Excitement is starting to build as the League Cup reaches its final stages. The tournament gets a fair bit of flak from large sections of English football supporters, but once you get down to the business end of the competition, every set of fans is desperate to see their team lift the trophy.
With Arsenal taking on Liverpool and Chelsea facing off against Tottenham Hotspur for a place at Wembley Stadium, it seems a good time to look back on the recent editions of the League Cup final. The last few years of the competition have been dominated by Manchester City, but let’s take a look back at how they won the last three of their four successive League Cup final triumphs.
2019: Manchester City (p) 0-0 Chelsea
We start with a match that, although goalless at the end of 120 minutes, was not without incident. There was not a whole lot of goalmouth action throughout the course of the final, but an extraordinary situation brought the occasion to life in extra time.
As the game drew near to a dreaded penalty shootout, Chelsea boss Mauricio Sarri took the decision to substitute goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga with backup stopper Willy Cabellero — who is something of a penalty-saving expert. However, Kepa refused to leave the pitch, signaling to the bench that he wanted to stay on, continuing to defy his manager despite Sarri’s increasing rage.
The Chelsea manager eventually stormed down the tunnel in disgust, before re-emerging moments later to see whether Kepa could redeem himself. Despite saving Leroy Sané’s spot-kick, Kepa was ultimately powerless to stop Manchester City, who laid claim to the trophy.
2020: Manchester City 2-1 Aston Villa
It’s fair to say that Aston Villa’s appearance in the 2020 League Cup final went somewhat against the bet exchange on Betdaq. After all, Dean Smith’s side had only just been promoted to the Premier League that season and most felt the match was likely to be a procession for the defending champions.
Goals from Sergio Agüero and Rodri gave Pep Guardiola’s side a 2-0 lead after just 30 minutes, and it looked as though Aston Villa were going to wilt under the pressure of the Wembley spotlight. However, City was made to work for their trophy, as Mbwana Samatta’s strike minutes before half-time gave the underdogs a flicker of hope.
Villa huffed and puffed in the second half, but City ultimately had too much quality and secured a third successive League Cup triumph.
2021: Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Moving on to last year’s final, Tottenham Hotspur had taken the decision to sack manager José Mourinho just days before the showpiece fixture against Manchester City. The match had been moved from its usual February/March slot to late April due to congestion caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Tottenham’s form had dipped by that point, and Mourinho paid the price.
Ryan Mason was the man in charge on the Wembley touchline, and despite a spirited performance from Spurs, City ran out 1-0 winners thanks to Aymeric Laporte’s late header. There was a gulf in class between the two sides despite the narrow scoreline, and although Tottenham had chances, it always felt like City’s grasp on the trophy would not be loosened.