Arsenal knew a win would put pressure on Tottenham as they aimed to snatch a top-four spot, but Mikel Arteta’s side’s efforts were in vain despite Everton losing 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 victory over Everton at the Emirates Stadium.
Gabriel Martinelli headed home from the penalty spot in the 27th minute after VAR ruled Alex Iwobi blocked a shot with his arm. And they doubled the advantage from a free-kick, Martinelli passing Eddie Nketiah to head home. Donny van de Beek pulled one back at halftime to create 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 entered the final day with little chance of securing a top-four place and Tottenham’s 5-0 victory over Norwich City confirmed that they had missed out.
Here are five talking points from the final day showdown in north London.
1. Magnificent Martinelli
If Arteta doesn’t have a master plan that involves building his team around Martinelli, one has to wonder why the hell not. Throughout the season, the Brazilian has shone everywhere he’s been deployed, be it in the middle or on the left wing.
He doesn’t have the same showmanship that Brazilian players have in their repertoire, but a hard work ethic that makes him a joy for his manager to work with. He will press, run behind and most importantly, score and create goals regularly. On a day when Arsenal needed quality, he gave him a composed penalty and a smart shot to help Nketiah.
He tormented Iwobi and gave Everton defenders nightmares with his constant running. Whatever Arsenal’s activities this summer, their new No.11 must be one of the first names on the team sheet in August 2022.
2. Sign up Nketiah
Arsenal fans must be wondering how late the club’s talks with Nketiah over a new contract are. The 22-year-old’s current deal expires in June and several Premier League clubs are reportedly interested in signing him.
His recent performances have proven Arteta right to give him a race ahead of Alexandre Lacazette, who looks set for a summer start. Nketiah found strengths, not just in the goals department, but also pressing forward and breathing new life into this toothless attack. He now has five goals in his last seven appearances, showing he is ready to keep fighting for his boyhood club.
Now it’s up to the club to do their part and reward him with a new contract. Nketiah may not be a starting striker next season, but heading into the summer, he could be the only recognized striker Arteta has to start the season with, depending on how his research develops this summer. Based on that, he will be in safe hands if he can retain the Lewisham-born man beyond June 30.
3. Lampard needs defensive help
Frank Lampard may not be able to see the recurring problems plaguing his Everton side, but it’s obvious to most people outside the club that the manager needs help to improve his defensive methods. Too many times this season, Everton have made the same mistakes that saw them concede 25 goals in their nine away games under Lamaprd and forced them into miraculous turnovers just to salvage points.
Lampard knows that can’t be the case next season if he still avoids another nerve-wracking relegation fight, and perhaps a top defensive coach is needed to help point out where they are wrong. . Maybe his old friend John Terry would be willing to help him?
And yet, there were two self-inflicted goals they conceded against Arsenal. The first was an individual mistake by Iwobi, a moment of madness. The second was systematic, a problem that comes with the zonal marking of corner routines. If you don’t score man for man, you are already fighting a losing battle against players who get a free jump. And that’s exactly what happened when Arsenal, recognized as experts at set pieces, invaded the front post and won two headers before an Everton player did.
4. Arteta’s three regret games cost the top four
The way his team played with freedom and intent to attack would have made Arteta proud and annoyed in equal measure. On the one hand, it proves that his team is heading in the right direction, but the 39-year-old would only be human if he wondered where that performance was weeks or even months ago when they desperately needed.
Losses to Tottenham and Newcastle may have sunk the nails in 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. Their form has been too inconsistent and at crucial points in the season, while Tottenham have shown a clear ascendancy under Antonio Conte.
Arteta may have his excuses, ranging from injuries to the fixture list, but his side’s indiscipline and inexperience may have cost them more. It’s something to learn for next season, but this performance will at least bring some optimism for the months and years to come under his leadership.
Action Images via Reuters)
5. VAR does it right
Finally, VAR appears to have been used correctly and correctly in a Premier League game. 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 properly punished.
As Martinelli fired an effort towards goal, the ball appeared to hit Iwobi’s arm. The laws of handball are so convoluted in the modern game that it is difficult to decipher what technically a handball is. 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 a case where referee Andre Marriner was blind and from that side of the pitch the assistant referee could only see the opposite side of the Everton winger.
VAR was therefore bound to make the final decision and Marriner was recommended to check the pitchside monitor. After careful consideration at normal and slow speed, it was clear that the penalty was the right action. VAR can be used properly if not rushed and the Premier League can use this incident as a clear example after several controversies this season.