Arsenal turned on the style to thrash Burnley in Arsene Wenger’s final home game as manager. The 68-year-old, who has won 10 major trophies during a near 22-year reign, oversaw a dominant, free-flowing display in his 1,233rd game, with slick first-half goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Sead Kolasinac scored with a powerful low drive after the break, and another goal was started and finished explosively by Alex Iwobi, one of 83 academy graduates to come through the ranks under Wenger. Aubameyang got his second from close range to complete the rout.
Listless Burnley, who had their Europa League qualification confirmed on Saturday, lost striker Ashley Barnes to a 22nd-minute suspected dislocated shoulder, but will nevertheless finish an impressive campaign in seventh. Wenger was given a guard of honour by both teams before kick-off and fans of both sides frequently chanted “There’s only one Arsene Wenger”. Arsenal’s supporters also sang the name of former midfielder Patrick Vieira, who has been among the candidates tipped to take over at the Emirates next season. Red T-shirts bearing the phrase “Merci Arsene” were draped over seats for the home fans to wear, and the slogan was also emblazoned on a banner across the front of the stadium.
The outgoing manager was presented with the golden trophy given to the club after their 2003-04 unbeaten ‘Invincibles’ season on the pitch after the match. Addressing the fans, he wished seriously-ill former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson a swift recovery before saying: “Thank you for having me for such a long time. Above all, I am like you – an Arsenal fan. “For me, this group of players I leave behind me has a special quality. Please support them really well next season because they deserve it. “I would like to finish with one simple phrase – I will miss you. Thank you for being such an important part of my life and I hope to see you soon.” German defender Per Mertesacker also said farewell to the Emirates, appearing as a second-half substitute before his retirement at the end of the season.
Also saying goodbye was veteran kit-man and Arsenal Ladies pioneer Vic Akers, who is leaving the Gunners after 33 years. Arsenal’s players delivered a vintage Wenger performance for his poignant home farewell. Or ‘Total Wengerball’, as it was dubbed on the club’s Twitter account. The “collective football” that the Frenchman has championed, often involving at least three players in moves and at times attempting to elevate the beautiful game to an artform, was very much in evidence. The Gunners made 664 passes to Burnley’s 368 overall, and both goals in the opening 45 minutes came after slick, quick-passing moves.
That continued after the break when Jack Wilshere, who is out of contract in the summer and could also depart, with no new deal agreed, broke impressively and slipped in Kolasinac to score with a low arrowed drive. Wilshere received a standing ovation when he was substituted. Iwobi’s goal was another deftly-constructed treat that left Burnley chasing shadows, and Aubameyang – who has now had a hand in 12 goals in 11 Premier League appearances – showed his prowess with the fifth. Danny Welbeck, who replaced Lacazette, could have made it six but smashed the bar with a late volley from Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s pass. This three points will make no difference to Arsenal’s sixth-placed finish this term, and they have missed out on a top-four spot for the second straight season.