When Manchester City travel to Wembley on Sunday, they will look to see off Arsenal by blending experience and youth. Yaya Touré and Leroy Sané will be at the opposite end of the spectrum as they look to guide The Blues to their first FA Cup final since 2013.
Pep Guardiola’s squad has plenty of youthful talent, but the nature of youth means that their experience of showpiece occasions is a little sparse. On the other hand, the longer serving players in the ranks have experienced every high and low that such matches can bring.
Sanê will be making his Wembley debut with his club and will be looking to continue his impressive recent form. In 30 City appearances this season, he’s registered an impressive nine goals. He’s played against Arsenal twice and scored each time; he’ll fancy his chances of finding the net again.
That said, his experience of these occasions is non-existent. He’s played in huge stadiums and plays for his country, but a Wembley occasion makes even the steeliest nerves jangle. It will help the German to have vastly experienced players around him.
To this end, he can look to plenty of his colleagues for guidance. As mentioned, Touré has been through every high and low possible. He’s won and lost cup finals, both at domestic and international level.
Touré is, of course, synonymous with great Wembley moments. He has scored winning goals in the FA Cup semi-final and final, as well as an equaliser in a League Cup Final with one of the greatest goals Wembley has ever seen. Last season, he scored the decisive penalty in a shootout against Liverpool that secured another League Cup win.
If Sané starts to find things going against him, if his nerves need calming or he needs a pep talk, Touré will be there. It’s a glorious blend that City must make use of. The examples don’t stop with those two players.
Raheem Sterling, who does have a League Cup to his name, can look to David Silva. Gabriel Jesus, could seek words of encouragement from Sergio Agüero, if the young Brazilian finds himself named in the squad.
Guardiola will have to make a big decision with his team selection in choosing whether to play Vincent Kompany from the start. The Belgian was impressive at Southampton last week. If he feels fit enough, he has more than earned the right to start.
He would be the perfect partner for John Stones. The young England man is surely going to play in a lot more of these matches in his career, but at this point it would do him the world of good to be martialed through it by Kompany. The captain’s leadership could be crucial in ensuring a calm defensive performance.
As City look to secure a trophy to accompany the top four finish they crave in the league, they will be wary of Arsenal. That said, Arsene Wenger’s men are in poor form and City should be confident. A blend of old heads and the eagerness of youth could see them returning to Wembley in May for the final.