Tuesday 18 September 2018

Arsene Wenger gets the perfect send off on emotional day at the Emirates

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger salutes the fans
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger salutes the fans

Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsenal gave Arsene Wenger a memorable Emirates Stadium send-off as the outgoing boss saw his side thrash Burnley.

The Gunners were too strong for a side who could have easily spoilt Wenger's final home game in charge, with his tenure as Arsenal manager coming to a close at the end of the campaign.

Instead, they outclassed Burnley and ran out comfortable 5-0 winners as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang grabbed a brace, with Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac and Alex Iwobi also getting their names on the scoresheet.

The most recent meetings between these two sides have been close-fought affairs and, with just three points separating the pair heading into this game, it looked set to be a similar story.

But Wenger's players rose to the occasions and gave their long-serving boss a fond farewell to a stadium built in his image.

The mere fact the club are battling with Sean Dyche's men for sixth in the Premier League and have no chance of silverware in Wenger's final campaign is clearly one of the reasons a new man will be sought to bring success.

But whomever is named as Wenger's replacement will be buoyed by the attacking performances of Lacazette, Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with Mesut Ozil not featuring due to a back injury.

The trio were too strong for the visitors as the on-field display matched the effort made by the club to toast Wenger's departure - free T-shirts for every supporter, a commemorative programme and a guard of honour before the game giving the day a special feeling.

Arsenal needed less than 15 minutes to get Wenger out of his seat and celebrating the opening goal.

Lacazette exchanged passes with Iwobi before firing across goal, where Aubameyang slid in to put the Gunners ahead.

With majority owner Stan Kroenke in attendance, Arsenal were fairly at ease as Burnley's task was made more difficult following a shoulder injury to Ashley Barnes which forced him off.

Mkhitaryan fired just over the crossbar having been picked out by Lacazette before the former Manchester United man saw an effort deflected off Stephen Ward and saved by the legs of Clarets goalkeeper Nick Pope.

The second Arsenal goal came in first-half stoppage time as Iwobi fed Hector Bellerin, whose cutback was perfect for Lacazette to sweep past Pope.

Burnley forced Petr Cech into his first meaningful save shortly after the interval as Sam Vokes, on for the injured Barnes, headed straight at the Arsenal keeper.

But it would be Wenger's men who extended their lead as Jack Wilshere, whose own Arsenal future remains uncertain, rolled a pass into the path of Kolasinac for the full-back to rifle home the fifth goal of his debut season at the Emirates.

Mkhitaryan bent a shot inches wide just moments later, but Arsenal grabbed a fourth as Iwobi started and finished a slick move by thrashing in from 12 yards.

Wenger's best sides were known for their entertainment and, while his current charges are some way off that mark, they continued the Frenchman's goodbye as Aubameyang turned home his second of the game with 15 minutes remaining.

Wenger introduced Per Mertesacker in the closing stages, the 33-year-old also bowing out at the end of the season, albeit to take on a role in the youth-team set-up within the club.

Fellow substitute Danny Welbeck rattled the frame of the goal in the dying moments, with chants of 'There's only one Arsene Wenger' filling the stadium as the full-time whistle blew.

Star man - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Arsenal's record signing continued his impressive goal-scoring form since his January switch from Borussia Dortmund, making it eight Premier League strikes in 11 games with instinctive finishes to start and end the scoring.

Moment of the match

With all the attention on Wenger, it was easy to forget there was a match going on before Aubameyang got things going with the 14th minute opener. Alex Iwobi's superb dinked pass played in Alexandre Lacazette on the right and he drilled powerfully across goal for Gabon international Aubameyang to slide home from close range.

In with the crowd

There was a jubilant - albeit, at times, slightly subdued - atmosphere in the north London sunshine. Arsenal paid tribute to their outgoing manager by handing out t-shirts emblazoned with the message 'Merci Arsene' to all home supporters and they responded by singing the Frenchman's name. Chants of 'There's only one Arsene Wenger' and 'Arsene give us a wave' could be heard at regular intervals and the celebratory mood was improved by a dominant performance on the pitch.

Wenger watch

After emerging from the tunnel to a guard of honour formed by players from both clubs and the match officials, Wenger clapped the home crowd before quickly retreating to the familiarity of the dugout. He remained seated for the majority of the game and appeared slightly embarrassed by the fuss and attention.

Data point

Sunday's game was Wenger's 606th - and final - home match in charge of the Gunners. His first was on October 19 1996 when Coventry secured a goalless draw at Highbury. Burnley boss Sean Dyche played for Chesterfield in the third tier on that day.

Ratings

Arsenal: Petr Cech (out of 10) 7, Hector Bellerin 7, Calum Chambers 6, Konstantinos Mavropanos 7, Sead Kolasinac 7, Granit Xhaka 6, Jack Wilshere 6, Henrikh Mkhitaryan 7, Alex Iwobi 8, Alexandre Lacazette 8, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 8. Substitutes: Aaron Ramsey (on for Wilshere, 72) 5, Danny Welbeck (on for Lacazette, 72) 5, Per Mertesacker (on for Chambers, 77) 6.

Burnley: Nick Pope 5, Matthew Lowton 6, James Tarkowski 6, Kevin Long 6, Stephen Ward 5, Aaron Lennon 5, Ashley Westwood 6, Jeff Hendrick 5, Jack Cork 65 Johann Berg Gudmundsson 6, Ashley Barnes 5. Substitutes: Sam Vokes (on for Barnes, 22) 6, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (on for Lennon, 71) 5, Nahki Wells (on for Gudmundsson, 89) 5.

Who's up next?

Leicester v Arsenal (Premier League, May 9)

Burnley v Bournemouth (Premier League, May 13)

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