Ten-man Arsenal have failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in the last 20 seasons, despite defeating Everton 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium on the final day of the season.
An early Héctor Bellerín goal set the North Londoners on their way to achieving their goals for the afternoon, but an early red card for Laurent Koscielny threatened to scupper their early momentum.
Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey either side of Romelu Lukaku’s second-half penalty gave Arsenal a 3-1 victory, but a win for Liverpool at Anfield against Middlesbrough meant the Gunners would finish 5th.
Mesut Özil was on hand to create the first goal, latching on to a loose ball inside the box and squaring a pass from the byline that was initially missed by Danny Welbeck but tapped in by Héctor Bellerín in the 7th minute.
Arsenal’s hopes of claiming a result would complicate itself soon after, however, as Laurent Koscielny’s reckless lunge on Enner Valencia reduced Arsenal down to 10 men as early as the 15th minute.
Everton looked to make immediate use of their numerical advantage, as Romelu Lukaku was set up for a right-footed shot inside the box that was fizzed wide and out of danger.
Koscielny’s red did little to kill off Arsenal’s early enthusiasm, as Welbeck reacted quickest to a deflected Alexis Sanchez shot to set the latter up for a simple close-range-finish in the 27th minute.
Petr Čech starred at the other end, as a looped header from Lukaku was tipped over the bar in the 42nd minute.
Lukaku had another chance to inflict damage on the brink of half-time, but, via a Gabriel Paulista deflection, the Belgian’s shot was dragged wide to keep Arsenal’s sheet clean for the time being.
Joel Robles claimed two saves from Arsenal’s attack and, as Liverpool doubled their lead versus Middlesbrough to block the Gunners’ top four entry, the problems continued to mount for Arsène Wenger with Gabriel’s injury.
Michael Oliver snubbed calls for a second yellow card for Ashley Williams, with the referee doing little to endear himself to the Emirates faithful when signalling for an Everton penalty from Rob Holding’s handball soon after.
Lukaku would be the man trusted to convert the spot-kick in the 58th minute and did so without mistake to claim his 25th league goal of the season.
Morgan Schneiderlin was next to he let off the hook with what appeared to be a clear second bookable offence for the Toffees midfielder in the 64th minute, as the tensions grew between the two sides.
Özil had the chance to restore Arsenal’s two-goal-advantage courtesy of a threaded Ramsey pass, but it was Robles again in the 74th minute who made himself big enough to keep the German’s effort out.
Alex Iwobi had his sights firmly set on the third goal for the North Londoners when waltzing into the box before Robles took advantage of a poor finish from the young midfielder.
Come the 91st minute, Ramsey would kill the game off as he received Özil’s pass on the edge of the box to curl an effort up and over Robles to find the top corner.
3-1 would be how it’d end, as Arsenal gear up for one final encounter against Chelsea in the FA Cup final next Saturday.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Player Ratings: Petr Čech (8); Gabriel Paulista (6), Laurent Koscielny (5), Rob Holding (6); Héctor Bellerín (8), Granit Xhaka (6), Aaron Ramsey (7), Nacho Monreal (7); Mesut Özil (8), Danny Welbeck (5), Alexis Sanchez (6)
Subs: Francis Coquelin (6), Per Mertesacker (6), Alex Iwobi (6)