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How Arsene Wenger proved Arsenal are still elite in Chelsea win

It was the old, increasingly unfamiliar, almost embarrassed double-fisted salute, the one that was once Arsene Wenger’s trademark.

He knew how important this was for his credibility, knew how important it was not just to reach yet ANOTHER Wembley final but to show the legion of doubters that he still has a team that can compete against the elite, still has one that will fight for him, will empty body and soul for him.

After Eden Hazard’s opener, an own goal from Antonio Rudiger and a luck-assisted poke-in from Granit Xhaka sent Arsenal to their date with Manchester City.

But it was character rather than quality, cussedness rather than class that got them there.

In the cold light of the many days that bring brickbats rather than garlands, that is what will comfort Wenger.


It is the sort of thing that will take him into another year, the sort of thing that will make him believe he can still have something special here.

When Wenger tries to stress the unquenchable spirit of his current squad, it often seems like laughable lip-service.

There are too many times when they crumble.

Not on this occasion. They were hardly fluent, had one fortunate deflection after another, but simply looked to want it more than Chelsea.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Wenger can luxuriate in a tactical tweak that worked, Mohamed Elneny dropping deeper in the second half to considerable effect.


The triumph was not about tactics, though, it was about the indefatigability of the likes of Jack Wilshere, of Xhaka, even of Mesut Ozil.

If Ozil is to leave at the end of the season, this is a bitter-sweet way he is saying farewell, reminding Arsenal what they are going to miss.

In terms of game-effecting talent, only Hazard is Ozil’s equal.

And unfortunately for Chelsea and Antonio Conte, only Hazard looked aware of the urgency demanded by this sort of occasion.

That urgency was reflected in a pursuit of Ozil that ended with a first half booking and when he went down under a phantom trip from Shkrodan Mustafi, it could easily have been construed as a dive but Michael Oliver gave him the benefit of the doubt.

He just fell over, mouthed Michael. And he was right … just as Chelsea just fell over.

It was worrying for Conte, Hazard pretty much a lone positive in this Chelsea performance and not just for the way he clipped home Pedro’s early pass to initially take the wind out of a rowdy atmosphere.

To be fair, the manner of Chelsea relinquishing the lead was unfortunate, Nacho Monreal demonstrating his newly-found knack of finding penalty box vacuums to head a Mesut Ozil corner-kick goalwards with a double-diversion off the heads of Marcos Alonso and Rudiger doing the rest.

To be fair, the manner of Chelsea succumbing to a lead was unfortunate, Alexandre Lacazette’s pull-back destined for little until it hit the hapless Rudiger and turned itself into a tap-in for Xhaka.

But in their pursuit of an equaliser and extra-time, Chelsea were painfully short of ideas and Alex Iwobi should have headed off any late anxiety but applied a finish that did not do the best move of the match justice.


As it happened, there was little late anxiety.

Chelsea might rue deflected misfortune but they could have no complaints – they were not exactly outclassed, just outfought.

They were probably even a touch surprised at the intensity of an Arsenal side that have too often seemed to go through the motions in these late stages of their manager’s reign.

That is why Wenger, even though it is only the Carabao Cup, will be quietly euphoric.

That is why being back on one of his favourite, most trodden, stomping grounds will mean so much to him.

That is why that old salute came out, even if it does turn out to be for old time’s sake.

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Source: https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/arsene-wenger-proves-legion-doubters-11911124

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