Belfast Telegraph

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City's inspirational captain is happy to lead from back

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

Vincent Kompany must be used to the walk to lift a cup at Wembley by now.

This was the fourth time he has done it, the third League Cup win, a moment that will probably not define City's season. But it felt as if this win and this afternoon will mean the world to the City captain whose career has looked under threat at times this year.

Because this was Kompany's day and a Manchester City win that owed more to him than to any other player. They were not at their fluent best and it took the enforced departure of Fernandinho early in the second half for City to get the right team on the pitch. This was a tiring, stodgy, stoppable City in the first half, and a better opponent than Arsenal could have found them out.

When City are at their best everything flows like electricity. But on days like this they need a kick-start. That is what Kompany provided, throwing himself into everything, keeping none of his energy or personality in reserve.

At Kompany's peak, five years ago if not more, the athletic side of the game looked so easy for him. Now, with his struggling body that only allows him to play a fraction of City's games, Kompany has to drag himself around the pitch to impose himself.

But here in the bitter Wembley cold, on a stage Kompany may have feared he would never reach again, he did exactly that. He has lost some of his mobility but he could still just keep pace with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang as City tried to hold off the Arsenal counter-attacks in the first half.

Compare Kompany's own commitment, putting his body on the line for the team, with that of Shkodran Mustafi, his nominal counterpart at the heart of the Arsenal defence. It was Mustafi who allowed himself to be nudged off the ball by Sergio Aguero in the middle of the pitch, gifting City the lead. Mustafi stood there, arms outstretched, imploring Craig Pawson for a free-kick to get him off the hook.

The whistle never sounded, City went ahead, and it was impossible to imagine Kompany being beaten like that.

Kompany has always been a risk-taking tackler, desperate to steal the ball as early and as high up the pitch as possible. Now, at 31, with the troubles he has had, the margins are finer than ever.

And it was the marauding, ambitious Kompany who turned the game decisively City's way, early in the second half. Charging forward he turned a lost cause into a Manchester City corner. When Ilkay Gundogan shot from Kevin De Bruyne's pull-back, there was Kompany to turn the ball in.

Kompany wheeled away with the glee of a man who knows he may not get many more moments in his career like this. This was his fourth winning Wembley final with City, and his first goal in one, but how many more finals like this will he be able to play? Remember that that was just his 13th start of this exasperating season, and he only made 14 last year, and 20 the year before that.

Even more importantly, he is now fourth in the pecking order of City's centre-backs. Behind the much-improved Nicolas Otamendi, and a pair of 23-year-olds who cost a combined £105million.

John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are City's future at centre-back and, given their ages, their technical skill, the importance of the build-up to Pep Guardiola's game, their stature and their physical fitness, who could argue with that? Kompany, on the other hand, is a figure of City's past.

Which is why all this meant so much.

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