving header halfway through the second half and was retired. During the extended stoppage time, a fracas broke out betweeen Moutinho’s men and the Gunners – resulting in red cards for Gunners Touré and Adebayor, as well as Chelsea’s Mikel John Obi. Eboué received a three-match ban for a punch on Wayne Bridge that had been missed by Howard Webb.

Another League Cup Final to forget

 

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