Of the myriad qualities demonstrated by Pep Guardiola over the course of his tenure at City, overseeing a second successive route to the Carabao Cup final has confirmed he also deserves the accolode for mining his very own League Cup gold blend.
Guardiola, of course, has long established a reputation for being one of the game’s great alchemists.
He’s a coach blessed with that rarest of abilities of being able to mould individual elements into a cohesive unit, blending wonder and beauty alongside a lethal and ruthless cutting edge.
Pep provided ample illustration of that time and again during the course of his trophy-laden spells in charge at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
If anything, he has enhanced and further furnished his standing since taking over at City back in the summer of 2016.
Indeed, it could be argued Guardiola’s commitment to high-pressing, possession-based attacking football, first honed at the Nou Camp, has helped redefine the English game.
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And the City manager has achieved another notable achievement in guiding the Blues to a second successive Carabao Cup final.
For the Blues boss has been able to achieve that other rarest and most delicate of balancing acts – perfecting an ideal blend of youth and experience via our progress through to Sunday’s showdown with Chelsea.
While many clubs have tended to somewhat overlook the EFL Cup in their list of priorities, from the outset the City manager has treated the competition with the utmost respect.
His selections have consistently demonstrated both a steely resolve to achieve success alongside a willingness to provide a number of City’s exciting youngsters a senior platform on which to further their footballing development.
Pep laid down that successful formula last season when the Blues blazed a pathway to success as we secured the 2018 Carabao Cup in style with prodigious emerging young talent such as Phil Foden and Oleks Zinchenko shining on the big stage alongside their more experienced senior colleagues.
This season the Blues boss has stayed true to those core principles and beliefs while, arguably, giving even greater opportunities and exposure to a crop of exciting young players.
And, all along, the one over-arching tenant of his approach has been in affording maximum respect to the competition and our opponents.
Pep set his selection stall out with his line-up for our third-round opener away at Oxford in September where we recorded a 3-0 win.
Supported by a solid backbone of experience in the formidable shape of Vincent Kompany, John Stones, Danilo and record signing Riyad Mahrez, Guardiola also handed a senior debut to young goalkeeper Aro Muric with teenager Foden also starting and scoring his first senior goal for the club.
There was also a first senior appearance, from the bench, of promising Academy youngster Adrian Bernarbe.
Having laid down the template so successfully, Guardiola adopted it once again in our fourth-round encounter at home to Fulham on November 1st where the Cottagers were duly dispatched 2-0
Yet again, there was a spine of dependable experience and knowledge courtesy of Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Fabian Delph, Kompany and Stones, supplemented by the youth and exuberance of Muric, Foden and Zinchenko alongside two-goal Brahim Diaz who has subsequently moved to Real Madrid.
Just as at Oxford, there was also a useful cameo for another of the Club’s crop of exciting EDS talent – this time French midfielder Claudio Gomes who made a big impact on our 2018 summer tour to the United States.
Youth was to the fore once more as, for the second year running, we overcame Leicester City on penalties in the quarter-final, the Blues triumphing 3-1 on spot-kicks after the sides were deadlocked at 1-1 over normal time.
Muric was again entrusted in goal and more than repaid the bosses’s faith, emerging as City’s hero during the penalty shoot-out by saving two of the Foxes spot-kicks.
There was also a sparkling senior debut from 18-year-old Spanish central defender Eric Garcia who gave an accomplished and assured display on his senior bow alongside senior figure such as Nicolas Otamendi, Stones, Kyle Walker and De Bruyne.
Our two-legged semi-final against League One Burton Albion offered another key showcase for Muric and Garcia but it was City’s senior pros – inspired by four-goal Gabriel Jesus – who led the way as Nigel Clough’s side were overran 9-0 at the Etihad in the semi-final first leg.
It was a tough night for Burton but in reflecting on the result, Guardiola had the perfect answer for those who may have questioned the Club’s approach.
“To score is the best way to respect the competition and the opponents,” Pep told the press pack afterwards.
“We don’t have a lot of titles in our museum so every time we have the chance to try and be in a final, we have to take it and be hungry.
“The only way to do that is to take it seriously.”
With such a healthy lead in the deposit bank, the Blues were able to afford yet more opportunities to our next generation in the semi-final second leg.
It meant another senior debut for another of our exciting Academy prospects – this time in the shape of 18-year-old attacking midfielder Ian Carlo Poveda who made the senior step-up with aplomb.
He was joined in the second half by Felix Nmecha – younger brother of Lucas – who also finally made his Blues bow after having been named as an unused substitute in our Champions League home clash against Hoffenheim.
Now we eagerly await Sunday’s main event at Wembley to see how Guardiola blends his resources as City seek to further extend our formidable recent record in the tournament as we target a fourth League Cup success in five years.