Arsenal saw out their 2018-19 campaign with a rare away win, as goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a first Premier League goal for Eddie Nketiah was enough to see off Burnley at Turf Moor.
The brace from Aubameyang saw him tied with Sadio Mane and Mo Salah with regards to Golden Boot standings, leaving him as joint top scorer for the season. Just imagine if we had matched our away form with our home form. Buoyed by such a prolific striker, we would no doubt have made the top four.
As it is, we finished in fifth spot, just a solitary point behind Tottenham – the third consecutive season we have finished below our neighbours – and just two points away from Chelsea in third.
With the Europa League final in his mind, Unai Emery rang the changes for this game. The last time Emery opted for heavy rotation, it was widely criticised as we lost the game, and only Aubameyang and Monreal kept their spot for this match.
In came Lichtsteiner (in his final appearance most likely), Mustafi, Mavropanos, Elneny, Guendouzi, Mkhitaryan, Willock and Iwobi. It gave a much-changed look to the eleven and Burnley took advantage of this by going on the front foot early, bossing proceedings.
We were still creating chances though, but when we took the lead, Burnley had been the better side. Mavropanos was injured in the first forty five, and Koscielny came on, and it steadied our ship and enabled us to hold firm when the home side threatened.
We ended the first half a goal to the good, and in the second half we stood firm despite giving up chances. Aubameyang scored again to give us the buffer we needed, and despite Barnes finally converting one of their opportunities, we had the last word as Nketiah poked home through Heatons legs with the last kick of the game.
Here’s four things we can take from the 90 – and the season:
Rotation shows hope for squad players
Emery had rotated previously, but it sparked a run of poor form. It sort of put a stamp on the departure of some of our players. Carl Jenkinson, Stephane Lichtsteiner and Shkodran Mustafi may well be on the way out, but Emery also saw from Mohamed Elneny, Alex Iwobi and Jo Willock to perhaps have a change of heart regarding ins and outs this summer. Willock deserves more starts after his showings for the Under-23’s, Iwobi has done enough to warrant a squad place and Mohamed Elneny – while underwhelming – put in a shift and reminded Emery of the importance of a player who always gives everything and is a solid squad man. Much will depend on funds available to our Spaniard, but this performance did them no harm
Willock Stakes His Claim
The youngster has made appearances in the Europa League this season, but his Premier League minutes are far less. So a start in this fixture was the chance he needed to remind Emery of his credentials. He did himself no harm, and could well stave off Emery dipping into the market for a versatile attacker-cum-midfielder. His touch and link-up with a much changed side showed a kid who has bags of potential and the level is well within his reach.
Still No Away Clean Sheet Is The Difference Between Top 4 And Not
The goal from Ashley Barnes meant that we have claimed just one away clean sheet in the Premier League. We conceded the same amount away from home as we did last season, but only slightly improved our results. It is this weakness that has cost us in our fight for top four placement. If we were that little bit more robust on our travels, we could have at least taken a couple of our defeats and converted them into a draw. The West Ham loss and the recent Everton loss are prime examples. If we had done that, then top four – and North London superiority – would have been ours this season.
First Premier League Season For Emery Gains Improvement
A better points tally. A better league place. Far closer to our rivals than last season. No matter how you look at it, Emery has allowed us to progress. Then remind yourself that he has managed this with largely the same squad that limped home last season and you can be clear that Emery is most definitely taking us in the right direction. Give him a squad of his making and another season instilling his virtues and tactics? Well, it whets the appetite for next season!