MIKEL ARTETA must be thinking that someone up there has got it in for him as he contemplates a miserable Christmas and an unhappy New Year.
Even his magic touch in the cup competitions has now deserted the bewildered Spaniard who simply doesn’t know where his next win is coming from.
Manchester City breezed past Arsenal to reach the Carabao Cup semi-finalsCredit: Reuters
Phil Foden starred as Gunners keeper Alex Runarsson had a night to forgetCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Riyad Mahrez bagged a free-kick after a howler from Alex RunarssonCredit: AFP or licensors
The Gunners No2 let the Algerian’s tame effort slip through his fingersCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Gabriel Jesus gave City the perfect start with a close-range headerCredit: EPA
His struggling team were ruthlessly put to the sword by a rampant Manchester City looking to win the League Cup for a fourth straight season.
And with friends like Pep Guardiola, Arteta certainly doesn’t need enemies.
His managerial mentor clearly wasn’t in the mood to do for his former Etihad assistant any favours on yet another night to forget for Arsenal.
Pretty much everything that could go wrong for the Gunners did go wrong as they suffered their heaviest defeat of Arteta’s year in charge.
Gabriel Martinelli could be facing another long spell on the sidelines after limping out of the action after just 47 minutes.
Keeper Alex Runarsson threw one in to give City a helping hand which they really didn’t need and even VAR couldn’t come to Arteta’s rescue.
Now you wonder how much further Arsenal can fall as they face the nightmare prospect of a Boxing Day visit from Chelsea.
They could hardly have got off to a worse start last night when they found themselves behind just 125 seconds after kick-off.
Aymeric Laporte completed the rout with City’s fourth late onCredit: Reuters
Alexandre Lacazette had fired the host level with a first-half headerCredit: AFP or licensors
The Frenchman ended his own goal scoring droughtCredit: AP:Associated Press
Oleksandr Zinchenko was given far too much room to cross to the near post where Gabriel Jesus was allowed to drift between Shkodran Mustafi and keeper Alex Runarsson to head home.
Arteta could only look on in silent fury as his team’s defensive deficiencies were once again laid bare for all to see.
He had made wholesale changes to the team beaten by Everton at the weekend yet all the familiar failings remained.
His players looked terrified of their own shadows as they consistently backed off a rampant City team who could clearly smell blood.
Fernandinho’s unchallenged effort was deflected just wide by Gabriel and Runarsson was fortunate not to be tackled by Jesus in his own six-yard box as he dithered over a back-pass.
City haven’t exactly set the world alight this season but they have been going quietly about their business in recent weeks and arrived at the Emirates on the back of an eight-game unbeaten run.
More worrying for Arsenal was the knowledge that their opponents had conceded only once during that time…and even that was an own-goal.
So it was an absolute bolt out of the blue when the Gunners equalised in the 31st minute with virtually their first attack of the evening as Alex Lacazette held off Aymeric Laoprte to head in.
It was a goal which owed everything to the persistence of teenager Martinelli, whose pinpoint cross on the run was simply crying out for a finish.
It says everything about Arsenal’s current dilemma that they are pinning so many of their hopes on the 19-year-old Argentine who was starting his first game since a summer knee operation.
Gabriel Martinelli’s first start since returning from injury ended earlyCredit: Getty Images – Getty
The Brazilian was forced off in the second-half after an earlier collision with Zack SteffenCredit: AP:Associated Press
Arteta has been doing everything he can to lower the burden of expectation on the shoulders of the returning striker.
But Martinelli has shown is more than happy to carry that weight and is probably the one ray of light at the Emirates right now.
Sadly for Arsenal, that was to prove the youngster’s final contribution to the evening after being caught a painful blow on the ankle by keeper Zack Steffen as they challenged for Joe Willock’s through ball.
⚽ Read our Arsenal live blog for the latest news from The Emirates
He tried to soldier on following lengthy treatment during the half-time interval but two minutes after the restart had to be replaced by Nicolas Pepe.
Now Arsenal will be praying that his injury is not as serious as it initially appeared because there is precious little else for anxious Gunners fans to get excited about.
Any hope of somehow snatching a 16th win in 17 cup ties under Arteta were completely dashed by a devastating three-goal burst in the space of 19 second-half minutes.
City should already have been out of sight by then with Laporte and Ruben Dias both heading decent chances wide before Jesus was thwarted by Runarsson after being sent in on goal by a delightful backheel from Phil Foden.
But Arsenal’s Icelandic keeper was found badly wanting when he allowed Riyad Mahrez’s 54th minute free-kick to slip right through his fingers to restore City’s lead.
And worse was to follow on the hour when Runarsson was beaten again by Foden’s deft finish from Fernandinho’s through pass.
TV replays showed that the young England star was half a yard offside when he was played in but without VAR to intervene there was no-one to spare the blushes of linesman Stuart Burt.
Not that City needed assistance to secure their place in this evening’s semi-final draw in the trophy which Guardiola has come to regard as his own personal property.
They made sure of their victory in the 73rd minute when Laporte headed in unchallenged from Foden’s cross and you almost started to feel sorry for Arsenal after that.
Arteta says that he is not prepared to tolerate victims in his squad but there is still plenty of room for losers.