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Carabao Cup Final: Arsenal can push Manchester City all the way at Wembley

Losing to a Wigan Athletic side that didn’t cost a penny to assemble, shattered Manchester City’s dreams of a silverware clean sweep AND made this Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final feel like less of a foregone conclusion.

Can Arsenal compound Pep Guardiola’s misery by snatching another trophy away from his grasp?

Former Gunners midfielder and football odds expert Adrian Clarke discusses the big game…

Let’s get this right, Manchester City are still a sensational side, despite coming off the rails against a cheaply assembled League One outfit that had lost their previous two matches.

Off days happen. That’s why we love football.

What we have learned is that they’re clearly not invincible, and this must have given underdogs Arsenal a welcome dose of confidence ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final.

For a dangerous attacking side like the Gunners, a price of 17/4 looks pretty generous to me.

After all, they did beat Manchester City and Chelsea beneath the arch to lift last season’s FA Cup, proving not for the first time that Arsene Wenger’s players can raise their game for the big occasion.

And they also have a surprisingly good record against City. In their last ten meetings, Arsenal have been beaten just twice, with the rest shared out between victories and draws.

I believe so much will depend on who scores first; as from 1-0 up the Premier League leaders are extraordinarily ruthless.

Winning 20 matches and drawing just once, City are exceptional front-runners.

It’s little wonder, then, that the favourites are rated 4/5 to score first and win; it’s a short price for good reason, and many will be tempted.

Picking out potential goalscorers is a minefield though, as City have so many threats.

You can easily make a case for fit-again Leroy Sane to score (7/4) and on the other wing, Raheem Sterling is another who will attract understandable interest at 27/20.

Arsenal’s attacking full-backs have left space for these two wingers to score against them in the recent past, and if they’re not careful, a lapse in concentration could damage them again.

Sergio Aguero, incidentally, fresh from his post-match fracas at the DW Stadium, is a 5/6 shot to find the net.

Personally, I feel Arsenal have it in them to score too, making this showpiece a very competitive one.

They will probably concede a fair amount of possession, but from turnovers, Ozil, Wilshere and Iwobi will be looking to pass to new boy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who will be told to run in behind Manchester City’s rearguard.

I’m not completely sold on any of City’s combinations at centre-back, and I know for a fact they will be nervous of the striker’s pace.

Aubameyang is 13/2 to score the first goal, and if he manages to pull it off, we really will have a game on our hands!

A set piece goal from the Gunners wouldn’t be a big surprise either.

Wenger’s men have made huge improvement from corners and free kicks this term, scoring 12 league goals from dead ball situations – the most of anyone in the Premier League.

Therefore, I’d say Shkodran Mustafi (21/2) and Laurent Koscielny (16/1) represent decent value.

Do I see Arsenal winning in 90 minutes? Hand on heart, and putting my slight bias to one side, I have to say it’s a big ask.

I would envisage both teams scoring, but City’s forward line, propped up so brilliantly by Kevin de Bruyne, does give the northern raiders a clear advantage.

My predictions

My tip is a 2-1 Manchester City success at 7/1, but I also like the look of both teams scoring in a game that’s drawn over 90 minutes. That comes in at a nice price of 4/1.

Victory for Arsene Wenger, his first ever in this competition, is not impossible; and it would put a real dampener on City’s near-perfect campaign.

But my head tells me Guardiola has the better team, and that they will bounce back from that Wigan embarrassment to claim trophy number one.

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