Arsenal (2) 5 Everton (1) 1
Sunday, 22nd May 2022. Kick-off time: 4.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Cédric Soares, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Nuno Tavares; Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli; Eddie Nketiah.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Ben White, Alexandre Lacazette, Emile Smith-Rowe, Nicolas Pépé, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand, Zak Swanson, Charlie Patino.
Scorers: Gabriel Martinelli (27 mins), Edddie Nketiah (31 mins), Cédric Soares (55 mins), Gabriel (59 mins), Martin Ødegaard (83 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 74%
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistant Referees: Simon Long, Scott Ledger
Fourth Official: James Linington
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Lee Mason; AVAR Mark Scholes
A very important last day of the season, let us not be in any doubt about it. We were outplayed by Newcastle United at St James’ Park last Monday, but really, as we know, it is not a question of us lacking quality on the pitch; unfortunately we just do not have enough players showing the necessary leadership quality and grit to step up and be counted when it truly matters. The proof of the pudding is very firmly in the eating against the Toffees (no pun intended) this afternoon, realistically. However, Takehiro Tomiyasu is injured unfortunately, and has ben replaced by Cédric Soares. Rob Holding comes in for Ben White and Gabriel Martinelli starts instead of Emile Smith-Rowe, who is on the substitute’s bench today
We started the fastest side of the two at the Emirates today, and our fans are in good voice, singing Patrick Vieira’s name loudly, whilst former Spurs midfielder Dele Alli’s first touch was met with boos and catcalls, which is only to be expected under the circumstances. After just seven minutes, Bukayo Saka grabbed the ball, turned and shot over the bar, which was a very good chance early on that was wasted. However a minute or so later, Mohamed Elneny’s shot from outside the penalty area was blocked by Jarrad Branthwaite, and our dominance in the early stages of the game was there for all to see with excellent chances by Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Ødegaard being all blocked or kicked away by a panicky Everton defence. Abdoulaye Doucouré fouled Gabriel Martinelli deep in the Everton half, but the resulting free-kick went wide for an Arsenal corner, which went nowhere, sadly. Eddie Nketiah got very close to scoring with a curling left-footed shot that flew over the bar, which he superbly controlled after receiving the ball from Granit Xhaka’s pinpoint cross into the Everton penalty area. Just before the half hour, former Gunner Alex Iwobi handled the ball, and after referee Andre Marriner consulted the VAR team at Stockley Park (as well as looking at the pitchside monitor), a penalty was awarded. Gabriel Martinelli made no mistake from the spot, despite some desperate tricks by Asmir Begovic trying to delay the penalty, but he was sent the wrong way by a first-class strike drom our man. Four minutes later, we grabbed a well-deserved second goal when Gabriel Martinelli flicked on a beautiful headed pass from a corner into the path of Eddie Nketiah, who headed the ball into the back of the net from very close range into the centre of the goal. We were in complete control here at the Emirates this afternoon. Mohamed Elneny’s strong right-footed shot from outside the box went far too high, following a corner, and after a superb Bukayo Saka shot that went unbelievably wide, Andre Marriner blew the whistle for the half-time break following three minutes’ injury time, in which the visitors got a goal back through Donny van de Beek which was totally against the run of play.
Everton had the best of the early exchanges, winning a corner and a couple of free-kicks, and it has to be said, that it rather looks like a second half revival here. Nine minutes after the restart, Nuno Tavares nearly grabbed our third, but his well-struck shot went over Asmir Begovic’s goal, incredibly, and a couple of minutes later, following a corner and a classy assist from Bukayo Saka, we scored our third goal of the afternoon when Cédric Soares’ right footed shot went from the centre of the box to the high centre of the goal for our third of the afternoon; Gabriel grabbed our fourth goal just before the hour mark, with a strong left-footed shot that hit the back of the Everton net following a corner. Things are looking good, the crowd are jubilant, and with half an hour of the match remaining, the game is in the bag. Albert Sambi Lokonga replaced Granit Xhaka after sixty-three minutes and although there is still someway to go, game management appears to be the order of the day as far as Arsenal are concerned. Alexandre Lacazette took the captain’s armband as he replaced Eddie Nketiah on sixty-six minutes, and both sides appear to be plodding towards the end of the season, casually giving free-kicks and corners away liberally. However, with fifteen minutes of the match remaining, Gabriel Martinelli slotted the ball to Albert Sambi Lokonga, whose right-footed shot from the left side of the penalty area was unbelievably saved by Asmir Begovic as the ball looked destined for the bottom left corner of the net. With twelve minutes of the game remaining, Nicolas Pépé replaced Bukayo Saka in order to get another goal here at the Emirates, which, funnily enough, actually happened with seven minutes to go when Martin Ødegaard simply and clinically sidefooted the ball into the Everton net from twenty yards. The last act of this troubled season came from Nicolas Pépé, whose left-footed shot from outside the box was saved spectacularly by Asmir Begovic in the Everton goal in the fourth minute of injury time. Seconds later, referee Andre Marriner blew his whistle to bring both the match and the season to a conclusion. Too little, too late.
And so we finished the 2021-22 season in fifth place in the Premiership table, two points behind Tottenham Hotpsur, agonisingly. Arsenal played 38, won 22, drew 3, lost 13, goals 61 for, 48 against, a goal difference of 13 and a final points tally of 69. Although we finished higher than we did last year, it is still not good enough for a club such as ours, quite frankly, especially when you look at how much money was spent on players in the close season, and a “dry” January with no players coming through the doors, which ultimately was a major factor in costing us a higher Premiership place. We don’t need reminding that we haven’t finished in the top four since we finished as runners-up to Leicester City in 2016. Some questions need to be addressed in the close season, such as which players will be leaving the club? Who will be coming in to replace those who are leaving? And what about the William Saliba situation? Rumour has it that he wants to stay at Marseille to play in the Champions League. Is this a waste of £27,000,000? No doubt all these questions will be answered in due course. In the meantime, have a great summer everyone! Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon