Arsenal knew that a victory would put the pressure on Tottenham as they aimed to snatch a top-four spot, but Mikel Arteta’s side’s efforts were all in vain despite thrashing Everton 5-1 at the Emirates
Arsenal will play Europa League football next season after finishing fifth in the Premier League, despite an impressive 5-1 win over Everton at the Emirates Stadium.
Gabriel Martinelli slotted home from the penalty spot on 27 minutes after VAR adjudged Alex Iwobi had blocked a shot with his arm. And they doubled the advantage from a set piece, with Martinelli flicking on to Eddie Nketiah to head home. Donny van de Beek pulled one back on the stroke of half-time to make for an interesting second half.
Cedric restored the hosts’ two-goal cushion to make it 3-1 after finishing sublimely from Bukayo Saka’s corner and Gabriel Magalhaes added a fourth on the hour mark, before Martin Odegaard sealed the rout. Arsenal only went into the final day with only a slim chance of securing a top-four place and Tottenham’s 5-0 win over Norwich City confirmed they have missed out.
Here are four talking points from the final day showdown in north London.
1. Magnificent Martinelli
If Arteta doesn’t have a masterplan that involves building his team around Martinelli, one has to question why on earth not. Throughout the season, the Brazilian has shone wherever he has been deployed, be it through the middle or out on the left wing.
He doesn’t have the same showmanship that Brazilian players have in their repertoire, but a grinding work ethic which makes him a joy for his manager to work with. He will press, make runs in behind and crucially, score and create goals on a regular basis. On a day when Arsenal needed quality, he provided it with a composed penalty and clever flick-on to assist Nketiah.
He tormented Iwobi and gave the Everton defenders nightmares with his constant running. Regardless of what business Arsenal do this summer, their new No.11 has to be one of the first names on the teamsheet come August 2022.
2. Sign up Nketiah
Arsenal fans must be wondering what the delay is with the club’s talks with Nketiah over a new contract. The 22-year-old’s current deal expires in June and there are several Premier League clubs reportedly interested in snapping him up.
His recent performances have proven Arteta was right to give him a run in the side ahead of Alexandre Lacazette, who looks set for a summer departure. Nketiah has come up trumps, not just in the goalscoring department but also pressing from the front and breathing new life into this toothless attack. He now has five goals in his last seven appearances, demonstrating that he is ready to keep fighting for his boyhood club.
Now it is up to the club to do their bit and reward him with a new contract. Nketiah may not be a starting striker next season, but going into the summer he may be the only recognised striker that Arteta has to start the season with, depending on how his search goes this summer. On this basis, he will be in good hands if he can retain the Lewisham-born man’s services beyond June 30.
3. Arsenal’s three loss in a bounce cost top four
The way his side played with freedom and attacking intent would have made Arteta proud and annoyed in equal measure. On the one hand, it proves his side are moving in the right direction, but the 39-year-old would only be human if he wondered where this performance was weeks or even months ago, when they desperately needed it.
Defeats against Tottenham and Newcastle may have hammered the nails into their coffin, but a hat-trick of defeats to Southampton, Brighton and Crystal Palace, games that should have been won, proved his side were not ready for a top-four finish. Their form has been too inconsistent and at crucial times in the season, while Tottenham have shown a clear ascendancy under Antonio Conte.
Arteta may have his excuses, ranging from injuries to the fixture schedule, but his side’s own indiscipline and inexperience has cost them perhaps more. It is something to learn from for next season, but this performance will at least provide some optimism for the future months and years under his stewardship.
4. VAR finally gets it right
At long last, VAR appears to have been used properly and correctly in a Premier League match. Only Iwobi will know what he was doing trying to control a shot with his arm by moving it towards the ball rather than away from it, but the Nigerian was correctly punished.
As Martinelli fired an effort towards goal, the ball appeared to strike the arm of Iwobi. The handball laws are so convoluted in the modern game that it is difficult to decipher what is technically a handball. But on this occasion, there was no doubt: Iwobi’s arm was in an unnatural position and he moved his limb towards the ball. It was an instance where referee Andre Marriner was unsighted and, on that side of the pitch, the assistant referee could only see the opposite side of the Everton winger.
So VAR was required to make the final ruling and it was recommended that Marriner check the pitchside monitor. After a careful review at both normal and slow speed, it was clear the penalty was the right action. VAR can be used properly if it is not rushed and the Premier League can use this incident as a clear example going forward after several controversies this season.
Arsenal news: Gunners get double transfer boost as Bukayo Saka contract details emerge
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ARSENAL FCEVERTON FCPREMIER LEAGUE
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