On Sunday, Arsenal secured a 3-1 win over 7th-placed Everton that still saw them miss out on Champions League and a top four finish. A red card for Laurent Koscielny also means that he will miss Arsenal’s upcoming FA Cup clash with London rivals Chelsea.
Arsenal started out with a familiar tactic of moving the ball quickly to control possession. Quick, short passes were used to unlock Everton’s defence.
Their efforts were rewarded quickly when Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil linked up on the left of the Everton penalty area. Özil squared a pass to the net and Welbeck fluffed his lines. But fortunately, Hector Bellerín was on hand to finish simply into the empty net.
The goal was followed by a moment of madness from Laurent Koscielny, who unleashed a monster tackle on Enner Valencia to earn himself a red card. Referee Michael Oliver made no hesitation as he brandished the card, leaving Arsenal with 10 men to defend their lead.
Although Arsenal maybe should’ve sat back to protect their goal, they managed to score a second goal against Everton. An Özil run left space at the top of the box for Sánchez, whose shot struck Welbeck instead of the goal. The Everton players appealed for offside, but no flag was raised, allowing Welbeck to tee up a simple finish for Alexis Sánchez. It seemed that Arsenal had almost walked the ball into the net.
Everton, with their man advantage, could only respond with a few chances before half-time. This included a wild moment of chaos inside the Arsenal box that saw Barkley, Valencia, and Lukaku all scuff their shots.
The second half started much slower than the first. Arsenal knew they would benefit from slowing down the play. Also, they found out that Liverpool had scored in their match, and a Liverpool win would make their result meaningless.
Despite all this, Welbeck and Özil still managed to force an excellent double save from Robles, but the chances created were still few and far between.
A Gabriel injury after a tackle on Valencia meant he had to be replaced by Per Mertesacker. The Arsenal centre-backs must have been allergic to the pitch that day.
Everton capitalized with a penalty that came out of nowhere. An innocent cross led to an inexplicable hand ball by Nacho Monreal, and Lukaku confidently put away the penalty.
Both teams slowed down drastically as the minutes wore on, neither side seeming too worried about the result.
To end the match, Aaron Ramsey curled in a beautiful shot to score Arsenal’s third and final goal of the match. He had sealed the win, and not much else for Arsenal.
Arsenal looked very defensively solid with their three-at-the-back formation, and it allowed their creative players to move the ball confidently in the final third.
Özil and Sánchez in particular linked up well in the space left open by Everton’s midfield. The boys in blue pressured quite ineffectively for most of the match, with the forwards overcommitting themselves and the defenders sitting too deep.
Arsenal also benefitted from their fluid positioning in attack. It seemed like Sánchez, Özil and Welbeck were all over the pitch, and it wreaked havoc on Everton’s slower backline. Meanwhile, Everton looked very rigid in attack, which left Lukaku without much support at times.
The red card allowed Everton to push forward and sustain possession, while Arsenal suffered defensively. Monreal in particular struggled with the switch to a back four, as there were fewer players to offer support in defence.
Due to Liverpool’s win over Middlesbrough, Arsenal’s win was not enough to secure Champions League football for next season. The Gunners will miss out on top four for the first time in 21 years, while Everton finished 7th and will play in the Europa League next season.
Arsenal have the FA Cup final against Chelsea to still look forward to. However, Koscielny’s red card against Everton means he will miss out on the crucial match. The FA Cup will be Arsenal’s last chance to salvage their season with a trophy, but a big challenge awaits them.