Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said his side were playing with “more clarity” following the transfer of Alexis Sanchez as the Gunners came from behind to beat Chelsea and set up a Carabao Cup final with Manchester City. After a goalless first leg, Eden Hazard put Chelsea ahead before an own goal from Antonio Rudiger levelled it, and Granit Xhaka’s winner took Arsenal to Wembley. It came only two days after Sanchez’s drawn-out transfer to Manchester United was completed, with the Gunners getting Henrikh Mkhitaryan in return. A miserable couple of months for Arsenal has seen them drop to sixth in the Premier League, 23 points behind leaders Manchester City, and lose to Championship Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup.
But now this vital victory keeps them on course to win their fourth trophy in five years – and with it claim the only domestic competition that Arsene Wenger has not won in his 21 years at the club. “I felt that in January we paid a heavy price for uncertainty in our dressing-room,” said the 68-year-old. “Now we are back with more clarity. We know what we have to do. We can focus on our game. “We lost a great player in Alexis Sanchez but when a team doesn’t know what’s going on in the dressing room there is less clarity and focus on performances. We know we have to deal with it now.” The Gunners, bidding to win this competition for the first time since 1993, meet Manchester City in the final at Wembley on 25 February after Pep Guardiola’s side saw off Bristol City in the other semi-final.
Arsenal will play in their eighth League Cup final. Only Liverpool (12) and Manchester United (nine) have appeared in more (Aston Villa and Spurs also on eight). Chelsea have now lost just twice in their last eight away games versus Arsenal in all competitions (won three, drew four, lost two). Eden Hazard has netted three goals in his last two Chelsea games in all competitions, as many as in his previous 14. Ross Barkley made his first competitive club appearance in 248 days, since playing against Arsenal at the Emirates with Everton on 21 May, 2017. This was Chelsea’s first loss in 13 matches, since a 1-0 defeat by West Ham on 9 December in the Premier League.