Football

Gunners rediscover fire as they dump Chelsea out of League Cup

Win over Chelsea prove Arsenal could be better off without Sanchez

Arsenal began life without Alexis Sanchez with a bang, beating Chelsea 2-1 in the second leg of the League Cup last four yesterday morning (Singapore time) to set up a final meeting with Manchester City.

Fears that they would miss the star Chilean forward, who moved to Manchester United four days ago, proved unfounded on the back of their performance at the Emirates Stadium.

Former Chelsea captain Andy Townsend described the gritty display as the perfect response to losing arguably the best Arsenal player of the last four years.

He told Sky Sports' The Debate show: "It's a brilliant result. They went behind, came back and did it the hard way.

"This is a fantastic boost for Arsenal, especially when the same questions about whether Arsene (Wenger) should have gone in the summer are still surfacing.

"On the back of Alexis Sanchez going, it's a fantastic answer from the rest of the camp how united they are, how they believe in what they are doing and how good they can be.

"Whenever Arsenal play against Chelsea and win, it's significant, so to do so in the semi-final of the League Cup is bonus territory."

The Gunners recovered from an early goal by Chelsea's Eden Hazard to turn around the second leg with an own goal by Antonio Ruediger and a second-half strike by Granit Xhaka. The first leg had ended goalless.

Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jermaine Jenas believes Arsenal manager Wenger's decision to drop Mohamed Elneny into a defensive three turned the game around.

Said the BBC pundit: "Fair play to Arsenal.

"In the first half, I was worried, it wasn't looking good.

"A completely different team came out in second half, they got themselves back into the game and I think the better team won.

"Chelsea didn't offer enough or do enough. Most of those Chelsea players can't look at themselves and say they deserved to win that game.

STROKE OF GENIUS

"Managers are often stubborn but Arsene Wenger saw his team needed help at half-time. Moving Mohamed Elneny back was a stroke of genius."

Arsenal manager Wenger said the victory showed they were over the upheaval caused by Sanchez's move to Manchester United.

The team endured a poor run of form in recent weeks but the comeback win over Chelsea means they will face Man City in the League Cup final on Feb 25.

"I felt that in January we paid a heavy price for uncertainty in our dressing-room," Wenger said. "Now we are back with more clarity. We know what we have to do. We can focus on our game."

Arsenal sit sixth in the Premier League, 23 points behind leaders Man City, and they lost to Championship side Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, leaving the League Cup as the only route to domestic silverware.

Sanchez was sold to Manchester United after weeks of speculation that he was on his way out of the London club, reported Reuters.

Wenger said he could not comment on the likelihood of Arsenal signing striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Germany's Borussia Dortmund as a way to offset the loss of Sanchez.

"What's best is I don't talk about that because it won't help," Wenger said.

"If something happens, it happens. If it doesn't happen, we are strong enough to focus on the players we have... I am perfectly happy with the players we have. We are open to strengthening the team and the squad but we are not close to signing anybody."

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