Despite a comfortable three goals to one win thanks to strikes from Bellerin, Alexis (as expected) and Rambo a win for Liverpool at home to already relegated ‘Boro meant the Arsenal dropped into the second tier of European football for next season.
Spring had finally arrived in North London and the lack of crowds as I disembarked at Gillespie Road suggested perhaps a stay away protest on the last day or maybe just an apathy amongst the fanbase.
Maybe the warm weather had created a sense of relaxation and reduced the tension levels so the anxiety and dissension I was expecting to see felt less likely to materialise.
The blue scousers were fairly well represented and as my seat was behind the goal in the Clock End I was, in theory, close enough to hear their chants.
Luckily, being non-conversant in Liverpudlian all their witticisms went over my head and I couldn’t pick out one of their songs.
There was little for the Everton supporters to cheer as the Arsenal started brightly and with a confidence borne of a winning run – the midfield looking lively as Xhaka and Özil connected plenty of early passes and moves, one of these resulting in Bellerin sliding in a finish after Arsenal’s forward play pressurised the Everton box.
A welcome early goal that should have set up stress free viewing for the rest of the afternoon, but no.
A clearance from the Everton keeper landed at the feet of a team mate on their right wing, along side the East stand, and from my viewpoint I could see an Arsenal defender charge across from left to right intercept robustly.
Initially, for a split second the crowd applauded the full bloodedness of the challenge, but the realisation that it was a reckless challenge set in. Sure enough a red was issued to the offending player, Koscielny, and the Arsenal would have to play an hour of the game with ten men.
Inevitably this energised the away team and they attacked the north bank with more belief, however Cech’s improved form meant all the attacks were repelled and the reorganised back four held firm, with Rob Holding (a fan favourite so early in his Arsenal career) particularly impressive.
The urge to attack, as they were the team with the numerical advantage, was Everton’s undoing as an Arsenal counterattack, initiated by the Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil combination allowed Alexis to prod in a second goal from close range and relieve some of the tension caused by the sending off.
It also allowed us to turn to the blue corner and say
Ten men, we’ve only got ten men !
Koeman must have been dismayed to be two down to ten men.
The half time whistle went and the home faithful were relieved to be ahead despite the sending off, and still no real signs of dissent.
Everton continued to press from the start of the second half and a clearance towards the Arsenal goal required a Gabriel interception, that was messy and resulted in the Brazilian being stretchered off and replaced by the BFG.
With Koscielny going to miss the FA Cup final due to his red and Gabriel probably ruled out through injury the BFG will be needed at Wembley, most likely in a back three with Holding and Monreal.
An Arsenal attack was ended by what looked to me a trip in the Everton area, which was not given as a penalty and sure enough seconds later one was awarded at the other end.
The rather portly Lukaku stepped up and duly scored although to give credit to Cech he went the right way AND got very close.
At this point the first rumblings of dissent were heard in the form of “Kroenke get out of our club” chants.
A final half hour of hanging onto the lead lay ahead but I felt that the Arsenal team didn’t look to be the team playing a man down and I must commend them on their energy levels in compensating for the loss of Koscielny, to the extent it felt like it was eleven v eleven.
Ramsey in particular gave another of his athletic displays full of stamina and earnest endeavour.
Xhaka and Alexis then were subbed (the latter limping worryingly; facing Chelsea without him next weekend will not be a pleasant prospect) for Coquelin and Iwobi.
The change in personnel made no change to Arsenal’s attacking power and the Everton keeper had to keep out a number of chances – chances I couldn’t really see who made from my end.
A flurry of yellow cards littered the later stages of the game and just as the Arsenal faithful groaned at seeing five minutes of injury time come up – not welcome when you are hanging onto a lead – Ramsey struck a goal that even I could tell, from the other end of the ground, was a delicious finish: a curler into the top right corner.
Game over and cue an exodus from the blue corner of the stadium.
As was obvious from the lack of cheers from the crowd, that would signal good news from Anfield, the final scores read out while we waited the traditional final day of the season lap of appreciation from the players, confirmed our Europa fate. A few more anti Kroenke chants rang out before the players came out.
To my mind the club has a task on it’s hands to rally the support and how it deals with this over the summer will set the tone of next season.
Till then I hope everyone has a great summer and see you when we can start this all over again.
By charybdis1966 (on twitter as @charybdis1966)