The future face of Arsenal was present at the Emirates yesterday in the making and execution of the only goal, set up by Armand Traoré and scored by Nicklas Bendtner, while the past was also honoured for it was auf Wiedersehen to Jens Lehmann. The German goalkeeper bade his farewell with a 20-minute appearance before bowing, solo, in the centre circle, to the crowd. Shyness was never the 38-year-old's forte but Arsène Wenger has never been too bothered by that and the Arsenal manager still has some fondness for the man who was a key part of the side who went unbeaten in winning the 2004 Premier League title.
"It was a farewell, a goodbye for Jens," said Wenger of the player he signed in 2003 from Borussia Dortmund for £1.5m. "I wanted him to say goodbye to the fans. He was 100 per cent professional, even if not always an easy character. But you take that and he has always been fully committed.
"Back in 2004 he was the best in England. This season he had a good one for me, but Jens was born in 1969 and at some stage in a club like ours you have to make a decision." The criticisms from afar by Lehmann this term, as he was dropped in late August in favour of Manuel Almunia, will have made Wenger's decision a little easier.
There were many absentees from Arsenal's first team in their last home game, a match which meant far more to Everton, who are still one point short of guaranteeing European football. They should ensure it when they host Newcastle on Sunday.
Some of those Arsenal absentees, like the injured Cesc Fabregas, whose 21st birthday was yesterday, will of course be back, but Mathieu Flamini, who was at the Emirates Stadium yesterday, alongside the Spaniard, is on his way out.
Wenger had offered the Frenchman, 24, an improved, £55,000 a week contract, giving him a deadline of today to sign it. However, Flamini, who joined from Marseilles four years ago, has turned it down. He will sign a four-year deal with Milan today, with no transfer fee involved.
After the game Wenger said: "I'm not very happy if Flamini goes but I cannot do any more," justifying his decision to give the midfielder an early deadline because of his need to give himself time to sign replacements.
Gilberto, who lost his place to Flamini, could also leave. However, Wenger urged his Brazilian World Cup winner to remain. He said: "I would like him to stay. Like Lehmann, he is a fantastic guy. We won things with him."
It was possibly an advantage that the match was of relative insignificance to Arsenal because, after Flamini, Wenger has other weighty player issues, not least the status of Alex Hleb. The midfielder has been the subject of public courting by Internazionale and Wenger is furious. "We are not very happy with Inter," he said. "They have to call the club first. Those are the rules, it's unsettling what happened. To come out in a paper is disrespectful."
Arsenal struggled to find any fluency against David Moyes' men, who forced one good save from Lukasz Fabianski with Andrew Johnson's shot on 27 minutes. From the ensuing corner, Denilson cleared off the line from Phil Jagielka.
The hosts' goal was only their second attempt on target as Traoré and Bendtner combined on the left, with the Frenchman picking out the Dane for his ninth goal of a season where he has improved massively, according to Wenger. If his team-mates follow suit next year, a more dogged title challenge might follow.
Goal: Bendtner (77) 1-0.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Fabianski (Lehmann, 69); Touré (Traoré, 69), Gallas, Song, Clichy; Eboué, Gilberto, Denilson, Walcott; Adebayor (Senderos, 88), Bendtner. Substitutes not used: Djourou, Gibbs.
Everton (4-5-1): Howard; Hibbert, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Fernandes (Baines, 90), Carsley (Yakubu, 81), Neville, Osman, Pienaar; Johnson (Anichebe, 81). Substitutes not used: Wessels (gk), Rodwell.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
Booked: Everton Lescott.
Man of the match: Traoré.