Everton failed miserably to take anything from the Emirates stadium yet again as they failed to make the most of the home side losing their captain to a straight red early in the game. And but for a string of impressive second half saves from Joel Robles, this could have been an even more embarrassing result.
The final game of the season and the Blues travelled to the nations capital to take on the Arsenal, against who we have yet to register a victory at the Emirates Stadium. The sun shone and that was practically the only plus point for the travelling supporters to enjoy.
For this final outing manager Ronald Koeman dropped contract rebel Ross Barley to the bench “for tactical reasons” and selected a starting line-up of: Robles, Baines, Williams, Jagielka (c), Holgate, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Davies, Mirallas, Valencia and Lukaku.
Under pressure Arsene Wenger, for potentially his final home game as manager of the Gunners, picked an attacking side still aiming to clinch fourth place: Cech, Holding, Koscielny, Gabriel, Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Monreal, Ozil, Sanchez and Welbeck.
The referee in charge was Michael Oliver.
An early scare and warning of things to come for the Blues saw Sanchez and Bellerin combine on the right with Welbeck firing the low cross to the near post just wide.
Arsenal opened the scoring in the eighth minute as Ozil found space on the left and worked the ball into the box to feed Welbeck who inexplicably missed a sitter only for Bellerin following up to score.
Everton were struggling to cope with the movement and passing of the home side with Ozil and Sanchez both looking lively and with Bellerin looking to get forward down the right at every opportunity.
A decent run by Gana Gueye fed the ball to Mirallas who cut in from the left and tested the 35-year old Cech with a low shot to the near post that the 35-year old keeper easily dealt with.
Arsenal captain Koscielny saw a straight red card for an awfully mistimed 14th minute challenge on Valencia who needed extensive treatment. And with the home side down to ten men, Koeman immediately sent Barkley out to warm up.
Schneiderlin won the ball in midfield to feed Mirallas who in turn found Lukaku, but the shot went wide as the linesman flagged him offside.
Williams saw yellow from Referee Oliver for a foul on Sanchez with nothing coming from the resulting free kick.
Baines then found Lukaku in space and he worked the opening for a fine cross into the six yard area that Davies didn’t reach.
Passing the twenty minute mark and Everton were not yet making the extra man count as Barkley continued to warm up on the sideline.
Koeman made the change on 25 minutes with Tom Davies withdrawn for Barkley.
Incredibly, Arsenal doubled their lead two minutes later as a Sanchez shot was deflected and the entire Everton defence stopped waiting for a possible hand ball decision against Welbeck who turned and laid the ball on a plate for Sanchez to tap home.
It beggars belief how a side can look so fragile when they have a man advantage, but watching these last couple of weeks seriously makes you wonder what the malaise is that Everton seems to suffer from far, far too often.
Mason Holgate was lucky not to get booked for upending Welbeck as Arsenal continued to dominate the game.
Holgate, getting forward, turned sweetly to give himself a chance to cross, but Cech was alert and prevented the ball from reaching the head of Lukaku.
Everton finally managed to cause some concern in the home penalty area with both Barkley and Lukaku trying desperately to get a telling touch in a pinball session before Cech gratefully dived on the loose ball.
Gueye fed Valencia in a central position and he let the shot go, but it was far too straight to worry a goalie of the experience of Cech.
Barkley found Lukaku with an excellent pass, but the first touch wasn’t good enough and the resulting shot was easily deflected wide for a corner that was dreadfully wasted by the Blues.
Just before the half time whistle, Mirallas found Holgate getting forward and Cech again was confident in gathering the low cross before Lukaku could react.
Half Time: 2-0
Gareth Barry appeared for the second half at the expense of Gana Gueye, presumably to take on the anchor role and allow Schneiderlin to push forward.
Barry’s first involvement was to throw in a peach of a cross for Lukaku who had a free header but aimed it straight into the arms of Cech.
Sanchez threatened to carve Everton open and Robles needed to be strong in making two good saves first from Welbeck and then Ozil on the follow-up attempt.
Gabriel went down heavily in a challenge with Valencia and the twisting of his left knee looked extremely painful and sadly for the Arsenal player, he had to leave the pitch on a stretcher to be replaced by Mertesacker. Somewhat bizarrely, referee Oliver showed Gabriel a yellow card for the challenge.
Everton won a penalty on 58 minutes after a careless and needless handball from Monreal on a Baines cross, and Lukaku stepped up to confidently beat Cech into his right hand bottom corner, a peach of a penalty.
Barry was spraying balls around from midfield, his introduction seemingly having made some difference as Everton had improved in terms of possession albeit only marginally in terms of offensive ideas.
Introducing the Everton Mishmash!
Schneiderlin was booked a stiff challenge on Xhaka who was immediately withdrawn to be replaced by Coquelin.
The game was turning physical and former Bolton defender Holding was booked for flattening Valencia.
A fine cross from Holgate saw Valencia plant a firm header beyond Cech, but the ‘goal’ was ruled out for the West Ham loanee climbing on the back of Mertesacker.
Arsenal, probably with one eye on next weekend and the FA Cup Final, withdrew Sanchez for Ewobi, and having lost Koscielny on the red card, and Gabriel to what looked a serious injury, their chances of them lifting the cup against Chelsea must be reduced.
Back to the game and Baines was next to see yellow for a trip on Ramsey as the game had gone into end-of-season mode given the score lines coming in from elsewhere.
Robles made another fine save to deny Ozil after loose play in midfield by Barkley saw him turn the ball over and the German was found in oceans of space.
Mirallas and Baines exchanged passes and the Belgian fired a powerful right foot shot just over from the edge of the box.
Everton were improving and another decent cross from Holgate was turned away for a corner which saw Jagielka head just over from the set piece.
Another excellent ball from Barry found Lukaku in the box, but his header was poor and went well wide of the target.
Arouna Kone came on with ten minutes of normal time to play replacing Valencia – surely neither of these players will be wearing Everton Blue next season ?
Robles came up with another save to deny Ewobi after he waltzed into the Everton penalty area as the game entered its final minutes.
And to rub a massive helping of salt into the Everton wounds, 10-man Arsenal scored an absolute peach of a third goal, Ramsey curling a magnificent effort beyond even the massive reach of Robles.
And it was very nearly four but for Robles again standing strong to beat away a shot from Welbeck.
Full Time: 3-1
Final Analysis. Simply not good enough from Everton today. They gifted Arsenal the lead and failed utterly and totally to make the most of the home side having a player dismissed inside the opening 15 minutes.
No intensity, precious little pace, seemingly no desire to end a twenty year Emirates losing streak; the massive summer we’ve all referred to just got even more critical as this squad needs major surgery if Everton are to mount serious challenges on four fronts next season.
Finishing the season in the seventh place position they secured three weeks ago is a decent improvement upon the 11th place finishes of the previous two seasons.
But questions, serious questions need to be and damned well answered as to what the heck has gone on since we beat Burnley at Goodison?
West Ham away was absolutely pitiful.
Against Chelsea we were beaten by a much better side.
Swansea away was almost as lack-lustre as the West Ham no-show.
Even the final home game against Watford was largely uninspiring.
The lack of passion, intensity, desire, and no “we will not lose” mentality is seriously concerning.
Throw in the almost inevitable folding against them across the park and the frailties that afflict Everton are very, very worrying and for many fans, massively unacceptable.
The players and management will no doubt fly out on their summer holidays in the next few days, let’s hope that some of the players take time to reflect upon their efforts this season, particularly in the ‘big games’ and away from Goodison Park.
There are a number of mirrors that need to be looked in and consciences examined.
Come July, we’ll all re-assemble at Goodison for the Europa League qualifying games, let’s hope there’s more to cheer next season than we’ve witnessed in the last three weeks.
Thanks for reading these match reports, it’s been a pleasure to provide many of them.