As Arsene Wenger’s tenure as Arsenal manager gets ever closer to its finish, there is one trophy that has eluded the longest-serving manager in English football – the League Cup.
Close scrapes with success have been and gone, Wenger now needs just the early season trophy to have – as it would be called in many other sports – a career Grand Slam. Lifting the League Cup, of course, would not compensate should Arsenal fail to lift the Champions League or Premier League before Wenger hangs up his clipboard, but it is an anomaly that Wenger has never won the competition. There are a number of reasons why he hasn’t won it, yet it always seemed an obvious answer to the trophy drought that Arsenal suffered until they won the FA Cup in 2013.
With Champions League progression looking almost nailed on, EFL Cup distraction could be a hindrance to a potentially great season for the club. The team has a balance that hasn’t been witnessed on a regular basis at the Emirates in years, they’re playing with the verve of winners. It has all been seen before, mind. These spells of irresistible brilliance have appeared almost annually for the Gunners, with the inevitable slump in form, injury crisis and fan anger being the bane of the club for the best part of the last ten years.
It will be weeks until we know if this season will be different. Wenger’s career record in the months of November and December is significantly poorer than in the early, or later, months of the English season. This has been one of the downfalls to any potential success in the League Cup. The timing of the competition means that Arsenal’s mid-season woes make success nigh on impossible.
Arsenal points/game Wenger era
— Orbinho (@Orbinho) October 25, 2016
Traditional patterns for Arsenal’s campaigns have often been blamed on – sometimes fairly – injuries. Regular crises, paired with an insufficient squad, have seen Wenger forced into naming some obscure line-ups in vital periods of the season. But this current squad has a depth that has been so rare at Arsenal: it has almost become a foreign concept. In all areas of the team, there are players who have experience, talent and are more than able deputies. History makes it hard to determine how this campaign will pan out, but the signs are there that Wenger and Arsenal are ready to break out of their rut.
Murmurings surfaced from Arsenal’s annual general meeting that Wenger’s retirement is now an immediate possibility. With chances of silverware limited and a fierce race for the Premier League title in the offing, the EFL Cup is a welcome opportunity for Wenger to win some silverware. Wenger currently has one of his very best Arsenal squads at his disposal, giving him the perfect chance to end his career with a trophy-littered finale.
EFL Cup success might not suffice for the Wenger doubters, but it would allow him to join an elite smattering of managers who have lifted all the trophies on offer in English football.