Despite beating Everton 3:1 at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal will miss out on the prestigious Champions League next season. This is the first time under Arsene Wenger that the Gunners finish outside of the top four in the Premier League.
Arsenal was, in fact, still in contention for a top-four spot before their match against Everton. However, the Gunners’ fate wasn’t entirely in their hands, to begin with. In order to qualify for the Champions League playoff, Arsenal was relying on relegated Middlesbrough to at least get a draw against Liverpool at Anfield. Of course, Arsene Wenger’s men still had to win against the Toffees if they were to qualify for the Champions League.
At the beginning of the day, Arsenal and Liverpool were separated by only one point in the table, with the Reds in fourth and the Gunners in fifth place. Had Liverpool drawn or lost against Middlesbrough, Arsenal would’ve moved ahead of them and ended the season in fourth place. And while it was highly unlikely that Liverpool would drop points against a relegated side at home, it didn’t seem completely impossible – at least during the first 45 minutes of the match.
In the first half, Liverpool was struggling to put the ball into the net, whereas Arsenal managed to score two goals despite being one man down. Laurent Koscielny, who captained the Gunners in today’s match, had to leave the pitch after receiving a red card for a reckless tackle on Enner Valencia. Still, Arsenal dominated the match as Hector Bellerin, Alexis Sanchez, and Aaron Ramsey got on the scoresheet.
Everton’s Romelu Lukkaku also scored from the penalty spot, but was unable to snatch the Golden Boot from Harry Kane, who’s scored 29 goals for Tottenham Hotspur this season. In hindsight, Everton didn’t seem to give it their all, as the team had nothing to play for. Even with a win, the Toffees would’ve remained in 7th place behind Manchester United.
Liverpool, on the other hand, tore Middlesbrough to shreds during the second half of the match. After Georginio Wijnaldum opened the scoring in the dying seconds of the first half, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana joined the Dutchman on the scoresheet. The match ended 3:0 for Liverpool.
Arsenal could’ve also qualified for the Champions League had Manchester City lost to Watford. Pep Guardiola’s men, however, were in inspired form and scored a total of five goals against the Hornets.
Ultimately, Arsenal’s efforts were in vain, and their fans are surely disappointed about missing out on the top-four spot despite an emphatic win over Everton. Nonetheless, the Gunners still have the FA Cup to play for next Saturday, when they face off against Premier League champions Chelsea at Wembley Stadium. This will be Arsenal’s only shot at silverware this season.
And while the Blues have impressed under Antonio Conte, the Gunners have a splendid record in the FA Cup competition, having lifted the trophy in two consecutive seasons in 2014 and 2015. Furthermore, Arsene Wenger, along with George Ramsay, holds the record for winning the most FA Cups – six times in total.
Still, missing out on the top four this season may prove to be costly for the 67-year-old manager. Wenger’s future is shrouded in uncertainty, as it remains unclear whether he will sign a new deal to extend his stay with the Gunners. According to BBC Sport, the Frenchman recently announced that his future at Arsenal would be decided in a board meeting after the FA Cup final.
The club is also desperate to hold on to their star players, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil. The pair runs out of contract at the end of next season, and Sanchez, in particular, has been linked with a move away from the Emirates this summer. The Chilean has repeatedly reiterated his desire to play in the Champions League, and the likes of Bayern Munich and Chelsea are reportedly keen on signing him, claims Metro.
[Featured Image by Jan Kruger/Getty Images]