MANCHESTER City's old guard combined to give manager Pep Guardiola his first trophy at the club with a 3-0 victory over Arsenal in the League Cup final on Sunday.
Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and David Silva scored the goals that demonstrated the enduring value of the veterans at City despite Guardiola recruiting more than $600 million in fresh talent in around 18 months.
"An incredible moment for us," said Kompany, the 31-year-old captain whose playing time has been limited by injuries in recent years. "You don't want it to stop. Every little bit of hardship you go through, it is worth it."
The victory at Wembley Stadium, aided by Arsenal's brittle defending, allowed City to quickly restore order after Monday's surprise exit from the FA Cup at Wigan.
The pursuit of a quadruple was extinguished by the third-tier side, but City is now one step closer to a treble. The Premier League seems a formality, with a 13-point lead and a game in hand over Manchester United. A place in the Champions League quarterfinals also looks certain with Basel beaten 4-0 in the last-16 first leg.
For all the investment in players during the decade under Abu Dhabi ownership, the return in silverware has been scant at City but Kompany has been there for all six trophies.
Since winning the Premier League in 2014, only the League Cup has been collected - twice now. Guardiola was hired to turn City into the trophy factory that his former club Barcelona became from 2008-12, and he is starting to deliver in the second half of his second season in charge.
"I'm sure it's a relief for him," Kompany said on TalkSport radio.
For Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, this is the latest chapter of gloom in a season that saw the FA Cup defense end at the first hurdle and the team slump to sixth in the league. And the Gunners have to face City again in the league on Thursday.
"There's only one Arsene Wenger," Arsenal fans chanted sarcastically after Silva scored the third goal.
They had seen enough of the game, streaming out of the north London stadium with 25 minutes to go. And many have seen enough of Wenger after almost 22 years at the helm, with the team in a downward spiral.
The only consolation for Arsenal this season is that City's hopes of replicating Wenger's unbeaten 2003-04 league campaign ended last month.
Only fleetingly at Wembley did Arsenal threaten against a City side that is so imposing as Guardiola's vision starts to come together in England. Kyle Walker made the decisive sliding challenge that thwarted Arsenal record signing Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang.
Perhaps Wenger should have emulated Guardiola by spending heavily to reinforce his defense. It was as fragile as ever when it was unpicked after 18 minutes. It didn't require any of the slick passing moves that are Guardiola's hallmark. Instead it was a long punt forward by goalkeeper Claudio Bravo that set up Aguero.
Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi was beaten to the ball far too easily by Aguero, who broke forward and dinked the ball over goalkeeper David Ospina. Both teams stuck with their second-choice goalkeepers, who have been deployed throughout the competition - reflecting the status of the cup. There was a further blow for Arsenal when Nacho Monreal was forced off injured and Sead Kolasinac was brought on. Kolasinac did come to the rescue just before halftime with a goal-line clearance after Aguero chipped Ospina. But City was just too strong for Arsenal with Kompany leading by example at 31 after being blighted by a string of injuries in recent years. The center back won the corner that he scored City's second from in the 58th minute.
Kevin De Bruyne passed to Ilkay Gundogan on the edge of the penalty area and Kompany was primed in front of goal to turn the German's shot into the net. "You have to be prepared to put in those six months of hard work," Kompany reflected on his injury problems, amid the celebrations. "But it's worth the hard work to be standing out there. Every chance you have, you have to take." Just as City did against an Arsenal side that capitulated.
It was game over in the 65th minute when Silva was released by Danilo and he turned Calum Chambers before striking past Ospina.
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