It all comes down to this. Arsenal’s 21-year streak of finishing in the Top Four is on the line as they face the always tricky Toffees. Win and a failing from Manchester City or Liverpool, and the streak stays alive. Lose or win without help, and a new era dawns on the Emirates. And thus begins the most tumultuous offseason for the Gunners since Bruce Rioch was let go.
Action on the Field Inevitably Will Be Overshadowed by That Off
Set aside the news of the takeover bid (more on that below). What will the atmosphere be in the Emirates today? It is obvious that fans are disgusted with management but will their desire to see the club possibly sneak into the Top Four outweigh their need to vent about the situation? If Everton grab an early lead or dominate play, the stands could turn ugly.
Then there is the Alexis Sanchez situation. Our best player by the day seems more likely to push a transfer through in the summer, so this is probably his last match in an Arsenal shirt at the Emirates. He deserves a positive send-off but his leaving because of Arsenal’s lack of ambition mirrors the frustration of these fans.
From the boardroom now comes the news that the Arsenal Board will decide Arsene Wenger’s fate after the season. Wenger publicly has softened his earlier dismissal of a hiring of a director of football, which could be seen as an acknowledgement that his future is not entirely in his hands. The Board, if it wants, can scout the man across the touchline as Ronald Koeman is a name on the tongue of many major clubs in Europe calling for a new manager.
But this is not Arsenal’s last match of the season. The club still has an FA Cup final, so with that hanging over the match it could dictate everyone’s reaction to the match. With so much going on off the field, it will be interesting to see how the players and fans respond in the stadium. We could see a great fan showing or an ugly scene that could carry over to Wembley.
Silent Stan Makes Some Noise By Not Moving
Of course the discussion on the concourse will be the breaking news that Alisher Usmanov offered £1 billion for Stan Kroenke’s club shares. The American businessman rebuffered the offer and stated his commitment to the club (Arsenal Insider’s take).
Why now? Of course the visual of Kroenke rejecting a takeover bid the eve of Arsenal’s worst finish in the past two-plus decades makes a statement itself. For Usmanov, however, his position is increasing becoming untenable. Under Kroenke he will never have power. Why not make a bid, have it rejected, and move on to another business venture. Like, say, Everton where his company is the sponsor of their training facility. The optics were too good to turn down another attempt to buy majority ownership of Arsenal, and turning to the club Arsenal faces on the last day of the Premier League is almost poetic. Especially if Everton win.
Predicted Arsenal Starting XI
Cech / Monreal-Mustafi-Holding / Gibbs-Xhaka-Ramsey-Bellerin / Sanchez-Giroud-Ozil
Let’s cut to the chase. Arsenal will finish fifth, ahead of Manchester United (an accomplishment) but out of the Top Four (a massive failure). Will they defeat an Everton side that are talented, always play Arsenal well, and relish being spoilers? I say yes by a 3-1 margin.