Arsenal faces off against Manchester City on Sunday to do battle for the League Cup trophy. With Pep Guardiola’s men nearly uncatchable in the Premier League, they go in as heavy favourites.
Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, may feel as though Sunday is his only chance of silverware this season. This is a stark regression for a manager who once changed the fabric of the game in England.
Gunners Boss ‘Deserves’ the League Cup Trophy
‘Arsene Who?’ read the headlines in 1996 when Arsenal appointed the little-known Frenchman. However, in spite of, or perhaps due to this anonymity, Wenger was able to set the league alight from almost the very start.
In just his second season in charge, the Gunners captured their second League and Cup double of their history. The team won another double in the 2001-2002 campaign, followed by the unheralded Invincibles season of 2003-2004.
Wenger’s trophy haul during his Arsenal tenure is impressive; three Premier Leagues, including one unbeaten, and seven FA Cups. His run of 19 successive Champions League qualifications is also the most among English clubs.
However, the good times did not last forever. Since the Invincibles, Arsenal really only competed for the Premier League once, in 2007-2008 when the team topped the table for most of the campaign.
That season coincided with Pep Guardiola taking charge of Barcelona B. The Spaniard won the Tercera Division in his lone season at the helm.
In the following decade, the two managers have had contrasting fortunes. Wenger has managed a meagre three FA Cups (all since 2014), while Guardiola has amassed 22 trophies in three leagues.
Indeed, the Frenchman seems out of his depth compared to his counterpart.
An Ignominious Competition?
Compared to other competitions, even other cups, the League Cup trophy is far less desirable. Aside from prestige, which is somewhat subjective, potential prize money can measure the gap.
While these totals do not account for wins in previous rounds or gate receipts, the gap is still immense.
As one may imagine, the largest prize of all goes to the Premier League winners. Last season, champions Chelsea took home nearly £39 million for their efforts.
No wonder top teams do not prioritise the League Cup. It is a truly second-class competition.
Sometimes, the Truth Hurts
In a ‘big picture’ view, one gets the feeling a Manchester City defeat in the Carabao Cup’s finale would be no great loss. Despite losing to an inspired Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup, they are favourites in the two biggest competitions.
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s chances in even the Europa League are not great, considering the poor performances against minnows Östersunds FK. A spot in the top four also seems too great an ask for the North Londoners.
The honest truth is that Arsene Wenger is no longer a top manager and Pep Guardiola is the best in the business. While the former would be somewhat lucky to win one trophy this year, the other has essentially won the Premiership already.
The Manchester City boss also has the potential to win his third Champions League come May.
Just as the League Cup trophy is second-class silverware, it seems that Arsene Wenger is a second-class manager.
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