De Futebol Is Mourinho a has been in Champions League Play?

The long knives are out for Jose Mourinho. The Guardians Barney Ronay wrote that Mourinho gooses is cooked as a force the Champions League.

We will see!

“ There was a slightly ghostly moment in the second half at Old Trafford as Manchester United were euthanised from the Champions Leagueknockout stages, a sense of worlds colliding, timelines crossed.

Wissam Ben Yedder had just eased the ball into the corner of David de Gea’s net to make the score 1-0 on the night. As the Sevilla players romped in front of their away support and the Spanish radio commentator broke out of his “gol, gol” chant to shout “ON FIRE ON FIRE” a wiry black-clad figure could be seen sprinting down the touchline, fists pumping.

It was tempting to blink a little at this ghost of Old Trafford, rattling its chains, howling at the portal doors, breaking though, just for a moment, into our world. Like all good cinematic ghosts it seemed to be trying to communicate something: desperation, excitement, the need for United’s players to regroup. And beyond that a sense of something more profound being lost than just a quarter-final spot at the hands of a balanced and deserving Sevilla.

Naturally there were painful echoes of that famous sprint down the same touchline 14 years ago, back when the world was still young, the Mourinho hair a chestnut bouffant, and when Porto’s young manager was announcing his arrival as a Champions League force. Rather than, as on this occasion, his departure.

It will be tempting to resist the cliched circularity of those two sprints, bookends on the José supremacy. But the facts are hard to argue with. And the facts say that when it comes to the real cutting edge of European club football Mourinho is pretty much cooked, his best moments – Inter, Porto – already yellowing at the edges, marked by the baggy gear and dated grooming of a world that has now passed.

As of Tuesday night it is almost exactly four years since Mourinho last managed a club to victory in the Champions League knockout stages. In his past 10 knockout games with United and Chelsea he has two wins and five low-score draws.

Look a bit closer and even those two moments of triumph didn’t really point anywhere, the last one the ambush of Paris Saint-Germain at Stamford Bridge, when a late airborne siege turned a tie Chelsea were losing. The other was Didier Drogba’s return to Chelsea with Galatasaray, when a cunningly mawkish welcome back ceremony seemed to spook the visitors and Chelsea went 1-0 up after four minutes.

Look even further to his last year at Real Madrid and it is unsurprising Mourinho was so keen to dwell this week on his elimination of United at Old Trafford in 2013. That 2-1 victory, almost exactly five years ago, was the last time he oversaw an away win in the knockout stages. Even then Madrid were going out before Nani was sent off.

At the end of which, under the De Boer formula, you could make a case, factoring in millions spent and clubs managed (all three winners in recent years, just not under him) that Mourinho is unusually bad at negotiating the sharp end of this competition. That he is, with two wins in 10 and everything from funds to pedigree in his favour, the worst manager in the past 10 years of the Champions League knockout stages.

Too much? Probably. But the real issue is not his place in the hierarchy of knockout failure. Instead it is Mourinho’s dogged persistence with an approach that, frankly, no longer works at this level. This was another startling element to Tuesday night. Play the game again, play on for five hours into the night and United still wouldn’t have looked like winning. The obstacle here wasn’t details or form, but a fixed-gear defensive approach in a must-win game at home to the fifth-best team in Spain.

This is not to suggest Mourinho’s methods are failing at United. Winning defensive football is still winning football. United are better than when he came, and will be better still in a year.

It is more a question of whether Mourinho still has the will and the methods to cut it in one-off, fine-point knockout games against the very best.

Right now he appears to be doing what he did at Porto and Inter on such occasions, looking to attack an opponent’s strengths rather than its weaknesses, to win by nullifying space rather than using it to create. There is an element of the Peter Principle in this. Mourinho got so good at managing underdog teams and wringing the best out of B-list players he was allowed to manage overdog teams where his tactics no longer fit, with A-list players too good to carry out his methods with unquestioning zeal.

There have of course been wonderful attacking Mourinho teams in the past. That Madrid starting XI that beat United five years ago contained Mesut Özil, Ángel Di María, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuaín. The problem is that as Mourinho has retreated into his own mathematical pleasure in solidity and defensive control the world has gone the other way. And the evidence suggests it is not possible to win a Champions League in this manner now, just as a 0-0 draw away from home is no longer an advantageous result with high-scoring games more common.

The question is whether Mourinho has it in him to adapt a little, to build a next-stage United team around some key element of creative chemistry, a team that can grow to fill the spaces rather than crouching back behind its guard. For all the snarking negativity there are obvious positives. Even in defeat the sight of local talent on the pitch is heartening. Romelu Lukaku was often horribly isolated against Sevilla but he was also United’s best player.

Mourinho will get more time and money to gloss this team – but not that much more. Manchester United is a machine made for winning, a commercial-sporting juggernaut defined in part by its progress in Europe. If Mourinho has hit a buffer here then buying another Sánchez, another Pogba, won’t solve a basic issue of methodology, the point where defensive control becomes a more risky hand, less likely to bring victory than trusting his team to play in those tighter moments with a little winning freedom.”

De Futebol Flamengo River Plate tie two all in Group 4 Copa Libertadores

Flamengo and River Plate two all in Group play of the Copa Libertadores.

Globo Esporte:” Faltou torcedor, sobrou emoção. Em um Engenhão com portões fechados e arquibancadas vazias, Flamengo e River Plate fizeram um jogo animado, especialmente no segundo tempo, e empataram em 2 a 2 na noite desta quarta-feira, pela primeira rodada do Grupo 4 da Libertadores. Henrique Dourado, Éverton, Mora e Mayada fizeram os gols.

Em um primeiro tempo de poucas chances, Diego Alves fez defesa em cobrança de falta de Rodrigo Mora. Do outro lado, Armani defendeu em dois tempos chute de Henrique Dourado. E não teve muito mais do que isso.

Mas houve espaço para polêmica e reclamação. O Flamengo pediu pênalti em um lance aos 39 minutos. Réver cabeceou e a bola bateu no braço de Zuculini. O árbitro mandou o jogo seguir.


Se a primeira etapa foi arrastada, a segunda começou a toda velocidade. Logo aos seis minutos, Diego caiu na área após toque de Ponzio. Pênalti que Henrique Dourado cobrou seguindo sua cartilha. Com calma e estilo, deslocando o goleiro para abrir o placar.

A vantagem rubro-negra durou pouco. Aos dez, após cobrança de falta na área, Mora apareceu nas costas de Juan e desviou de cabeça para empatar. O jogador do River, porém, estava adiantado no momento do passe.

O River esteve perto da virada aos 17, com De La Cruz, que chutou para boa defesa de Diego Alves. O jogo era lá e cá, e aos 21 Lucas Paquetá acionou Everton na área. Sozinho, o camisa 22 teve tempo de dominar no peito, girar e bater cruzado para fazer 2 a 1.

A vantagem no placar não deu tranquilidade ao Flamengo. O River passou a pressionar e teve duas grandes chances em sequência para empatar aos 38, na pequena área. Três minutos depois, Mayada acertou um chute rasteiro de longe. Diego Alves caiu atrasado e a bola entrou no canto direito: 2 a 2.

O Flamengo volta a jogar na Libertadores no dia 14, quarta, contra o Emelec, no Equador. O River joga no dia 15, em casa, diante do Santa Fé, da Colômbia.

De Futebol Can Liverpool win the Champions League?

Liverpool thinks they can win the Champions League according to what Dejan Lovren told the Guardians Andy Hunter.

Hunter wrote;” Liverpool flew to Marbella for warm-weather training the morning after the historic night before in Porto, carrying thoughts of where else the form that condemned the Portuguese league leaders to their heaviest European home defeat might take them. For Dejan Lovren it is Kiev and the Champions League final on 26 May. “Why not?” he asked, rhetorically. “Of course we can win it.” For James Milner it is not the location but the level that matters. As the midfielder put it: “This team can go anywhere.”

The Champions League quarter‑final awaits Jürgen Klopp’s team having to all intents sealed their passage with another emphatic European victory at Estádio do Dragão on Wednesday. In the aftermath Klopp played up the importance of the second leg against Porto on 6 March while playing down the extent of his side’s superiority in the 5-0 win. The manager left the distinct impression he feels there is more to come this season. Or, in Mohamed Salah’s case, more of the same after the Egypt international became the quickest Liverpool player to score 30 goals.

Salah’s achievements have left Roma feeling short-changed at receiving ‘only’ £36.9m for their former winger, the sporting director, Monchi, admitted. “In the end we could reach €50m with bonuses,” he said on Thursday. “I still think the price could have been better.”

Southampton might say the same in the post-Neymar transfer world, having banked up to £36m for Sadio Mané. His return to form in Portugal, with the first hat‑trick of his Liverpool career, was one of the reasons Klopp sees room for improvement in the highest‑scoring team in the Champions League this season.

“It was tough on me,” Mané said of his recent dip. “But it is part of football. I never doubted I could help the team and I never stopped working hard in training. I always tried to remain balanced, even when it was not working, because it is my job and I have to do it. As a player sometimes it is not easy for me but I never doubted myself.”

Mané is only one source of encouragement for Klopp, however. While post-match questions focused on another European rout by his team and another stellar contribution from Salah, the manager chose to highlight the impressive defensive work that provided the foundation for victory. The clean sheet was Liverpool’s third in succession on the road, a sequence they have delivered only twice in seven years, with Virgil van Dijk bringing composure on his Champions League debut for the club and sparking an impressive reaction from Lovren alongside him. It was the completeness of Liverpool’s performance in Porto that struck Milner.

The player with the most assists in the Champions League this season said: “The hardest thing in football is putting the ball in the back of the net and we have got players who can do that. The other side we have got to work on is clean sheets. We have got to manage games better. We have talked about it over the last few months as a team and with the manager as well. That, ultimately, is what wins you titles.

“You can be brilliant going forward but everyone remembers the great Newcastle team who were brilliant going forward but they never won anything. They say defences win you championships and, if we can be more solid … We have kept clean sheets recently and our game management has been good. We can still attack, attack but we can now put men behind the ball and take the sting out of games. We are improving at that and that is what is pleasing the most.

“We have got to keep improving and keep experiencing these games in Europe, the big nights that matter and learning from the process. We have had a good result and performance but there are going to be times, hopefully in the next few years, when you have got to knuckle down and fight and find a way to win. That is big game experience and being in these competitions. There is ability and talent in that dressing room but it is a young dressing room. But this team can go anywhere.”

Lovren described Liverpool’s game-management against Porto as “serious football” and evidence that lessons have been learned from letting a three-goal lead slip at Sevilla in the group stage. “When you are 2-0, 3-0 up you think it is over but it is not and you still have a lot to play,” the Croatian defender said. “We showed quality and character and from everyone it was brilliant. We have so much quality that we can beat everyone if we are on our top level – simple as that.”

De Futebol Flamengo Stinks The Joint out in a Loss

Boo Menago drops a shocker to Macaé a 1-0 loss. Flamengo drops to second place in Group B.

Globo Esporte:” A derrota por 1 a 0 para o Macaé não foi o resultado esperado, mas serviu para Carpegiani fazer testes. O treinador usou Willian Arão pela primeira vez como titular na temporada e gostou do que viu. Ele deixou aberta a possibilidade de escalar o volante ao lado de Jonas contra o Emelec, abrindo mão de um meia.

– Eu queria ver o meio. Por isso trouxe este meio. Queria justamente ver a volta do Arão com o Jonas. Gostei do funcionamento. Tenho um tempo para pensar no que vou fazer na quarta, mas estou seguro. Vamos buscar a vitória.

Nesse caso, o treinador voltaria a usar o esquema que reinou no Flamengo nas duas temporadas passadas, com dois volantes, um homem na armação (Diego) e dois abertos pelos lados (Everton e Paquetá). Carpegiani não citou nomes, mas, se optar por Arão, Everton Ribeiro é o mais cotado para deixar a equipe titular.

Satisfeito em jogar 90 minutos pela primeira vez em 2018, Arão fez uma autoavaliação e disse estar preparado para iniciar quarta-feira, pela Libertadores, se Carpegiani assim optar.

– Estou muito feliz em poder voltar a jogar. Eu sofri a minha primeira lesão na carreira. Voltei aos poucos. Joguei 10 minutos na semana passada, outros 10 na quarta-feira. Foi importante participar, me movimentei bem, estou feliz com meu desempenho. Estou preparado para isso. Mas todos têm condições de jogar.

De Futebol Arsenal Reverted to Their Ways in the Blowout Loss to Man Shitty!

The Guardians Nick Ames nailed it when he wrote the guys have reverted to their old ways. “Contrary to recent evidence though it may seem, this was the most un-Arsenal of outcomes. The bigger disappointments of the past decade have generally been followed by flickerings of life, results pulled out of the fire in the nick of time, signs of enough incipient quality to maintain the illusion that it is darkest before the dawn.

But Arsenal do not even have that to lean on any more. Arsène Wenger sent his team out with good intentions, a top-heavy starting XI designed to trade blows. But for the second time in five days they crumbled at the first sign of pressure from Manchester City, losing the game well before half-time where previously they would have summoned a germ of hope. An end-times feel permeates this team, this stadium, and there is no sense things will brighten before the most painful – but surely inevitable – of decisions is forced.

Stripped of Sunday’s inconvenient context, this could even have been as good a time as any to face City. The continued absence of Raheem Sterling and fresh injury to Fernandinho were obvious points to exploit. City had been pegged back at Burnley and stumbled at Wigan in the past month while Arsenal have made a habit this season of showing up for home games against garlanded opponents. If they needed further encouragement, there was also their extra Thursday night know-how to fall back on.

At the outset it was clear many of the home support had given this the full Thursday treatment. The gaps in the stands were redolent of a dark night of the soul against Östersund – or, to move things on, a meaningless final half-hour at Wembley. Social media rumblings during the day had suggested a consensus in favour of calling the whole thing off, a view that owed as much to Arsenal’s League Cup final freeze – and its wider ramifications – as the one that set bones rattling around north London.

Flip things around, though, and there were points to be proved, mental strength to be shown off. Few of those present seemed to hold faith in those time-honoured maxims; the match kicked off to near-silence, obligation trumping belief for all bar the vocal segment of away fans, for whom the journey had seemed rather less trouble.

Where there is a will, there is a way. The irony was that Arsenal, unlike the disinclined among their fanbase, turned up in the first quarter and might have scored either side of the two Silvas’ efforts. An off-beam Kevin De Bruyne diagonal intended for Leroy Sané had even sent Pep Guardiola pirouetting in frustration during a loose spell from City between the two. As on Sunday, the champions-elect did not look impregnable.

City discovered again, though, that Arsenal are the great recidivists. Time and again it is the fine details that catch them out. At Wembley it was Claudio Bravo’s kicking range and this time it was Bernardo Silva’s liking for a left-foot curler. Silva is not Arjen Robben but anyone with the slightest knowledge of his oeuvre would have shown him outside after Sané’s snaking run had made the opportunity; instead Sead Kolasinac, surely one of the most premature recipients of cult hero status, offered the invitation and from there the die was cast.

The second and third goals, each thrillingly conceived, bore testament both to the devastating quality of Arsenal’s opponents and their own confused, lumpen defending. When Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was gifted the chance to make a game of things his penalty, far too close to Ederson, perfectly fitted the tone of an evening whose backdrop had teetered from near-apathy to the brink of outright mutiny.

Aubameyang is a world-class talent, and the Emirates has nurtured plenty of those. But he might wonder, now, at the environment he has wandered into; everything about Arsenal, in this deeply unhappy period, smacks of a club in cold storage.”

De Futebol Are Mignolet’s days at Liverpool numbered?

The Guardians Sachin Nakrasni wrote this think piece on the fate of keeper Simon Mignolet.

“Jürgen Klopp has cast further doubt on Simon Mignolet’s future at Liverpool by suggesting the Belgian will not be selected for Liverpool’s Champions League match against Porto on Wednesday.

Mignolet has shared goalkeeper duties with Loris Karius this season, with the former having been first choice in the Premier League and the latter chosen to start in the Champions League. But Klopp confirmed on 19 January, and following Liverpool’s 4-3 victory against Manchester City, that the German was his official No 1. Karius started the City game and has played in Liverpool’s four league games since.

Mignolet has featured in that time, playing in the 3-2 FA Cup defeat against West Bromwich Albion, and the presumption was that he had become Liverpool’s ‘cup keeper’ and would therefore start their last-16 first-leg tie at Estádio do Dragão. But that does not appear to be the case.

“To be honest I have not made the final decision but it is not the same situation as it was,” Klopp said when asked which goalkeeper he would pick to face Porto. “A good one will play. But I haven’t made the decision so far.”

The head coach’s remarks regarding a change of “situation” indicates he has abandoned his policy of rotating goalkeepers, something Mignolet had described as “not a healthy situation for a keeper” and which, if the case, pushes him further towards the fringes of life at Liverpool.

The 29-year-old joined the club from Sunderland in June 2013 and was part of the team that came close to winning the Premier League title under Brendan Rodgers. Mignolet has largely failed to convince at Anfield, however, and it appears his time is now up.

Karius arguably delivered his best display for Liverpool in the 2-0 win at Southampton on Sunday, making two excellent saves in the first half and generally looking assured. Speaking afterwards the 24-year-old, who joined from Mainz in May 2016, said: “In the last few games I’ve had more stuff to do and I’ve been able to make some saves, which give you more confidence. I feel good, I feel strong.”

De Futebol Pogba Problem Deepens

The Guardians Johnathan Wilson wrote this piece entitled “Pogba problem deepens”

“The end was chaotic, Newcastle camped in their box with every block and clearance being roared to the rafters, but the tension of that final minute of injury time, and the similarly desperate scramble at around 80 minutes, should not allow the narrative to take hold that Manchester United were unlucky to lose. Rather they were desperately drab, short of inspiration, their forward line a strange bodge job of sparkly parts that do not really go together.

You dread to think what Jorge Valdano would have made of it. It was a battle between Rafa Benítez and José Mourinho, when in charge of Liverpool and Chelsea in the semi-final of the 2007 Champions League, that the former Argentina striker infamously likened to “a shit hanging from a stick”, insisting it was not art, no matter how august or appreciative the gallery in which it was placed.

This was not art either, but it was raucously enjoyed by home fans who may have doubts about their side’s quality, but certainly cannot doubt the commitment. Benítez kept setting and resetting the defensive line, as is his habit, but the win was rooted as much in the heart and desire of his players as his organisation. That and the strange disjointedness of United.

Beyond the crude imagery, Valdano bemoaned the lack of individual creativity in that 2007 game. He was frustrated by the absence of imagination in a clash between two sides whose managers seemed to lack any faith in their players to take the initiative and act outside a proscriptive blueprint.

This 18th meeting between the two former Real Madrid coaches was predictably tight, at least until Matt Ritchie put Newcastle ahead after 65 minutes, after which it took on a frenetic quality. Mourinho spoke positively of the effort of his own players, but that is a minimum requirement. “Were they lucky?” he asked of Newcastle. “Yes they were. But sometimes you attract that luck with your state of mind.”

Equally, though, it could be asked of Manchester United whether they were actually good. And the answer would be just as emphatic: no they were not, and that perhaps in turn encouraged Newcastle.

Maybe there is a sense of being spoiled by the verve of Manchester City and, to a lesser extent, Liverpool and Tottenham, but there was something unsatisfyingly scrappy about this United side, plenty of energy but not a huge amount in the way of quality or incision.

Every now and again someone will do something dangerous – they remain extremely gifted players – as when Nemanja Matic played in Anthony Martial with a finely weighted pass before the break, or when Alexis Sánchez shuffled through on the hour, but it all seemed very individualistic, piecemeal, lacking the cohesion of the most exciting sides in the division. The addition of Sánchez, it seems, has done nothing to solve the Paul Pogba problem. Perhaps in time a way will emerge by which all of United’s expensive stars can play together, but they have not found it yet.

Pogba remains an enormous frustration, manifestly talented and capable of the moments of penetration, but without an obvious role in a 4-2-3-1: he lacks the control, as Graeme Souness keeps pointing out, to play deep, but is too dependent on space in front of him to be the No 10. Here his touch was oddly heavy, his passing awry, his temptation always to overcomplicate, and it was no surprise when he was withdrawn as soon as United had fallen behind.

Sánchez’s arrival, meanwhile, has done little to improve the form of Romelu Lukaku, and has disrupted both Jesse Lingard, who was withdrawn with Pogba, and Martial, who seemed lost wide on the right. The two players who were giving United attacking verve, in other words, have seemingly been snuffed out by the arrival of another.

Those final seconds may have been tense for the home fans, but a team of United’s stature and aspirations should have rather more sophisticated modes of attack than simply lumping it into the box.

De Futebol Flamengo gets Blown Out by Fluminense!

Flamengo gets blown out Fluminense 4-0 in Group of Carioca Championship.

Globo Esporte: “Pode-se atribuir diversas dimensões a um clássico. Quando ele é válido pelo Campeonato Estadual, a importância dada por cada clube parece estar atrelada ao que se vive, na verdade, fora dele. Por isso, o Fluminense entrou em campo, na Arena Pantanal, com força máxima. Já o Flamengo, de olho no confronto com o River Plate, pela Libertadores, na quarta-feira, poupou seus titulares neste sábado. Definir prioridades é do jogo, assumir as suas consequências também. Desfigurado, o rubro-negro foi facilmente goleado pelo rival, que aplicou um 4 a 0 sem dificuldades.

Bastou pouco mais de um minuto para que o torcedor tivesse uma prévia do que viria pela frente: a precisão do ataque tricolor em sobreposição ao caos do sistema defensivo rubro-negro. Rômulo, principalmente, e Léo Duarte falharam em cortar o lançamento de Sornoza, que encontrou Marcos Júnior livre para abrir o placar. Aos 17, foi a vez de Pedro aproveitar a bola que pingava na área após escanteio para ampliar. E, antes do intervalo, Diego Alves deu rebote para Gilberto fazer o terceiro.

Foi louvável a postura do time tricolor, que não se satisfez com o placar construído facilmente e aproveitou para atropelar um adversário de tantas fragilidades — uma boa maneira de encerrar um jejum incômodo. Desde junho de 2016, o Fluminense não vencia o Flamengo. Nesse período, foram nove encontros, oito apenas na temporada passada. Apesar de ter conquistado a Taça Guanabara graças a um empate, o Tricolor estava engasgado com o revés na decisão do Carioca e com a eliminação na Sul-Americana.

E o estrago poderia ter sido maior, não fossem as intervenções de Diego Alves. É verdade que o goleiro demonstrou certa falta de ritmo. Mas cresceu ao longo dos 90 minutos e, aos 31 da etapa final, fez duas grandes defesas para segurar o 4 a 0.

Pouco deverá mudar do ponto de vista do rubro-negro, que terá outras caras diante do River. Já para o Tricolor, vale o alento: há onde se apegar para acreditar em um ano mais feliz.

De Futebol Flamengo wins!

Flamengo defeated Madureira 4-0 in Group play of the Carioca.

Globo Esporte:” Campeão da Taça Guanabara no último fim de semana, o Flamengo utilizou seu time principal na estreia da Taça Rio para realizar um teste importante a uma semana de sua estreia na Libertadores (na próxima quarta, diante do River Plate).

Com Jonas na vaga de Cuéllar (que estará suspenso nos primeiros dois jogos do torneio continental), Rodinei na direita e Diego Alves de volta ao gol, o Rubro-Negro não enfrentou problemas diante de um Madureira muito pouco eficiente. Goleou por 4 a 0 com gols de Diego (em bonita cobrança de falta), Paquetá, Dourado (de pênalti) e Vinicius Junior.

De Futebol Man Shitty Blows out Arsenal 3-0 win the Carabao Cup

Man Shitty tore Arsenal a new one in a 3-0 win to nail their first title the Carabao Cup.

The Guardians Daniel Taylor:” At the final whistle, Pep Guardiola carried the air of a man who was perfectly accustomed to these kind of occasions. He embraced his staff, he clasped the hand of the losing manager, Arsène Wenger, and then he made his way on to the pitch to congratulate the players who had delivered him the first trophy of his Manchester City years.

The first of many, one assumes, even if Wigan Athletic have shown that too much time was spent debating whether Guardiola’s team could win the lot this season. A treble is still on, however, and a second trophy is guaranteed given the way they have turned this season’s Premier League into a procession. Guardiola’s team will need to play better than they did here if they are to add their name to the list of Champions League winners. Yet it was still another occasion to think the Abu Dhabi masterplan – target: worldwide domination – is gradually coming together.

In the process, there was another reminder for Arsenal here about how far they have fallen behind the elite. Wenger has still not won the League Cup during 21 years as a manager in England and Arsenal now have the unwanted record of losing six finals in this competition. Nothing, though, will be more galling for Arsenal than the realisation that it was they who used to dismantle teams this way. They looked what they are: a team 27 points short of City in the Premier League, with urgent work needed to improve the team and a manager whose peak years can feel a long time ago.

As superior as they were, there is even a legitimate argument that City did not reach their more exhilarating peaks. Kevin De Bruyne can pass more imperiously than he did here. David Silva was eight out of 10 when frequently it is nine. Fernandinho had to go off in the second half with an injury and, no kidding, there were even rumours that De Bruyne had played one pass out for an Arsenal throw-in. Blink, and you might have missed it.

Ultimately, though, City did not have to be at their absolute best to win by some distance and there were Arsenal supporters heading for the exits from the moment when Silva spun away from the substitute Sead Kolasinic to drive in the third goal. Sergio Agüero’s 30th goal of the season had given City an 18th-minute lead, after some wretched defending by Shkodran Mustafi, and there was never any doubt that it would be Vincent Kompany lifting the trophy once he had stabbed in the second goal shortly before the hour. Kompany was the outstanding performer, barely giving Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a sniff, and it is just a shame his career has been so undermined by injuries. On the big occasions, what a player he can be when the legs are working and he is feeling good.

In the end, it was almost a surprise that City did not add more and the ironic “oles” from the Arsenal supporters after one brief spell of keep-ball, at 3-0 down, probably sum up the disaffection from that end of the stadium. Wenger has heard worse in recent years but his team are 10 points adrift of the Premier League’s top four and their only realistic hope now to save their season comes via the Europa League, a competition they used to regard with haughty disdain.


At least Jack Wilshere played with the spirit of a man who found the idea of meek defeat to be abhorrent. There were others, however, in red and white who spent the entire game on the edges. Mesut Özil had one of his wishy-washy games. Aaron Ramsey was also strangely subdued and, defensively, Wenger’s decision to revert to a back three simply did not work. Nacho Monreal injured himself with a woefully mistimed challenged on Kyle Walker, and, at this level, it has been clear for some time that Calum Chambers is simply not up to it.

The irony is that when Aguero ran clear to clip in the opening goal it was possibly the most unorthodox goal ever scored by a Guardiola team – originating from nothing more refined than a long punt over the top from their goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo. Perhaps Guardiola had been watching old television replays of Wimbledon from the 1980s. Except, of course, centre-halves knew how to defend in those days. Mustafi had committed the centre-half’s sin of getting the wrong side of Agüero and all it needed was the slightest of nudges from Agüero to take him out of the equation. Agüero was just too good for him, too alert and much too clever, and once the striker had got away it was a beautifully measured lob to lift the ball over the oncoming David Ospina and into the net.

City’s second goal came from a corner on the right. Ilkay Gundogan had the first attempt after De Bruyne had picked him out, 20 yards from goal, and Kompany jutted out his boot to divert the shot into the opposite corner from the way the ball was heading.

Yet perhaps it was the third goal that said the most about this City team. Danilo’s brilliantly disguised through ball for Silva later was a pass that De Bruyne would have been proud of. That was City’s left-back with the killer pass and that, more than anything, summed up the group of players with the silver.”