Arsenal thrashed Everton 5-1 and finished fifth in the Premier League on Sunday but coach Mikel Arteta said he took little consolation from Europa League qualification and was still in pain from the missed Champions League opportunity.
Back-to-back defeats by Tottenham Hotspur and, with a desperately flat display, Newcastle United, handed the initiative to Spurs and they took full advantage by hammering Norwich City 5-0 on Sunday to secure that fourth spot.
“We did what we could. We needed a miracle but the season doesn’t lie,” Arteta said. “But I can’t assess the season as I’m still in a lot of pain from Monday (the 2-0 Newcastle defeat).
“I’m extremely disappointed today. We generated expectations and that feeling of guilt and not reaching that level is painful. Our level has not been enough and we know what we have to do to take the club to the next level.”
Under Arsene Wenger, Champions League qualification was the starting point – and he achieved it for a remarkable 19 years in a row. Since 2017, however, Arsenal have been on the outside looking in – their absence all the more painful for it being local rivals Spurs who have stepped up to the top level.
After starting the season with three defeats – shipping 10 goals and failing to score in the process – getting into the Europa League could be considered something of a success, but Arteta did not see it that way.
“I don’t get much to be honest,” he said when asked what satisfaction he took from qualifying for Europe’s secondary competition. “We lost something we could have won and I’m still in pain.
“But the fans have given me many reasons (to be positive). The atmosphere they built, they can see what we’re doing and what the players want to do.”
Everton coach Frank Lampard said his much-changed team had emptied their physical and emotional tanks in the comeback win over Crystal Palace that kept them in the league. “Our big final was on Thursday and we won it and today was a step too far,” he said.
“It was a difficult game for the players, as much as we tried to focus, and Arsenal were playing for something. Giving away three goals from set pieces is a concentration issue and that’s not really a surprise.”
With the Everton fans singing and dancing in celebration of city rivals Liverpool missing out on the league title, Lampard was also able to pretty much dismiss Sunday’s result which at any other time of the season would have been a cause for deep soul-searching.
“My feeling at the moment is absolute delight and relief that we kept the club in the league,” Lampard said. “When we came in it was difficult, going game to game just trying to find ways to win games and get points.
“I think the way we’ve played in the last month, against some big teams, has been fantastic. It’s been a certain type of football, but we now need to look at how we can be better in possession. Some of that will be from improving the squad and some will be work we are able to do in pre-season.
“The good thing about the pre-season is that we can reflect a bit and refresh. The reasons we are where are are real and we need to improve in a lot of ways.”