Despite comfortably dispatching Everton 5-1 at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal missed out on Champions League qualification and will have to settle for a place in the Europa League after finishing in fifth place in the Premier League as their season came to a close.
Before a ball was kicked, the Gunners knew they needed to win their fixture and hope that Tottenham suffered a shock defeat to Norwich City at Carrow Road. Unfortunately for Mikel Arteta and his side, Spurs secured a 5-0 away win to seal a top-four place ahead of their biggest rivals.
Despite Arsenal needing a small miracle, they started the game superbly and pinned Everton back, forcing Asmir Begovic into making a couple of important saves.
Then, with 25 minutes on the clock, the Gunners were awarded a penalty, as Alex Iwobi was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box after a VAR check by referee Andre Marriner at the pitchside monitor.
Gabriel Martinelli dispatched the spot-kick coolly into the bottom-right corner to give Arsenal the lead.
Five minutes later, Eddie Nketiah doubled their advantage as the forward nodded in Martinelli’s flick-on from a Bukayo Saka corner beyond Begovic in the Everton goal.
However, seconds before half-time, Everton got one back against the run of play, as Donny van de Beek slotted home an easy tap-in from Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s cut back.
Despite getting back into the game, the Toffees looked like a side going through the motions in the second half, and Arsenal soon restored their two goal advantage in the 56th minute, as Cedric placed a fantastic strike from just inside the box into the top corner.
That opened the floodgates for Arsenal, and they began to run riot, as they had their fourth soon after, as Gabriel got in on the act, scoring from close range.
The rout was completed with just under ten minutes to play, as Martin Odegaard placed a curled strike into the bottom corner from inside the area to seal a big win on the final day for the Gunners.
TALKING POINT – ARSENAL THRASH EVERTON BUT DAMAGE WAS ALREADY DONE
This fantastic performance from Arsenal proved what they had in their locker in an attacking sense, as at times, scoring goals has been hard to come by for the Gunners during the course of the campaign.
However, the damage was done in the last two matches for Mikel Arteta’s side, going down to Tottenham and Newcastle respectively when their chances of finishing in the top four were firmly in their own hands. It meant that today had the feeling of a dead rubber, as Arsenal needed favours elsewhere, which ultimately did not go to plan.
Now, the inquest into this season will start for Arsenal. It is progress on their 8th-placed finish last campaign, but coming so close to a return to the Champions League and losing their way with three games to play will be tough to stomach. A lot of it will come down to having a threadbare squad, and failing to strengthen adequately in January.
In the end, the Arsenal board seem to be sticking by the process as Arteta now will remain in the hotseat for the foreseeable future, but changes will need to be made for the start of next season, and fans will want him to be backed further to shore up holes in the squad. Whether he and technical director Edu can be trusted to make those changes by the fanbase is another story.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – CEDRIC SOARES
With Takehiro Tomiyasu’s absence for Arsenal at right-back, Cedric stepped up in his absence and provided an assist as well as getting on the scoresheet himself.
This match suited the 30-year-old down to the ground, considering Everton’s tactical setup in a 5-4-1 shape. This meant that the right-back did not have much defending to do, and could play to his strengths and advance up the pitch on a regular basis to combine with Bukayo Saka down the right flank. This was either with an overlap down the byline, or with an underlapped run to provide a short option from crosses.
This combination worked well for Arsenal’s third goal, as Bukayo Saka’s short corner from the right was rifled in by the Portugese defender.
In total, Cedric made one key pass, had one successful dribble, and won all four of his attempted tackles.
Arsenal: Ramsdale 6, Tavares 6, Gabriel 7, Holding 6, Soares 8, Elneny 7, Xhaka 6, Martinelli 8, Odegaard 8, Saka 7, Nketiah 7. Subs: Pepe 7, Lacazette 6, Lokonga 6.
Everton: Begovic 6, Iwobi 5, Holgate 6, Keane 6, Branthwaite 6, Kenny 6, Alli 6, Doucoure 5, Davies 6, Gray 6, Calvert-Lewin 7. Subs: Van de Beek 7, Price 5, Gordon 6.
25’ – PENALTY FOR ARSENAL – Cedric whips a ball towards the far post from the right, but Iwobi gets the initial block in. The rebound then falls to Martinelli, who goes for the snapshot inside the area, but Iwobi once again puts his body on the line. The Brazilian claims for a penalty as it comes off the arm of Iwobi! It is being checked by VAR, and Andre Marriner has been asked to view the pitchside monitor. Marriner points to the spot!
26’ – GOAL! (Gabriel Martinelli penalty) – Arsenal lead! Martinelli opts to take and he converts! He coolly slots the ball home into the bottom-left corner! Begovic had no chance.
31’ – GOAL! (Eddie Nketiah) – Eddie Nketiah doubles Arsenal’s lead! Bukayo Saka’s whipped in corner is flicked on by Martinelli for the forward to head in from close range!
45+3’ – GOAL! (Donny van de Beek) – A goal for Everton against the run of play! They play the ball forward, and it finds Calvert-Lewin in the right channel. The forward cuts the ball back for Van de Beek in the box, and the Dutchman has an easy tap-in beyond Ramsdale.
56’ – GOAL! (Cedric Soares) – Cedric gets in on the act! The defender hits a fantastic effort from inside the box into the top corner after Saka plays his corner short to the full-back! Great finish!
59’ – GOAL! (Gabriel Magalhaes) – Gabriel now gets into the act for the Gunners, and once again it comes from a corner! The initial delivery from Saka is headed clear to the path of Cedric on the outside of the box. He goes for the strike, but it takes a deflection off an Everton defender and falls to the feet of Gabriel ahead of him, and the defender finishes well beyond Begovic from close range.
81’ – GOAL! (Martin Odegaard) – What a goal by Odegaard! He receives the ball from Pepe before running into the box and placing an effort into the bottom corner from inside the area. A fantastic finish.