Sunday 25 February 2018

Arsenal shine against Toffees but prepare for Europa League

Arsenal 3 Everton 1

Morgan Schneiderlin of Everton and Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal in action. Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Morgan Schneiderlin of Everton and Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal in action. Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Jason Burt

Finally, after 20 years, Arsenal have fallen out of the top four and failed to qualify for the Champions League.

Never has an impressive, attacking victory, earned largely with 10 men, felt so hollow, especially as it came at a heavy price, with their best defender, Laurent Koscielny, red-carded and out of next Saturday's FA Cup final against Chelsea. Alexis Sanchez was also substituted early on, presumably as an injury precaution.

Arsenal's Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey (C) plays on the pitch. Photo: Getty Images
Arsenal's Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey (C) plays on the pitch. Photo: Getty Images

Then there were the chants. "Stan Kroenke get out of our club" rang around the stadium more than once, as did a chorus of "Wembley", in reference to that forthcoming final.

When the 'lap of appreciation' began after the final whistle sounded in the win over Everton, Arsene Wenger did not join in.

He then delivered a flimsy, unconvincing press conference, in which he veered between basically admitting that the uncertainty over his future had been a factor in the team failing, before arguing that winning seven of the last eight league games showed it was not a distraction after all.

Culture

Next season it will be Europa League, Thursday nights, and a culture shock for Arsenal and for Wenger, who had clearly issued his team with a clear instruction: attack.

Mesut Ozil of Arsenal and Ashley Williams of Everton in action. Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Mesut Ozil of Arsenal and Ashley Williams of Everton in action. Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

It was one that they did not waver from, even when Koscielny was rightly red-carded - quite how the Arsenal fans could blame Enner Valencia, who was booed, was incredible as the Arsenal captain lunged recklessly at the Everton forward when he sprinted through.

Arsenal went ahead early. Danny Welbeck met Hector Bellerin's cross and then he made a terrible hash of Mesut Ozil's low ball in. It was a terrible miss, but it broke to Bellerin, who jabbed it home.

Arsenal went further ahead after some awful defending by Everton, who stopped, expecting Welbeck to be flagged offside, after a shot rebounded through to him from outside the box. However, he was onside and simply turned the ball back to Sanchez, who tapped it in.

There was an unlikely lifeline for Everton when Nacho Monreal was correctly pulled up for handball as he tried to control Leighton Baines' cross and Romelu Lukaku stepped up to drive the penalty past Petr Cech.

Gabriel of Arsenal tackles Kevin Mirallas of Everton. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
Gabriel of Arsenal tackles Kevin Mirallas of Everton. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Arsenal confirmed their win in injury-time as Ozil dribbled into the Everton area and laid the ball off to Aaron Ramsey, who swivelled and arced a superb chip over Joel Robles. © Daily Telegraph, London.

 

Ross Barkley of Everton and Hector Bellerin of Arsenal clash. Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Ross Barkley of Everton and Hector Bellerin of Arsenal clash. Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

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