Still in with a slight chance of clinching a top-four place on the final day, Arsenal welcome Everton to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday to round off their Premier League season.
Meanwhile, the Toffees head to the capital with the pressure firmly off after securing survival in dramatic fashion against Crystal Palace on Thursday night.
Mikel Arteta admitted that Arsenal’s performance at Newcastle United did not warrant Champions League football. Granit Xhaka told those who were not up to the task to “stay at home”. There are no two ways about it – it was a St James’ Park disaster.
Knowing that a win would see a top-four place remain in their hands heading into the final day, Arsenal were outplayed and bullied by Newcastle, who struck through Ben White’s own goal and Bruno Guimaraes – a rumoured January target for the Gunners – in the second half.
The inquest into Arsenal’s collapse has already begun, with many pointing to a lack of January incomings to bolster a thin squad, and only a spectacular set of circumstances would see Arteta’s side clinch a spot in the Champions League for the first time in six years.
The Gunners currently sit two points behind Tottenham Hotspur and realistically need their North London rivals to suffer a shock defeat to 20th-placed Norwich City at Carrow Road to stand any chance of making the top four, and nothing less than a win will do for them on the Emirates turf.
Defeat to Newcastle also extended Arsenal’s run without a clean sheet to nine matches – a far cry from their previously resilient defence – but they have won each of their last 10 final-day matches in the Premier League and will certainly be the fresher of the two sides this weekend.
Last weekend, Everton were on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline against Brentford and continued to run the risk of an unthinkable relegation from the top flight. On Thursday night, however, the tables turned.
Jean-Philippe Mateta’s header and Jordan Ayew scrambling home led to even more groans of discontent around Goodison, with Everton seemingly set to be involved in the relegation dogfight until the final day, but not even the home crowd could have envisaged the magnificent second-half turnaround.
Michael Keane, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s efforts sparked rapturous scenes around the blue half of Merseyside – some of whom took it too far during the pitch invasion and felt the force of Patrick Vieira’s boot for their troubles – but most importantly, Everton are safe.
Frank Lampard’s side can now finish no lower than 16th and would have been relieved to secure their survival before a journey to the Emirates, especially seeing as they have won just twice away from home all season, although one of those triumphs did come at Leicester City earlier this month.
The Toffees also dented Arsenal’s top-four bid earlier in the season with a 2-1 win at Goodison Park – their third consecutive victory over the Gunners – but not since 1924 have the North London club suffered a quartet of successive league losses to their Merseyside counterparts.
Arsenal Premier League form:
Everton Premier League form:
We say: Arsenal 2-1 Everton
It is difficult to back Arsenal with any real confidence after watching the calamity at St James’ Park, but the Emirates soil has been kind to them this season, and one could forgive Everton for still revelling in the Thursday night celebrations.
With the visitors now having nothing to play for and feeling the effects of their midweek exertions, we have faith in Arsenal to get the three points that they require, but it may pale into insignificance depending on Spurs’ result.