The petering out of Everton's season concluded at the Emirates as 10-man Arsenal still ran out 3-1 victors against a Blues team seemingly with its mind on the summer.
The Gunners needed a victory to have the best chance of edging back into the Champions League and they got off to a strong start when Hector Bellerin fired home from close range after just seven minutes.
The game took what should have been a significant turn in the 14th minute when Laurent Koscielny was sent off for lunging in on Enner Valencia, forcing Arsene Wenger's side to play the final 75 minutes of the match a man down.
The loss of the Frenchman didn't prevent the Gunners from extending their lead through Alexis Sanchez, however, and then rounding things off with an excellent goal from Aaron Ramsey after Romelu Lukaku's penalty had briefly offered hope that Everton might make a contest of it.
Ronald Koeman made just one change to the side that had started against Watford last weekend, bringing Valencia in for Ross Barkley, but it was the Gunners who made all the early running.
And the home side went ahead when Sanchez drove to the byline, Danny Welbeck failed to connect in the centre and Bellerin had the simple chance of converting from a central position to make it 1-0.
A low shot from Kevin Mirallas in the 13th minute that was comfortably saved by Petr Cech was the first effort on goal from the visitors but they were given an apparent boost just a couple of minutes later when Koscielny flew into Valencia, scything the Ecuadorian down in full flight.
Referee Michael Oliver had no hesitation in brandishing a straight red card but it failed to have the desired effect on Everton's performance, even after Tom Davies was replaced by Barkley in the 26th minute as Koeman tried to add some more guile in the final third.
Arsenal doubled their lead a minute later as Sanchez took advantage of a criminally static Blues defence, firing home Welbeck's pass in front of goal after his initial shot had cannoned off Phil Jagielka.
Everton rallied briefly late in the first half and might have scored six minutes before the break but Valencia and Barkley scuffed shots in front of goal and Lukaku's effort was blocked near the line.
Idrissa Gueye then brought a flying save from Petr Cech with a powerful shot from distance and the Gunners' keeper had to push a header from Lukaku over his crossbar.
The second half failed to draw the requisite desire or pressure from Everton to seriously test Arsenal and Joel Robles had to make a smart save to deny Welbeck shortly after the interval to prevent the hosts from making it 3-0.
The Blues were handed a lifeline in the 58th minute, however, when Rob Holding handled in his own area and Lukaku planted a well-struck penalty to Cech's right, notching his 25th league goal of the season.
Valencia had what looked to have been the equaliser chalked off, his impressive header from Mason Holgate's great cross flagged for a push on Per Mertesaker, before Robles made two vital saves from Mezut Ozil and one from Alex Iwobi to keep the score down.
Arsenal did get their third in stoppage time, though, when Ramsey took advantage of a yard of space ahead of him on the edge of the Everton box and curled an unstoppable shot around Robles to make it 3-1.
With seventh place long since guaranteed, the result had no bearing on Everton's season but the disappointing manner in which the season has meandered to a close will have Evertonians looking eagerly to the summer transfer window where improvements are needed.
Everton bring the curtain down on 2017-18 with a trip to The Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal in a game that could have a large bearing on the Champions and Europa League pictures after all.
The Blues' side features just one change from last weekend, with Enner Valencia coming into the side to replace Ross Barkley. Ex Everton trainee, Shkodran Mustafi was ill and unable to start for Arsenal.
Everton kicked off but the first decent attack was from the home side with a cleared cross and then a snap chance for Wellbeck that he drove wide. More rapid movement from Arsenal ended with an over-hit cross. Mirallas ran forward into a cul-de-sac and Arsenal resumed their forward momentum.
Lukaku got forward but his cross was too deep and Davies was easily mugged, Arsenal attacked again and Ozil pulled a smart ball back off the goalline for Wellbeck who missed a complete sitter, Bellerin had an easy task following up.
Everton were at best lethargic in the sunshine, possibly happy to let Arsenal have their fun as they could stop Arsenal. But a terrible tackle by Koscielny took out Valencia in a horrible tackle and Michael Oliver had no hesitation in showing him a straight red card.
The game restarted after treatment for the Everton man, who was able to resume. Mirallas did well to get the ball through to Lukaku who lashed wide after he was flagged offside. Williams block Alexis and as rather harshly shown a yellow card. Lukaku put in a much better cross but Davies lacked any desire to go for it and the chance evaporated.
As Alexis went to shoot, Gana came from behind and deflected his shot but was adjudged wrongly to have fouled, the dangerous free-kick driven into the Everton wall, Gabriel heading over. Koeman decided to change the game plan, bringing Ross Barkley on early, in place of Tom Davies after Mirallas crossed over everyone.
Valencia had a chance to cross in for Lukaku but drove his low shot at Cech. Arsenal then went 2-0 ahead after a ridiculous goal, the ball hitting Wellbeck who appeared to handball, the Blues all stopping including Robles who was hopeless, and Alexis walked the ball into the net.
Form a free-kick, Mirallas scooped the ball too hard and it flew over everyone. Holgate fouled and Alexis drove a brilliant shot in that Robles punched into Wellbek and it fortunately rebounded wide. Everton finally showed a bit more desire going forward, a decent cross swung in toward Lukaku but Cech was out smartly.
A craze melee where the ball fell nicely for at least three Everton players, Barkley, Gana and Lukaku, none of who could strike the ball properly and a golden chance to score was ridiculously squandered. Jagielka was then shown the yellow card.
Everton won their first corner off a decent strike by Gana that was pushed around the post by Cech. Lukaku get a decent header on a looping cross from Holgate, winning another corner off Cech's save, And Valencia this time tired a strike from outside the box that Cech again saved. At least the Blues were actually shooting at the goal!
Everton continued to be mesmerized by the slick forward passing of the home side but turned things around and created a chance for Lukaku on his left foot, his shot was deflected and from Mirallas's corner, Barkley lazily passed it behind. A pretty poor finish to a pretty poor half from a pretty poor Everton side.
Koeman decided to bring Gareth Barry on for Gana at the break. Lukaku had an early chance to shoot but crossed straight to an Arsenal defender, then got on the end of a good cross he headed lamely at Cech. At the other end Robles saved well from Wellbeck, then from Ozil.
Another poor challenge from Arsenal, this time Gabriel on Valencia, saw the Arsenal man twist his knee and eventually get stretchered off, after getting a yellow card from Michael Oliver.
The idiotic Arsenal fans demanded a second yellow card for a nothing intervention from Williams that Wellbeck made look like a trip. Michael Oliver rightly resisted the shameless please form all in red.
A cross from Baines evaded Lukaku but Monreal handled, and Lukaku scored form the spot, possibly his best ever penalty! Schneiderlin was booked for a fairly normal challenge on Monreal. Holding was next to be booked for blocking Valencia.
Everton's best move of the game saw a lovely cross by Holgate to the back post buried by Valencia but he was called for pushing the defender. Baines was next in Michael Oliver's book, for fouling Ramsey.
Barkley gave a return pass away and Arsenal scampered forward, Robles saving well from Ozil. At the other end, Barkley did his usual dancing around without actually making anything happen, winning a corner on the second attempt that Mirallas lashed over Cech's goal.
Everton suddenly looked like they actually wanted to play football, a couple more shots at goal, another corner, and a header just over. Valencia drove in but lashed over. Kone replaced Valencia for his last ever Everton appearance.
Everton let that brief tempo subside and Arsenal decided to attack with pace, Holgate getting a vital block on Iwobi. An Everton corner came to nought and Arsenal looked for all the world like they had the extra man. Iwobi again got free but Robles did well to keep him out. Barkley lashed a shot wide.
At the other end, Aron Ramsey curled in a lovely strike to underline an absolutely pathetic display by Everton underlining the really poor finish to the season since they 'played' West Ham a month ago. Koeman has a massive task on his hands...
Scorers: Bellerin (8'), Alexis (27'); Lukaku (pen:58')
Arsenal: Cech, Holding [Y:62'], Koscielny [R:12'], Gabriel [Y:51'] (52' Mertesacker), Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka (61' Coquelin), Monreal, Ozil, Sanchez (67' Iwobi), Welbeck.
Subs not Used: Giroud, Ospina, Walcott, Elneny.
Everton: Robles, Holgate, A Williams [Y:18'], Jagielka [Y:39'], Baines [Y:72'], Gana (46' Barry), Schneiderlin [Y:60'], Davies (25' Barkley), Valencia (83' Kone), Lukaku, Mirallas.
Subs not Used: Hewelt, Pennington, J Williams, Besic.
Referee: Michael Oliver
From My Seat: Arsenal (A)
A beautiful and sunny day for us to make our way to face the gunners, now that always fills me with dread as we never seem to do any good against them especially away. I could hardly believe the last time we won on their soil was 1996 with Joe in charge at Highbury.
2:00pm was ushered in by all heads being bowed to open palms and digesting the starting line -up and subs bench. Not much was said as though we didn’t want to say it but we thought we may have a task too far for us. Somebody said Barkley was out for tactical reasons while others thought it was a direct message from big Ron. Whatever it was it didn’t seem to be too clever of a plan as from ref Oliver’s whistle we looked all at sea as Arsenal ripped into us and had their crowd baying for blood, there was no protest at the ground today as all wished for an Arsenal win and City and Liverpool to lose. They got one out of three which was no use to them but they sure as hell showed us where we are wanting.
For seven minutes it was all Arsenal as they tore our backline asunder with only a run and shot from Mirallas. Twice Davies lost the ball by not being as strong as the Arsenal lads he tangled with and then from another rush forward by us was again lost by Davies and Arsenal were quickly on the counter with a raid down our right and a cross that found Welbeck a yard out for a tap in, alas for him he completely missed his kick, we laughed but it stuck in our throat as Bellerin following up smashed home. Much muttering and shaking of heads from Blues assembled. That was the second open goal Welbeck had missed in the first seven minutes.
Our best reply was a run from Mirallas who hit one from distance but it lacked real pace and the keeper gathered. On 20mins Valencia had a speedy run into Arsenal territory when he was hit by a high late tackle from Koscielny and a red card was waved the ref was immediately surrounded but his decision stood. From my seat it looked like the Taylor tackle on Coleman but without the dreadful consequences, while Valencia was being treated Barkley, who I heard is signing a new contract, was warming up. Eleven v ten now and I said to my mate ‘If we can keep this score until halftime then we could take them second half as they tired’ in hindsight that did not really work out!
Lukaku had a run down the left and put in an inviting low cross and had Davies been in the wide awake club and made up just three more fast yards the tap in was his but he didn’t. Barkley still warming up. Even with ten men against us we still seemed stretched while looking to absorb pressure and counter, snag was we were not very good at it so after Mirallas had galloped down the left and crossed to no-one the manager swopped Davies for Barkley. Sad to report that Davies today looked out of his depth.
We continued to look jittery each time Arsenal had a foray forward and from one of these an Arsenal shot was charged down but the ball was re-cycled to Welbeck wide of goal on the by-line all alone and with our players seeming to stop he put across goal and Alexis hammered home. Defence all over the place – what a stupid goal to give away. Now I was hoping to keep it at 2-0 until big Ron can have a word.
However the last ten minutes plus two added of the half we had a purple patch but unfortunately we either over hit crosses or had no players showing fast movement in the box to unsettle the defenders or even not busting a gut to reach crosses hit hard and low across the box but we did gain our first corner which came to nought so half time at 2-0 down.
The half-time chat centred on how many new talented players we will need to even have a sniff of the top four. Also the news (if true) that Ross is signing. When I watch and it’s like it’s almost there but yet out of reach. I always think he desperately needs to come out of a shell and blossom and agonisingly it is not quite there. One of these days eh!
Second half and Barry is ready to come on but who for? Turned out to be Gana—injured or tactical? Tactical is my bet. He may be 36 but still our best playmaker –wow- take note Mr Moshiri it’s that bad. He made a good start by producing a great cross for Lukaku to get on target but in reality it was a back pass. Arsenal still breaking on us and causing panic among our rearguard forcing Joel to make three excellent block saves in quick succession.
We then had another wild tackle on Valencia leaving both he and his assailant writhing on the green sward. This time it was the perpetrator who came off worse and had to be stretchered off receiving a yellow card for the journey with Mertesaker replacing him. Next flashpoint was when Williams, who had been booked, tripped his man and the ref was surrounded by out of control Arsenal players demanding a second yellow an unsightly event that the ref handled well. Free kick to Arsenal and no further action. There was no need for the childish behaviour as City and Liverpool were winning with ease and everyone new as cheers and boos could be heard among those with an interest.
Barry was in his creative role as he started the move that saw the ref spot a handball by an Arsenal player from a Baines cross and pointed to the spot. Lukaku grabbed the ball and hit a beaut of a pen into the inside side netting that even a keeper of cech’s ability and size could get near.
Half-an-hour left and the game had deteriorated which seemed to favour Everton but although we got forward and sometimes into their box we had no idea of end product which for a fan is disappointing. The game was messy and Schneiderlin got booked for a rash tackle and Arsenals Holding got a yellow for unceremoniously dropping Valencia (they really didn’t seem to like that lad!) They attacked we attacked but somehow they always seemed to cause more danger and panic than we did but in one of our attacks a good cross from Holgate was converted by Valencia but the ref ruled he had fouled so free kick to Arsenal. You could say the next goal would be vital for either side but as the game was at best a scrappy stop start debacle.
We are now having the lion’s share of the game but we really need to convert chances made for example Baines got down the left well and put a good cross in to Lukaku with just the keeper between him and the net but he somehow contrived to get the ball caught between his legs then feet and that chance was gone and allowed Arsenal to break and Baines decided tripping his man was the best defensive job he could do to stop the break and was yellow carded I lost count at the number of cards shown but this game had produced more yellow than a field of daffodils.
We had our chances and Arsenal got a second wind and it was there turn to have the lion’s share of the attacking which in turn brought Joel back into the game as he made a good block at the feet of Ozil and another smart block soon after. Then Lukaku came alive and fed in Valencia in the box he took the ball in his stride but then lost his head and instead of playing back to the unmarked Lukaku he tried a shot that is still travelling somewhere in the universe another waste of a great chance through lack of composure. Barry who was the calmest man in our team fed a wonderful weighted angled cross right on to the head of Lukaku but I don’t know why but he headed it tamely wide, hell we should be converting these I said to anyone who could hear me.
Eighty mins gone and Kone replaces Valencia as Arsenal attack and Bellerin put Iwobi in on goal but the sprawling Joel thwarts him then Holgate gets a good block in, we are on the brink I thought as Joel again did a block and gather to thwart Iwobi yet again.
We are into five minutes of added time and the knockout blow was delivered. Ramsey was played in from the left he cut passed two defenders to create a gap and then sent a laser guided arcing shot over the giant Joel and into the top corner. A jewel in a sea of mediocrity. The travelling hoards no more than shook heads and shrugged shoulders --- Everton that! Joel made one more block to thwart Iwobi yet again before the whistle went which left both sets of fans with nothing to celebrate and both wondering what the summer may bring for the respective clubs.
In summary, the best I can say is it was an end of season game that initially had something on it for Arsenal but other scores scotched that and those of a Blue persuasion were far more interested in our future than the past and games as frustrating as this one. All in all I thought that Everton are a good general premier league team but money needs to be spent very wisely on the right players if we want to reach top four in fact I would say we need to try to crack the top six first because there is a gulf between the top six and us.
I say this based on the evidence of my own eyes when playing the top six teams home and away that gulf can be seen even when we beat a couple of them you get the sense it all came together on the day for us but the others have a consistency that keeps them up there and leaves a team like Everton to bemoan dropped points against the lesser lights in the league. So I hope we can get to the point where we are not bemoaning dropped points and have ‘if only’ stamped on our foreheads and are indeed genuinely running as an equal and being seen as one of the big 7.
I wish the very best of luck to those who will be doing our transfer dealings to get over the line the ones nominated by our manager and the director of football.
I wish you all well for the summer ignore all rumours and keep your eyes peeled for top notch players waving the scarf and wearing the shirt.
UP THE BLUES
Everton bring the curtain down on 2017-18 with a trip to The Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal in a game that could have a large bearing on the Champions and Europa League pictures after all… just not in the way Evertonians had hoped.
A few weeks ago, as the Gunners were threatening to implode, Arsene Wenger was facing mounting pressure from supporters to finally step down as manager and Manchester United were being held back by a propensity to draw too many of their home games, this clash had the potential to be a showdown over whether Arsenal or Everton would claim fourth place.
Since then, of course, the North Londoners have enjoyed the kind of revival of fortunes that denied the Toffees a Champions League berth in 2013-14 and Ronald Koeman's side have spurned a succession of opportunities to remain on the coat tails of the top four by failing to raise their game away from home.
Everton's form at home in 2017, with the notable exception of that comprehensive home defeat by newly re-crowned champions Chelsea, has been stellar but they've only won once this calendar year, that a narrow 1-0 win at Selhurst Park courtesy of Seamus Coleman's late clincher.
It would seem, then, that on the basis of that uninspiring record away from Goodison Park and with Arsenal needing to better Liverpool's result — a couple of goals to determine goal difference notwithstanding — in order to sneak into the top four at the Reds' expense, there is little likelihood of the Blues ending a 21-year wait for a victory on the Gunners' home turf.
For Koeman's men, with seventh-place guaranteed thanks to a yawning 15-point gap to eighth place, there is little to play for beyond pride, any desire to end that hoodoo and Romelu Lukaku's quest to leapfrog back over Harry Kane to claim the Premier League's golden boot.
The Belgian appeared to be a shoo-on to finish as the top scorer in the division until Kane filled his boots in Tottenham's demolition of Leicester City in midweek and is now two goals behind heading into the final game of the campaign. (Spurs are at already-relegated Hull so there's every chance of Kane further adding to his tally.)
In terms of personnel, Koeman will have the same squad at his disposal as last weekend against Watford, with the biggest question mark, of course, being over Ross Barkley and whether he will start amid the ongoing indecision regarding his future.
Koeman appeared to have no qualms about fielding the 23-year-old last weekend and may not again this time around as the possibility exists that he will opt for an unchanged line-up, with the possible exception of Maarten Stekelenburg coming back in for Joel Robles. With Barkley still not having agreed a new contract at his manager indicating that he would have to sell him rather than risk him running down his existing deal, it could be his last appearance for the Toffees.
Likewise Lukaku, whose own future will dominate Everton's summer transfer window, with the club's resolve sure to be tested, although Koeman appeared more confident that the striker would stay at Goodison given the lack of imperative to sell him with two years left on his contract.
Most eyes are turning towards the summer transfer window but it would be nice — obviously — to go out with a bang with a surprise win at the Emirates, even if it would ensure Champions League football for Liverpool, but it would take a very different Everton to the one that got turned over at Anfield and the Liberty Stadium or the one that couldn't hold onto a slender lead at Old Trafford last month.
Kick-off: 3pm, Sunday 21 May, 2017
Referee: Michael Oliver
Last Time: Arsenal 2-1 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Jagielka, A. Williams, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Davies, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku