While Arsenal fans may have made their peace with the fact that they won’t be winning the Premier League title this season, the idea of their club not earning a Champions League place is barbaric.
However, their top-four hopes took a serious dent on Sunday, as Everton ran out 3-0 winners against the Gunners at Goodison Park to put themselves just one point adrift of fourth-place Arsenal with a game in hand.
Steven Naismith got the goalscoring party started after just 14 minutes in a first half that was dominated by the hosts, before Romelu Lukaku’s 34th-minute strike and a Mikel Arteta own goal in the second half completed the rout.
Arteta, who scored 34 goals during a six-year spell with the Toffees, unintentionally made it 35 on a miserable afternoon for the Spaniard, as Betdaq reported via Twitter:
The win was nothing more than Everton deserved, though, having outplayed Arsenal from the offset, highlighted by WhoScored.com’s team ratings of 7.29 for the hosts and a gloomy 6.34 for Arsene Wenger’s men.
The pressure is mounting on Wenger in the Arsenal hot seat, having recorded just one win in six league matches, and his worry was apparent during his post-match interview with BBC Sport:
Was there a lack of fight? You could say that. It is a massive worry to lose a game like that. We have to analyse it well and come back with a different attitude, with more personality and stronger challenges. We have to go back to basics.
Wenger continued by praising Everton and looking ahead for what his club must do next:
Everton were better, sharper and deserved to win. The only time we looked like coming back into the game was in the second half, then we gave an easy goal away. Then that was it.
It will be difficult to finish in top four but first we have to focus on quality of our performances.
I wouldn't question the spirit of this team but we have lost something on the confidence front. We looked disjointed when we had to run after the score. The other big defeats away from home have taken some of the charisma from this team.
Arsenal haven’t missed out on Champions League qualification since the 1998/99 season, according to UEFA.com, and if Wenger can’t find a way to make it 16 years in a row in Europe’s elite club competition, then it may be curtains for the Frenchman.
Fans took to Twitter to vent their frustration with the club’s recent run of results, including Piers Morgan, who reinforced just how historic a victory it was for Everton:
Meanwhile, Everton manager Roberto Martinez revelled in the performance of his side while talking to BBC Sport, though he didn't get too far ahead of himself as far as Champions League qualification is concerned, saying:
It was a very good performance. The most pleasing aspect had to be the manner in which we defended, our concentration and discipline off the ball.
We knew if [we] got three points today then it would leave us with 63 points, but we have still got another 18 points to play for.
If from here we don't pick up any points then we won't achieve our aim. Yes it was a great win and a great psychological boost, but the nature of this league is to be ready from game to game. But today is a good memory for Everton and we're very proud of that performance.
Under the Spaniard’s guidance, Everton have reached their highest points total in the Premier League after 32 matches (63), and are now just two points behind their best-ever season total:
With their Champions League fate now in their own hands, the sky appears to be the limit for Martinez’s side. Bar welcoming both Manchester clubs to Goodison Park during the run-in, Everton have a generous set of fixtures as the Premier League approaches its climax, and fourth place is far from beyond them.
The same applies to the out-of-sorts Gunners, though if Everton win all their remaining games, there will be nothing that Wenger or any manager can do to reverse their fate.
If the Toffees manager can find a way to send Everton to Europe, it will be job done. Meanwhile, if Wenger can’t, it will be job gone.