By Chris Harris at Emirates Stadium
An impressive win on the final day, but not quite enough for another season of Champions League football.
For a while it looked on with Hector Bellerin and Alexis giving us a two-goal lead while Middlesbrough held out for 45 minutes at Liverpool.
But things turned against us here and on Merseyside.
Laurent Koscielny was shown a straight red card and will miss the Emirates FA Cup final. Gabriel was stretchered off with an injury. And Liverpool cruised to victory.
We did at least hold on for a battling win - crowned by a glorious curler from Aaron Ramsey - to finish with 75 points. That’s an improvement on last season, but this time it means fifth place and the Europa League.
Now it’s all about the FA Cup and a chance for the happiest of endings to our season - against Chelsea at Wembley.
KOSCIELNY IN, MUSTAFI OUT
The permutations were simple enough in our final-day quest for a top-four finish.
We needed an emphatic win and a Manchester City defeat at Watford to overhaul Pep Guardiola’s side. More realistically, but still unlikely, we needed to better Liverpool’s result at home to relegated Boro.
The plan was simple: win and hope for the best.
Whatever the arithmetic, we would be without Shkodran Mustafi through illness and Kieran Gibbs through injury. In came Koscielny and Gabriel. Up front, Danny Welbeck was preferred ahead of Olivier Giroud.
HECTOR CAPS FLYING START
Bellerin started his career as an attacking player so the wing-back role is tailor-made for him - especially when the opposition aren’t offering much of an attacking threat.
Bellerin took full advantage in the early stages here and was at the heart of our flying start.
In the second minute his dart into the box was spotted by Alexis. Bellerin arrowed the ball into the six-yard box but it was marginally behind Welbeck, who couldn’t angle his shot goalwards.
Welbeck should have scored in the eighth minute when the ball broke for Mesut Ozil and he slid it across goal. It struck Welbeck on the heel and rolled back into the path of Bellerin, who hammered past Joel Robles.
Everton looked there for the taking but things went sour in the 14th minute.
Koscielny raced across to challenge Enner Valencia and slid in, fully committed… only to miss the ball and catch the Everton man. Referee Michael Oliver produced the red card - and Koscielny is banned for the cup final.
It’s a big blow and it took a while for the gloom to lift inside the stadium as the news sunk in.
ALEXIS DOUBLES LEAD
We shifted to a back four and Everton put the pressure on. Lukaku, shorn of Koscielny’s attention, suddenly found more space, and crosses rained into our box.
A rearguard action looked on the cards; instead, we broke away to double our lead.
The goal came in strange circumstances. Alexis fired in a shot from 22 yards which clipped a defender and cannoned into Welbeck. He collected the loose ball and jinked past Robles before picking out the untracked Alexis for a simple finish while Everton stood watching.
With a man down that two-goal cushion was a precious commodity. And the deficit should really have been halved before the break after Ross Barkley, Valencia and Lukaku all tried to convert as the ball pinged around our box.
It was just as well that Cech was in fine form. He denied Valencia, Idrissa Gueye and Lukaku as Everton pushed on.
GABRIEL STRETCHERED OFF
Robles made a double-save from Welbeck and Ozil at the start of the second half - and then we lost another centre back.
This time it was Gabriel, stretchered off in some pain after he slid in ahead of Valencia and hurt himself in the process. There was a silver lining - Per Mertesacker came on to make his 150th Premier League appearance and his first of the season - but depending on Gabriel’s prognosis our cup final options are further depleted.
That wasn’t the end of the bad news: Rob Holding handled Leighton Baines' cross and Lukaku stroked home the penalty. Meanwhile at Anfield, Liverpool moved into a 3-0 lead over Middlesbrough.
So fifth place beckoned, but there was still a game to be won. And it was an increasingly-fractious game with Morgan Schneiderlin and Ashley Williams - both on yellow cards - treading on thin ice after further late challenges. They stayed on the pitch; the home fans didn’t like it.
Lukaku nodded wide from a ball over the top, but we finished on the front foot. Alex Iwobi had a shot blocked after a lightning break, and the same man forced another save from Robles.
Ramsey had the last word: a sumptuous curler into the top corner.
Three more points, and an eighth win in nine. Not quite enough, but not bad at all.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Copyright 2022 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.