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Pep's first silverware is years in the making; GUARDIOLA'S NEW ERA IS GIVEN HELPING HAND FROM THREE TRIED AND TESTED STARS AS CITY BRUSH ASIDE GUNNERS IN WEMBLEY WALTZ.

Byline: STUART BRENNAN stuart.brennan@men-news.co.uk @STUBRENNANMEN

PEP Guardiola has ushered in a bold new era at City but it was the old guard who put Arsenal to the sword at Wembley!

The Blues boss has turned City into a lean, mean footballing machine, full of invention, coursing with desire and mentally strong.

Their reaction to a discouraging FA Cup defeat at Wigan was to edge Arsenal thanks to Sergio Aguero's goal in a tight first half, and then sweep them away as Vincent Kompany and David Silva added further goals after the break.

And so the Carabao Cup became Guardiola's first trophy in English football and, while the victory had his revolutionary stamp, it also bore the marks of the Blues evolution over the last ten years.

Aguero's enduring deadliness, Kompany's unquenchable spirit in the face of adversity, and Silva's undying class were all rewarded with goals.

And again Guardiola was proved right after a few murmurs of discontent from the travelling City fans at the team news. Many were unsure about Claudio Bravo, some felt Danilo might be a liability at left-back, and the idea of shifting Kevin de Bruyne from a central position he has bossed all season did not sit well with others.

But Guardiola has always made his own luck, and almost inevitability it was Bravo who came up with the assist.

His punt down the middle was clearly intentional, and Sergio Aguero was smart, using his body to stop the back-pedalling Shkodran Mustafi and then streaking away to control and lob his shot expertly over David Ospina.

Referee Craig Pawson called for help from the video ref, who deemed that Mustafi had run into Aguero - even though the Argentine could be seen looking at the defender as both manoeuvred for position.

But Arsenal were live opponents, and only a fine piece of strong defending from skipper Kompany stopped Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from bursting into the box, one-on-one with Bravo.

The Blues upped the tempo in the second half, and even the loss of Fernandinho to an apparent hamstring problem could not stop their march.

With City attacking towards their own end of Wembley, the fans were willing a Kompany goal every time the skipper went up for a corner.

After 57 minutes, they got it. De Bruyne played a corner to the edge of the box, where Ilkay Gundogan drove a shot low and hard - and Kompany stuck out a foot to divert it past Ospina.

That knocked the stuffing out of the Gunners and City drove home their advantage, bursting into a medley of their loveliest football.

Danilo had grown into the game, and as City probed and passed their way down the left, he suddenly carved inside and slipped a clever reverse pass for Silva.

The Spaniard majestically swivelled past his marker and drilled a lethal shot into the far corner. Game over.

| KOMPANY'S (STILL) CLASS THERE are bound to have been one or two City fans who questioned Vincent Kompany's presence in the starting line-up - especially with PS100m of centreback talent in John Stones and Aymeric Laporte on the substitutes' bench.

Kompany's degenerating body has let him down so frequently in recent years, it's almost more of a surprise when he doesn't succumb to injury than when he does.

WHAT ANTHONY But the big Belgian rolled back the years to give a classy Wembley performance, outsprinting and controlling Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the first half and adding to City's lead in the second to cement the win with a smart reaction for his 18th goal for the club. Forget, for now, the 41 injuries he has suffered in City's cause, this was a show of poise, pace and power.

| SILK AND STEEL ARSENAL may be one of the few teams around capable of emulating City in terms of their passing, but Guardiola's men have so much more in their armoury.

ANALYSIS WE While the Gunners never convinced with LEARNED JEPSON their organisation or effort, City, in the image of their coach, showed steel to go with their silk, defending with the same relentless passion as they attacked, right to the death.

Arsenal, once they went behind, had little of the same mettle. | THERE'S MORE TO COME SOME wishfully questioned if a Wembley defeat, hot on the heels of their FA Cup exit, could hurt City's chase of bigger prizes.

We'll never know but it's unlikely that a team with this kind of attitude and leadership would succumb to that kind of mental weakness.

The Premier League is all but in the bag and City can relaunch their Champions League charge safe in the knowledge one part of a treble is secured.

| FINGERS CROSSED ONE blot on a positive afternoon was the sight of Fernandinho hobbling off the Wembley pitch.

If his injury is confirmed as a hamstring strain or tear, the Brazilian will be out of the Thursday night Premier League rematch with the Gunners and Sunday's visit of Chelsea.

CAPTION(S):

A delighted David Silva celebrates his goal and, below Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany fire past Arsenal
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Date:Feb 26, 2018
Words:848
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