Manchester City completed part one of a possible treble Sunday, winning the League Cup final in style with a comprehensive 3-0 win over a defensively absent-minded Arsenal.
It was the first major English trophy for City manager Pep Guardiola in his second season at the helm. His counterpart, Arsène Wenger, has never won the League Cup since he became Arsenal's manager in 1996, and the stinging defeat at Wembley Stadium puts his position at the club under further pressure.
City looked a completely different team from the start of the week, when the team crashed out of the FA Cup in a 1-0 loss to Wigan last Monday that ended its hopes for a quadruple. City still has a chance to win the Champions League and English Premier League, where its lead at the top of the table was cut to 13 points after a 2-1 win by Manchester United over Chelsea.
Guardiola viewed the trophy as a springboard for future team success, rather than focusing on it as a personal achievement.
"It's important to win titles because maybe it will help us to win the next games in the Premier League, and win the league," he said. Coincidentally, City faces Arsenal next in the league on Thursday.
Sergio Aguero gave City the lead in the 18th minute against Arsenal after an atrocious defensive error from defender Shkodran Mustafi, who misjudged a direct long ball launched from goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and allowed Aguero a free run on goal. Aguero ambled forward in a one-on-one and lifted the ball over Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina.
Mustafi claimed that Aguero had nudged him to win the ball, but television replays appeared to show there was little contact.
"From outside, the push wasn't obvious," Wenger said, refusing to openly criticize Mustafi. "I don't know if he was pushed or not, but did he expect the free kick? Yes."
City captain Vincent Kompany doubled the scoreline when he diverted a shot from Ilkay Gundogan into the bottom corner in the 58th minute. It was more poor defending from Arsenal that led to the goal, with Gundogan being allowed to prowl freely around the penalty area before unleashing his shot. David Silva scored City's third goal seven minutes later with a low, angled shot that whizzed just inside the post.
Arsenal supporters started heading for the exits after Silva's goal with shouts of "Wenger Out" and ironically chanting "There's only one Arsene Wenger."
It was a far cry from Wenger's honeymoon period in English football, when he won the league three times, including with "The Invincibles" side in 2003-04, the last time Arsenal lifted the Premier League title.
Arsenal had looked bright in the early stages of the first half and striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a chance to give his side the lead in the eighth minute, but a last-ditch tackle from Kyle Walker prevented Arsenal's new signing from getting off a shot.
The Gunners continued to pressure City and they looked like they might just repeat their FA Cup successes at Wembley, after winning that competition three times in the last four seasons including 2017.
But Arsenal's casual defending was the team's undoing again.
"You can never say we weren't disappointed in the way we conceded goals today," Wenger said.
UNITED FIGHTS BACK
In Premier League play, substitute Jesse Lingard's late header capped a comeback for Manchester United in a 2-1 win over Chelsea. United regained second place with the result and is now 13 points behind crosstown rival Manchester City, which has a game in hand.
United striker Romelu Lukaku provided a cross from the right and Lingard beat Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen to the ball to head past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the 75th minute at Old Trafford. Chelsea opened the scoring in the 32nd with a goal from Willian before Lukaku equalized for United seven minutes later.
"We beat a very good team and to beat a very good team, you need to be organized," United manager Jose Mourinho said. "But you also need to have a humble spirit where everybody works, everybody fights, everybody tries to follow a game plan."
The defeat means Chelsea is now in fifth place, two points behind Totttenham.
"Coming from behind against a good team is not always easy but we reacted really well and we managed to get control of the game and we deserved the win today," Lukaku said.
SPURS LEAVE IT LATE
It was Harry Kane to the rescue with a late winner for Spurs in a 1-0 win away at Crystal Palace In the early kickoff. The home team was well-organized and appeared to be on the verge of taking a point before the England striker's header from a corner beat Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey in the 88th minute.
Kane missed two clear-cut chances earlier in the match, and the result moved Spurs up into fourth, two points behind third-place Liverpool.
"I'm so happy because in the end we've won the game, late, but in the end, fully deserved," Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said. "I think the performance was good, we fully deserved the victory and I'm so happy because we fought a lot and dominated the game."
For Palace, a draw would have lifted the team a point clear of the bottom three and it's just above the drop zone on goal difference.