Arsenal romped to a 5-0 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday, with Granit Xhaka bagging two of the goals in what is expected to be his final game of an incident-packed seven years at the club.
Arsenal had topped the English Premier League for almost the entire season but had stumbled badly in the final eight games to allow a ruthless Manchester City to roar past them to a third consecutive title.
The London club finished the season with a flourish though. Some trickery from forward Gabriel Jesus on the right was headed in by Xhaka on 11 minutes to give them an early lead in what was the Swiss midfielder’s 297th, and tipped to be last, game.
Xhaka’s fairytale finish was nailed on just three minutes later when the 30-year-old, who had been close to leaving the club in 2019 after ill-tempered exchanges with supporters, tapped in following some clever interchange play from Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard.
He spurned a golden chance for a hat-trick before Saka made it 3-0 with less than half an hour played with a curled effort. Jesus headed in the fourth after halftime while Jakub Kiwior made it 5-0 with 12 minutes left to play.
Arsenal ended the season on 84 points from 38 games, five behind champions Manchester City. It was their highest points tally since the “Invincibles” won the title with 90 in 2004.
The Gunners will be back in the Champions League next season for the first time since the 2016-17 season.
Ahead of Sunday’s game, Arsenal captain Odegaard said in his programme notes that it was going to take a while for the team to get over the disappointment of how the campaign ended.
Mikel Arteta’s side faltered in the final weeks of the season, losing to their main rivals Man City and teams near the bottom of the table as they threw away what had been a sizeable league lead at the start of April.
“I still can’t explain how or why our form changed,” Odegaard said. “But we have got a very young team still, the direction is good and it’s up to us to learn from this season and improve again next year.”
Arsenal were rampant on Sunday, with a host of chances narrowly missed in the second half after midfielder Thomas Partey had an effort ruled out for an earlier push on goalkeeper Jose Sa. The visitors barely managed a shot on target.
Xhaka, meanwhile, was substituted with 15 minutes remaining to a rousing reception. The fiery midfielder rebuilt his rapport with the fans following the 2019 controversies, which saw him stripped of the club captaincy by then manager Unai Emery.