Arsenal failed to secure European football for the first time in 25 years, despite running out 2-0 winners against Brighton on the final day.
The Gunners began the match with an outside chance of securing seventh spot and a place in next seasons inaugural Conference League should they win and north London rivals Tottenham slip up, after enjoying a strong second-half of the campaign.
In an impressive first half-showing from the hosts, the best chance of the half undoubtedly fell to defender Gabriel, the Brazilian seeing his looping header agonisingly strike the crossbar just before half-time.
Goalless at the break, it took just four minutes of the second-half for Mikel Arteta’s side to eventually make the breakthrough, the in-form Nicolas Pepe teeing himself up well before firing home superbly on his weaker right foot.
The Ivorian international then added a second soon after with another composed finish, the former Lille man latching on to a delightful Martin Odegaard through ball, before cutting off the left and slotting a low-driven effort into the bottom corner.
While Arsenal would hold on to grab all three points, Spurs’ comeback victory away at Leicester saw the Gunners miss out on seventh spot by just a point, meaning they won’t be participating in continental competition for the first time since 1996.
Amid that disappointment, Arteta praised his side’s display on the day, while he was also happy to welcome back home supporters to the Emirates.
“Happy with the performance the result, but most importantly having our fans back again,” he told his post-match press conference. “Thanks so much to them on behalf of myself the staff and all the players.”
The game also saw owner Stan Kroenke’s son, Josh, in attendance for the first time in over a year, the Kroenke’s facing calls from supporters to sell the club amid interest from Spotify owner, Daniel Ek. Asked about his conversations with the American owner, Arteta insisted that he has been ‘very supportive’ and ‘passionate’ as he looks to drive the club forward.
Kroenke out fans in banners wherever you look pic.twitter.com/nfYuvbbzRz
— James Benge (@jamesbenge) May 23, 2021
“[He said] The same that he says every time we are on the phone,” Arteta said. “He’s very supportive very passionate about the club he wants to take the club to a different level and that’s why he’s here.”
One of the key factors in the club’s improved form since the turn of the year has been the arrival of Martin Odegaard on-loan from Real Madrid, although Arteta was unsure as to whether the player would be at the club next season.
“I don’t know. It’s not in our hands, so I don’t know,” he admitted
“We have a very and clear opinion on what we would like to but he’s not our player. We tried to make everything that we could to get Martin performing for the team. Hopefully, we have given him the feeling that it could be a good place for him.”
Despite an improved run of results since Boxing Day, Arteta was left frustrated that his side have come up short in their pursuit of European football.
“Well, it’s frustrating because last season with 61 points you were 5th and now you are eighth.”
See also – Premier League end of season awards 2020/21