On the final day of the English Premier League, the Gunners take on Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday in the final round of the 2015-16 Premier League season. It’s been another difficult campaign for the Gunners, whom many felt should have won the title this year. But that didn’t happen, and heading into the final round of the campaign the only real issue for the Arsenal faithful was to hope that Newcastle can beat Tottenham at St James’ Park so that Arsenal can finish second. The match against Aston Villa will be memorable as it will be the final occasion that Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini will turn out in the club’s colours.
All three midfielders are out of contract at the end of the season, and they will also move on from the club. While those players move on, reports are growing that Leicester midfielder N’Golo Kante is joining Arsenal this summer. Also it looked like Granit Xhaka said goodbye to Gladbach before his move to Arsenal on Saturday. Arsenal fans have been taking to social media in the build up to the Villa game to post their goodbye messages for Arteta, Rosicky and Flamini. Manager Arsene Wenger has been fulsome in his praise of the departing trio. “Mikel Arteta is the captain of the club and has been a great leader,” said Arsene Wenger in his pre-match press conference. “Tomas Rosicky has been with us for 10 years and I think everybody loves him as well. Mathieu Flamini has been an extremely strong leader on the pitch and off the pitch. We lose three big personalities.”
The inclusion of Flamini in that list may raise eyebrows. He’s been a divisive figure at times; a symbol of Wenger’s tendency to persist with cheap options rather than bring in top-class alternatives. However, he’s still been a loyal servant across two spells with the club that total seven seasons. His quality has occasionally been questionable, but his commitment on the field has not. Arteta and Rosicky are almost universally admired. The Spaniard arrived in 2011 at a difficult point in the club’s recent history, following an 8-2 mauling at Manchester United and the double departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Arteta’s steady midfield presence and natural authority helped steady the ship.
Rosicky will be remembered with plenty of affection, not least for his knack of scoring against Tottenham. However, he’ll be also be reflected upon as a player who never quite fulfilled his potential in north London. Bought in 2006 as a replacement for Robert Pires, a succession of injuries has prevented him from blossoming into a pivotal figure. All three men will be hoping to get some time on the field in order to say a proper goodbye to the Emirates Stadium. That said, Sunday is no testimonial affair but a competitive fixture with three points at stake and potential repercussions for Arsenal’s Premier League position. The Gunners need a point to guarantee third place and automatic qualification for the Champions League. Against already-relegated Aston Villa that should be more than achievable. However, there is a more intriguing possibility on the table. If Arsenal win and Tottenham lose at Newcastle, the Gunners would leapfrog their local rivals and snatch second.