There were goals aplenty on the final games of the domestic league season as Arsenal missed out on the Champions League qualification as Manchester City and Liverpool qualified instead.
A whopping 37 goals were hammered in, in what was to prove to be a super Sunday for some Premier League teams but not for others.
With the three relegation places secured for want of a better expression and the title and runners up spots already filled by Chelsea and Spurs then all that was to be played for were 3 teams Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City chasing two Champions League places.
There had to be a loser and this time it was Arsenal who miss the Champions League for the first time in donkey’s years.
The Gunners put in a good performance and their 3-1 win over Everton was not enough to secure Champions League qualification and, to make matters worse, Arsene Wenger faces a potential selection crisis ahead of the FA Cup final.
Gabriel, Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny could all miss Saturday’s Wembley clash with Premier League champions Chelsea following a desperately disappointing day for the Gunners at Emirates Stadium, despite their victory.
Following Hector Bellerin’s early opener, Koscielny was shown a straight red card for a wild lunge on Enner Valencia and, after Sanchez had doubled the lead, Gabriel was taken off on a stretcher with a left knee injury after an awkward fall.
Sanchez then hobbled off midway through the second half, in what may yet prove a further blow to Arsenal’s hopes of salvaging something from their season.
It took to the last minute of the last game of the season for Aaron Ramsey to get his first goal of the campaign but the Welshman’s sublime 91st-minute strike at least enabled Wenger’s men to finish their league campaign on a stylish note. Earlier Romelu Lukaku had halved Everton’s two-goal deficit with another well taken penalty. This was the Belgian forwards 25th Premier League strike of the season but it was still not enough to win him the Golden Boot award as Harry Kane was causing pain elsewhere.
However, after taking their place at European club football’s top table in each of the past 19 seasons, Arsenal end 2016-17 in fifth place. Everton finish seventh in Ronald Koeman’s first campaign in charge miles away from Manchester United in 6th and miles ahead of the clambering pack from 8th place downwards.
Arsenal were hanging on prior to their third goal, but began the match brightly and were ahead as Mesut Ozil combined with Ramsey and found space on the left byline, where he squared for Danny Welbeck.
Welbeck took an age to control and pass the ball as it fell perfectly for Bellerin to rifle home into the unguarded net.
The Gunners suffered a setback just six minutes later, though, with Koscielny dismissed for his reckless challenge as Valencia raced away down the right.
Ronald Koeman introduced Ross Barkley in place of Tom Davies to exploit the extra space available, but within two minutes Arsenal doubled their advantage with another touch of fortune.
Sanchez’s shot from outside the box struck Welbeck and, as the Everton defence appeared to stop, the forward had time to tee up Sanchez to tap home with Joel Robles stranded.
Ramsey’s deft chip in the 91st minute finished the match beautifully but despite missing on Champions League football Arsene Wenger will hope his team don’t get too down in the doldrums with Saturday’s final with Chelsea looming.
Instead it was Liverpool who secured a Champions League return with a 3-0 final-day win over already relegated Middlesbrough to claim the vital fourth place in the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp’s side will regain a seat at Europe’s top table although initially in the qualifying play-off round after sitting out the competition this season, Sunday’s ultimately convincing triumph ensuring Arsenal’s result against Everton proved immaterial in the race for a top-four spot.
Liverpool were nervous in the first half though and fingers were crossed they could make a breakthrough against an absolutely dire Middlesbrough outfit.
The Reds’ only two home league losses this term came against lowly Swansea City and Crystal Palace, but despite Boro frustrating them for most of the first half, the north-east side succumbed to Georginio Wijnaldum’s thunderbolt on the brink of half-time and boy was it needed as Wijnaldum’s strike took the roof off the net and the roof of the stadium.
Little did Middlesbrough have in the tank though and Philippe Coutinho curled home a superb set-piece strike early in the second half to give Liverpool breathing space that was increased by Adam Lallana against a visiting side who are now winless in 22 top flight trips to Anfield.
With an instant return to the Championship already assured, Steve Agnew’s men offered nothing in response to Liverpool’s onslaught as their dismal campaign concluded with a league low of just five wins to their name with a team who wouldn’t know how to find the net if they went fishing.
Only a complete mess up by Manchester City and other results going against them would see City not make the Champions League and they were in no mood to miss out as they stuffed a dismal Watford team that were dreadful beyond belief.
City cantered home at Vicarage Road by 5 goals to nil and it was as easy as apple pie for the sky blues as Manchester City emphatically made sure of their place in the group stages of the Champions League next season by thrashing Watford 5-0 at Vicarage Road.
Pep Guardiola’s side made the most of an abject showing from their hosts, with the home crowd making it clear that departing head coach Walter Mazzarri will not be missed.
Looking to tighten their grip on 3rd place City did it in style after captain Vincent Kompany headed a fifth-minute opener and Sergio Aguero’s first-half brace took him to 33 goals in all competitions this term.
Fernandinho made it 4-0 before half time as Watford were booed off the pitch and Gabriel Jesus – the latter making it seven goals in eight Premier League starts rammed home the 5th.
It meant City answered their manager’s call to be more clinical in front of goal as he contemplates the first campaign of his coaching career without a major honour.
At least the win ensures that City have Champions League footie for next season, something Arsenal couldn’t quite manage.
Could these three results make Arsene Wenger pack his bags and wave goodbye to the Emirates faithful? We shall see.
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