Carabao Cup final underdog tag suits Wenger
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger admits Manchester City seen as favourites for Sunday’s clash
Arsene Wenger has conceded his Arsenal side are the underdogs in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final but believes recent trophy successes can help them upset the odds to beat Manchester City.
The Gunners will be the unfancied side at Wembley, despite winning three FA Cups in the past four years.
Wenger’s men beat City in last season’s semi-final before going on to see off Chelsea as the Frenchman lifted a record seventh FA Cup as a manager.
Given their superb season to date, City pose an altogether different test this time around and Pep Guardiola’s outfit completely outclassed Arsenal in a 3-1 Premier League win at the Etihad Stadium in November.
But, even though Arsenal sit sixth in the table and a mammoth 27 points adrift of leaders City, Wenger has faith in his players to perform.
Asked what recent success says about his team’s mentality, the 68-year-old replied: “What it means is that you have enough belief to think you can do it.
“That on the day you managed to turn up with the right spirit and right mentality, the right belief.
“The final, everyone says you have to be motivated, but it as well to find the right balance between focus, motivation and relaxed enough to play your game.
“That will be the target again: to have a belief but as well to find that right balance.”
Wenger has never won the League Cup, often using it during his 21-year tenure to blood young players and give valuable minutes to those on the fringes of his first-team.
He came close in 2007 and 2011, losing surprisingly to Birmingham in the latter final when it was his Arsenal who were widely-expected to lift the trophy.
Now he accepts it is the Gunners who are able to spring a surprise this time around.
“When you come through such a long way, you go to the final, you don’t want to lose it,” he said. “You want to win it. At the end of the day, you have to be cool.
“Because Manchester City is dominating the league in the head of everybody and so maybe we are more underdogs than in the FA Cup semi-final (last season).
“We are maybe underdogs but we have to believe in our quality. The history, the fact we have done it before, shows why not do it again.”
Guardiola came close to playing under Wenger after leaving Barcelona in 2001 but the move never came off and he instead went to play in Serie A with Brescia.
Asked if he liked the Spain international as a player, Wenger replied: “Yes. It was the quality of his decision making and the quality of his distribution.
“He played a very quick passing game and that is always our DNA. (But) he was over the top of his career already and we had top class players in his position.”