Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League hopes took a truly major blow on Monday night when they slumped to a 2-0 away defeat to Newcastle United. Now chasing the pack rather than leading it, Arsenal needed results to go their way on the final day of the season if they were to stand any chance at participating in the competition next season.
Given the unlikelihood of Norwich City being able to beat Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal were staring down the barrel of once again returning to the UEFA Europa League.
Nevertheless, their task was to win and focus on themselves, as they entertained Everton at home.
Arsenal started very well and had all the appearance of a team ready to fight to the death to secure 3 points. Everton couldn’t get the ball from Arsenal and struggled to retain it on the rare occasions they did.
Controversy is never usually far away from Arsenal and it once again reared its ugly head in the form of a VAR penalty call.
Gabriel Martinelli struck his shot against the arm of former-Gunner Alex Iwobi, and after a lengthy VAR deliberation, which involved the referee needing to look at the screen, Arsenal had the chance to open the scoring, which Gabriel Martinelli dutifully took, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Arsenal continued to push on and punish Everton further.
While Everton have, notoriously, been very poor from set-pieces this season, Arsenal, conversely, have been anything but. A superb corner from Bukayo Saka was headed on by Martinelli and was headed in by Eddie Nketiah who, likely playing his final ever game for the club, gave the Gunners’ a 2-0 lead.
Arsenal’s inability to keep a clean sheet was perhaps the only downer on the performance, as Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s cross was well met by an unmarked Donny van de Beek, to give Everton a lifeline.
Half-time came and went and Arsenal flew out of the blocks with the same intensity that they finished the first.
Everton struggled to contain Arsenal and seemed to barely survive each Arsenal attack, culminating in yet another Arsenal corner, which Saka passed to the edge of the 18-yard box and allowed Cédric Soares to lash home to make it 3-1.
Arsenal were not done yet. Another exceptionally poor bit of defending from another Arsenal corner gave Gabriel Magalhães the chance to take a touch and then smash the ball into the back of the net, with questions perhaps being asked of Everton goalkeeper, Asmir Begović.
The more Everton tried to keep Arsenal out, the more they were punished. Arsenal looked lethal on several occasions, with Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Alexandre Lacazette all coming closest for the hosts.
However, the day was rounded off when substitute Nicolas Pépé, brought the ball down beautifully and played in Martin Ødegaard, who danced his way into the penalty area and let off a superb, rolled effort into the far corner to seal the day on a glorious day in…ironically, N5.
It’s a shame that Arsenal’s victory essentially meant nothing. Tottenham’s 5-0 rout of Norwich means that Arsenal, despite their impressive performance today, will play next season in the Europa League.
Regardless of Arsenal’s European fate or indeed how poor Everton were on the day, Arsenal were exceptional and the game will likely go down as one of the team’s best performances this season.
Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli and Mohamed Elneny were all exceptional throughout and the crowd made sure all three knew about it towards the end of the game.
For many, this will serve as a fond farewell. Alexandre Lacazette is out of contract now and will surely move on. Eddie Nketiah’s future is less certain, but is more than likely to follow the Frenchman out of the door, as too could Mohamed Elneny.
There is also the fact that many who nevertheless are under contract, could also make their way to the exit door too. Cédric Soares and Nicolas Pépé the most likely to do so.
Regardless of the politics off the field, nothing can take away the immaculate performance Arsenal showed today. Arsenal’s attention will now turn to fixing their issues in the team as the summer transfer windows open shortly.
32.) Aaron Ramsdale
17.) Cédric Soares
16.) Rob Holding
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
20.) Nuno Tavares
25.) Mohamed Elneny
34.) Granit Xhaka (Lokonga 62’)
7.) Bukayo Saka (Pépé 76’)
8.) Martin Ødegaard (c)
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
30.) Eddie Nketiah (Lacazette 62’)
1.) Bernd Leno
69.) Zak Swanson
4.) Benjamin White
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
87.) Charlie Patino
65.) Salh-Eddine Oulad M’Hand
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
19.) Nicolas Pépé
9.) Alexandre Lacazette
15.) Asmir Begović
17.) Alex Iwobi
2.) Jonjo Kenny
4.) Mason Holgate
5.) Michael Keane
32.) Jarrad Branthwaite
26.) Tom Davies (Price 77’)
16.) Abdoulaye Doucouré (van de Beek 35’)
11.) Demari Gray
36.) Dele Alli (Gordon 61’)
9.) Dominic Calvert-Lewin
31.) Andy Lonergan
64.) Reece Welch
24.) Séamus Coleman
19.) Vitalii Mykolenko
60.) Isaac Price
30.) Donny van de Beek
24.) Anthony Gordon
61.) Lewis Dobbin
20.) Cenk Tosun