There were two Carabao Cup quarter-final games last night. Man City needed penalties to beat Leicester, while a Danny Welbeck goal was enough for Arsenal to beat West Ham 1-0.
Man City were beating Leicester 1-0 thanks to a goal from Bernardo Silva, but a controversial last minute Jamie Vardy penalty in stoppage time brought the game into extra time. Demarai Gray looked to go to ground a bit too easily after a challenge from Kyle Walker, and Vardy made no mistake and put the penalty away. There was no separating the sides in extra time, so it went to a penalty shootout. Claudio Bravo was City’s hero in the end, saving a Riyad Mahrez spot-kick to send them into the semi-final.
After the game, which extended City’s unbeaten domestic run to 27 games, Pep Guardiola was asked if his side could win everything possible and end the season with a quadruple. He was quick to play down his sides chances of that though, and said:
That is not going to happen. Of course not. Come on, that isn’t real. What we’re living isn’t real. The situation of winning 16 or 17 games in a row in the league and qualifying for the Champions League before we finished the group stage and now we’re here playing with a lot of young players, that is not normal.
In football you drop points and you lose competitions. I am not thinking about how many titles, I am thinking about the next game.
It would definitely be a big ask for them to do that, but nobody looks like they could beat City at the moment. They basically have the league wrapped up, they’re in the semi-final of the league cup, they’re the favourites to win the Champions League, and if they’re playing like they are now all season who will beat them in the FA Cup? It’s a long season, and more than likely they won’t keep this form up for all of it, but you never know. Imagine they went unbeaten and won every competition available. They would definitely go down as one of the best sides the world has ever seen.
There have been a lot of comparisons made between them, Arsenal’s Invincibles and Man United’s treble winning squad, but I’m not quite sure we can judge them with those great sides yet. The reality is, they still haven’t won anything, and they have a very long way to go if they want to be up there with those sides. Who says they can’t be though? Not me anyway. I wouldn’t be completely surprised if they won the treble or quadruple and went the season unbeaten, but when you look at the quality around it’s going to be very hard for them to do that. I think the big test to their unbeaten run will be when things hot up a bit in Europe. When they have a big two-legged tie in the Champions League, and have a tricky away game in the Premier League to follow I think we might see them struggle a bit. That could be when their unbeaten run comes to an end, but then again it could happen at any time. We see huge shocks in the Premier League all the time, and somebody is bound to pull one off against them. We have already seen them need a few last minute winners, so sides can trouble them, but we’ll see whether or not somebody can push them all the way.
Arsenal got a good 1-0 win at home to West Ham, with Danny Welbeck scoring the only goal of the game. From what I’ve read this morning, it sounds like it was a rather dull affair. There was one shot on target in the whole game – which was Welbeck’s scruffy finish – and West Ham took just one shot which didn’t find the target. Both managers made changes, with Arsenal changing their whole team from the one that beat Newcastle at the weekend. Wenger has been doing that for the Europa League and Carabao Cup games so far this season, but I don’t think many of those fringe players will have impressed enough throughout any of those games to convince Arsene Wenger that they’re ready to be considered as part of his Premier League squad.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is one that has impressed at left-back so far, and he has actually dislodged Sead Kolasinac as their first choice left-back now. Maitland-Niles would usually play in these games, but has been in the first team for the last couple of weeks, so Kolasinac playing last night is a sign that Maitland-Niles is going to continue at left-back for Arsenal’s game against Liverpool on Friday night. I’m not sure about that one to be honest, because as well as the youngster has done in the last couple of weeks, the league’s best player so far this season, Mo Salah, will be licking his lips at the prospect of running him ragged on Friday. It would be a huge challenge for Maitland-Niles to keep him quiet, but we’ll see what happens. Maybe he won’t play at all, and Nacho Monreal will be at left-back with Shkodran Mustafi returning to the middle of the defensive, but the signs from Wenger are pointing towards Maitland-Niles so far. We’ll see what happens, and I might have another look at that in Friday’s match preview.
There are another couple of Carabao Cup games tonight, as Chelsea host Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge, while Man United travel to Bristol City. Just like yesterday, there are sure to be a lot of changes for these games. I don’t think any of them will play a completely changed team like Arsenal did last night, but they definitely won’t be playing their strongest teams. Jose Mourinho confirmed that he will have a mixture of players out on the pitch, saying that Bristol City will be a real challenge for them. He says the Championship isn’t like it was five or ten years ago and that there are a lot of Premier League quality players in there now. That might be true, but you’d like to think a completely changed Man United side would have enough to beat Bristol City, but Jose obviously doesn’t want to take any chances. He wants to win everything he possibly can, and you have to admire him for that I suppose, but with the busy festive period on the horizon you’d probably rather he made more changes than he will.
I’m not sure how the rest of the sides will line-up, but I would imagine there’ll be a few changes but nothing too drastic from Antonio Conte and Eddie Howe. I’m not sure whether Eddie Howe can afford to make as many changes as the bigger clubs can, as Bournemouth’s squad isn’t a big as the others with more resources. We’ll see later on anyway, I’ll have the teams up on Twitter.
That’s all from me for now, back in the morning as always. I might even get something up later today, but I’ll wait and see how that goes. News throughout the day will be on Twitter as always. Have a good Wednesday.