Arsenal put Sanchez saga behind them to reach Wembley
Arsenal 2, Chelsea 1 (Aggregate 2-1)
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes his team have put the Alexis Sanchez saga behind them after they overcame Chelsea to reach the Carabao Cup final.
The Gunners fought back after conceding an early Eden Hazard strike, with an Antonio Rudiger own goal and Granit Xhaka scoring to set up a clash with Manchester City at Wembley on 25 February.
Wenger’s team have now won consecutive games, ending a five-match barren streak, since Sanchez left the squad at the weekend to complete a transfer to Manchester United.
“I felt that in January we paid a heavy price for uncertainty that was existing in our dressing room,” he said.
“Now we are back with clarity, we know what we have to do and we can focus on our game. We had a difficult month but we responded well.”
Arsenal lost to Birmingham seven years ago in their last League Cup final appearance but are now on a nine-game winning streak at Wembley.
“It’s unfinished business,” Wenger added. “Now we are in it we want to win it.“
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte felt Arsenal had been “a bit lucky”, with deflections contributing to both goals, and appeared to lament a lack of input in his club’s transfer business.
“The club decides our transfer market. My task is to improve the team, make the best decisions, find the right balance,” said Conte.
“At the same time my task is to take the best of all my players. But in the transfer market, from the summer the club decides every single player that comes here.
“Sometimes I have an impact on this, sometimes I don’t. My first job is to be a coach. For sure I don’t have a big impact in the transfer market.”
Hazard gave Chelsea the lead that their more positive start merited in the seventh minute when Pedro’s simple pass split Arsenal’s centre-backs and he slotted past David Ospina.
The Gunners responded just five minutes later when Nacho Monreal headed a corner towards goal and it ricocheted off Marcos Alonso and Rudiger before beating wrong-footed goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
Arsenal carried the fight after the break and got their reward in the 61st minute when Alexandre Lacazette’s cross deflected kindly into the path of Xhaka and he stuck out a leg to poke past Caballero.