Wenger praises ‘silent leaders’ as Arsenal book place at Wembley
After beating Chelsea 2-1 in semi-final, Gunners boss says he has 'unfinished business' in League Cup - and appears to take a swipe at Alexis Sanchez after striker's big-money move to Man United
24 January, 2018 — By Tom Foot
League Cup Semi-final, Second Leg
ARSENAL 2, CHELSEA 1 (Agg 2-1)
ARSENE Wenger hailed his “silent leaders” after watching the Gunners fight back from a goal down to beat Chelsea 2-1 in last night’s League Cup semi-final second leg.
After a goalless first leg, a Granit Xhaka flick and an own goal from Antonio Rudiger – forced by Nacho Monreal – mean the Gunners will take on runaway league leaders Manchester City at Wembley on February 25.
And in an apparent dig at Alexis Sanchez, Wenger praised Monreal for his man-of-the-match performance.
“He doesn’t make many statements, he’s not on a lot of social networks,” said Wenger. “He is one of our silent leaders that I like, the type of player that comes in, they don’t talk too much, they play well and go back home. They are the silent leaders, the true leaders here.”
He added: “We have paid a high price for uncertainty in the dressing room but we are back now with clarity and focus.”
Wenger was in bullish mood in the press conference, saying he had “unfinished business” in the League Cup after losing to Birmingham seven years ago.
It was the fifth time Arsenal had played Chelsea this season and the Gunners have lost none.
The visitors opened the scoring through Eden Hazard, rolling the ball past David Ospina on seven minutes after the central defence was split with ease.
Arsenal grabbed an equaliser just five minutes later, Monreal’s powerful header ping-ponging off the confused heads of Marcus Alonso and Rudiger, before flying past Willy Caballero.
Chelsea had the better of the first half but in the second Wenger switched formation from four at the back to a 3-5-2.
“It gave us more freedom and we controlled the game in the second half and we always looked like we could win,” he said.
Xhaka poked in a deflected cross from Alexandre Lacazette after 62 minutes.
In truth, the Gunners had for long spells of the game lacked invention and, bar another virtuoso performance from Mesut Ozil, looked incapable of passing through the Chelsea defence.
Alex Iwobi should have sealed the win on 80 minutes but struck straight down the middle.
Jack Wilshere put in a big shift as the Gunners stood firm at the end to see the tie out.
ARSENAL: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Monreal, Koscielny, Elneny, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ozil, Iwobi (Ramsey 84), Lacazette (Kolasinac 84).
Subs not used: Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Macey, Nelson, Nketiah.
CHELSEA: Caballero, Rudiger, Alonso, Christensen, Pedro (Batshuayi 65), Kante, Hazard, Willian (Barkley 30), Bakayoko, Moses (Zappacosta 73), Azpilicueta.
Subs not used: Drinkwater, Cahill, Luiz, Eduardo.