• Julian Taylor at Emirates Stadium

Gunners sink Everton with five-goal salvo - but Arteta feeling pain of missing the Champions League



Arsenal 5 Everton 1


ON the face of it, a five-goal salvo at the end of the season in the north London sunshine should be pretty fine evidence of Arsenal’s fortunes.


However the sheer, emphatic, nature of this 5-1 victory against an extremely under-par Everton will ultimately be recognised as a footnote - and mere consolation of the Europa League for all the efforts of Mikel Arteta’s young squad at the end of their 2021-22 campaign.

Those faintest of dreams the Gunners had of pinching the last Champions League berth didn’t last long, as rivals Tottenham, meanwhile, were putting five goals themselves into the net at relegated Norwich City.


So it is Spurs who reach the continent’s premier competition and Antonio Conte’s side are already at least £30m better off than Arsenal due to a fourth-place finish.


The dismal nature of the Gunners’ last outing, when they completely froze in defeat to Newcastle United ultimately cost Arteta. However, at least the Arsenal fans can go into the summer encouraged, having witnessed a game they utterly dominated; the second half in particular was an absolute stroll.

Gabriel Martinelli set the north Londoners on their way with a 27th minute penalty, before Eddie Nketiah headed home four minutes later. A strange, surprising defensive concession saw Donny van Der Beek pull a goal back for the Toffees on the stroke of half time, but that was as good as it got for Everton. Thereafter, they visibly wilted, with Arsenal moving comfortably.


Surprise

Cedric Soares drove home the third with a firm, right-footed shot just inside the penalty area from a corner by Bukayo Saka which took Frank Lampard’s men by surprise before unmarked Gabriel crashed the ball past exposed Everton keeper Asmir Begovic with a left-foot shot from twelve yards.

And with eight minutes to go, Martin Odegaard outfoxed Isaac Price to stroke the ball into the net from the edge of the box to cap an excellent individual display.

Arsenal did all they could, and more, under the circumstances. How they must rue the damage and humiliation last Monday at St James’ Park.


If the odds were stacked against the Gunners in terms of Champions League qualification, Arteta could not disguise the ‘pain’ he is currently feeling. The Europa League will host the Gunners next term – but the Spaniard isn’t feeling it, at least not right now. “We did what we had to do,” said the Arsenal boss. “We needed a miracle – it didn’t occur and the end of season table doesn’t lie.

“We tried to give the fans what they deserved and to show them how we have come as a club and as a team. I can guarantee you that we have tried to squeeze the lemon but we can’t do every single job. You saw the reaction of the fans towards the team – they see what we are doing.


“That feeling of guilt, not reaching that level (Champions League) is painful. The fans can see what we can do and how the players represent the club. It hasn’t been good enough and we know what we have to do to take the club to the next level.”


Next season sees more responsibility lie with players such as Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe to ensure improvements all round at the Emirates. In addition, Arteta will shortly decide on the futures of Alexandre Lacazette, Mohamed Elneny and Eddie Nketiah, all of whom are out of contract.


Hopeful


“I’m really proud and a little surprised of how far they (Saka et al) have come,” he added. “I am hopeful of how much further they can come. But the standard of this club is that we have to win.


“If I’m honest I don’t get much satisfaction about that (Europa League). I hate losing and I am in pain, I am sorry.”


Lampard meanwhile, reinforced his ‘delight’ that Everton have – just about – retained their Premier League status, thanks to a dramatic victory over Crystal Palace. The Merseysiders’ work had therefore been done before they travelled to the capital.


“It was a difficult game for the players and Arsenal were playing for something. It was a step too far,” the Toffees’ boss admitted.


“My feeling (overall) is of absolute delight and relief to keep the club in the league. Nobody knows on the outside how the confidence was low, and injuries have been bad.


"We have to see how we can improve the squad and not be in this position next season. We have to regain freshness.”