Nicolas Pepe scored twice in the second half as Arsenal beat Brighton, only to be denied a place in Europe by Tottenham’s fightback against Leicester. A strong finish to the season moved the Gunners within a point of their north London rivals heading into the final day, and with Arsenal cruising after Pepe’s double, the 10,000 fans returning to Emirates Stadium thought they were set to snatch seventh place from Spurs. Despite finishing the season with a fifth straight win, Arsenal were condemned to an eighth-placed finish as Tottenham clinched a 4-2 victory at Leicester.
That result ends the Gunners’ record of playing in Europe every season since 1995-96 and means they have not finished above Tottenham since 2016. Arsenal director Josh Kroenke, son of owner Stan, was in attendance and some fans held banners that read ‘Kroenke out’, with the club’s involvement in the abandoned European Super League having intensified ill-feeling towards the board. Fans also voiced their disapproval during the second half and when news of Tottenham’s win filtered through after the final whistle.
The mood at the final whistle was in stark contrast to that midway through the second half. Arsenal were firmly on top, with Gabriel heading against the crossbar in the first half before Pepe controlled Calum Chambers’ low ball into the Brighton box and fired right-footed past goalkeeper Robert Sanchez. Pepe then added his 16th goal of the season, stroking the ball inside the far post with his left foot after the recalled Martin Odegaard rolled the ball into his path on the right wing.