Arsenal 4 Aston Villa 0

Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha Tottenham Hotspurs!!!

Arsenal finished second in the Premier League for the first time since 2005 as they beat relegated Aston Villa thanks to an Olivier Giroud hat-trick. Giroud headed Arsenal ahead early on but the hosts played nervously until he struck again, sweeping home from six yards after good work by Mesut Ozil. The Frenchman was then put through by Hector Bellerin for his third. Mark Bunn’s own goal, diverting in Mikel Arteta’s ricocheted shot, added further gloss to the scoreline. The comprehensive win ensured Arsenal leapfrogged faltering Tottenham – title contenders only a few weeks ago – after their north London rivals fell apart against Newcastle.

“It’s happened again,” sang Gunners fans at the end as they celebrated finishing above Spurs for the 21st consecutive season. Victory over relegated Villa, a team which has not won an away game in any competition since the opening day of the season at Bournemouth, ought to have been a given, and it was – but it wasn’t until the final 15 minutes that the home fans could truly relax. By finishing second the Gunners have qualified for the Champions League for a 19th consecutive season, but this has been a particularly testing campaign for Arsene Wenger, whose critics point to the club’s failure to mount a title challenge despite topping the table at the beginning of the year. The Frenchman has said the club will have to “add what we missed” this season, admitting his team did not score enough goals and, for the majority of this match, the absence of a killer instinct was a familiar criticism.

One player the Gunners have clearly missed for the majority of the season is Santi Cazorla, injured since November but returning to the starting line-up against Villa. The Spaniard conducted play beautifully and, at times, his touches were something to behold. As Villa’s resistance tired Arsenal took advantage, with Giroud capitalising to score his first Premier League hat-trick and take his tally to 24 in total this season. Mikel Arteta, who has made 150 appearances since joining from Everton in 2011, winning two FA Cups during his time with the Gunners, played his final match for the club as his contract expires this summer. The Spaniard, introduced as an 88th-minute substitute, thought he had scored for a perfect finale only for the 90th-minute strike to be deemed a Bunn own goal, and once the final whistle blew, the club captain could not contain his tears. Arteta had summed up Arsenal’s season in his captain’s notes, writing that the team’s ambition this season was to win the Premier League and failing to do so was “not good enough for this club”.

It was also the final Arsenal game for Tomas Rosicky, who is also out of contract. He received a special award before the match for his decade at the club. There was no place in the matchday squad for Theo Walcott who had, said the club, a slight hamstring injury and the forward’s absence will bring his participation in this summer’s European Championships into doubt. But Roy Hodgson, watching from the stands, will have been pleased to see midfielder Jack Wilshere make his first Arsenal start since the final game of last season and play for 69 minutes before being substituted. Arsenal finished in the top two of the Premier League for the first time since the 2004/05 campaign. Olivier Giroud’s first Premier League hat-trick was the 37th scored in the competition by an Arsenal player, which is more than any other team. Giroud has scored 16 Premier League goals this season, his joint-best return in the competition (also 16 in 2013/14). Mesut Ozil created 146 chances this season, the most of any player in a single Premier League campaign since 2003/04. Ozil’s final tally of 19 assists is bettered only by Thierry Henry’s 20 in 2002/03.

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