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Arsenal vs Aston Villa match report: Gunners finish above Tottenham thanks to Olivier Giroud hat-trick

Arsenal 4 Aston Villa 0: Olivier Giroud scored three before an injury-time own goal completed the rout, a result that meant they moved above Spurs who lost to Newcastle

Ian Winrow
Sunday 15 May 2016 19:16 BST
Olivier Giroud opened the scoring at the Emirates
Olivier Giroud opened the scoring at the Emirates (Getty)

A campaign marked by frustration and dissent ended with the consolation of a second-place finish and, more importantly judging by the reaction from the Arsenal supporters, another season of superiority over near neighbours Tottenham Hotspur.

On the day they said farewell to Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini, Arsene Wenger’s side unexpectedly kept hold of their record of finishing above Spurs every year since 1995. Olivier Giroud’s hat-trick, combined with regular updates of Tottenham’s implosion at St James’ Park ensured there was a celebratory air to the final game of the season, at odds with the frustration and disappointment that has been a feature of too many afternoons at the Emirates Stadium.

Had Arteta’s late shot gone straight in instead of rebounding off the bar and in off the body of Villa keeper Mark Bunn, there would have even been an extra layer of gloss as the club captain said goodbye while Jack Wilshere’s 70-minute appearance confirmed the midfielder’s availability for Roy Hodgson’s England squad.

The contrast with two weeks ago was profound. Then, Arsene Wenger was forced to endure protests from a minority of supporters convinced it was time to change. The frustration stemmed from Arsenal’s failure to mount a more meaningful title challenge when presented with the best opportunity to top the table since they were last champions in 2004.

That frustration hasn’t disappeared and club chairman Sir Chips Keswick’s comments in the matchday programme confirmed disappointment was felt throughout at all levels of the club. Wenger, though, at least had some unexpected positives to dwell on.

“We are not happy by being second but 18 other teams behind us would be happy to be in our position,” said the manager. “But of course our target was to be first and for a while we believed we could do it.

“I knew our position at the end would depend on us getting through some difficult away games without damage, and on Leicester as well dropping some points. That was not only us, it was Tottenham as well who were in a better position than us for a long, long period, And City as well. I think we kept going when we had a period that was very difficult for us, we kept togetherness and we have now not lost for nine games and that mental strength in the dressing room got us through that period.”

Jack Wilshere in action for Arsenal against Aston Villa (Getty)

The success in eclipsing Tottenham at least provided some cheer and Wenger admitted the lap of honour – during which the Arsenal players wore shirts with Rosicky’s name on the back - was a more pleasant experience than the one he had endured two weeks previously.

“It is a positive feeling,” he said: “I am not masochist enough to love.. to be booed.. I am in a public job and I accept criticism. I think I have proved in 20 years that I accept being criticised. My target is to keep everyone happy but unfortunately I don’t manage to do it always.

“We did not start the season saying we want to finish above Tottenham. But we wanted to win the league and I agree with you there is a frustration because we didn’t win the league.

"Today, we could only play with the target we had. And the only one we had before the game was to finish second. We achieved it. For a while our supporters have not been going home happy from here – at least today they had some satisfaction.”

Jack Wilshere celebrates with Santi Cazorla after Arsenal finish above Tottenham in the league (Getty)

It looked as though the home supporters would be very satisfied when Giroud headed home from Nacho Monreal’s cross in the fifth minute yet despite dominating the game, Arsenal failed to create enough chances and it took the news of Tottenham’s demise at St James’ Park to keep the stadium animated.

Giroud then calmed nerves in the 78th minute with a near post finish before collecting an excellent through ball from Hector Bellerin two minutes later to complete his hat-trick. Villa’s misery was made complete by Bunn’s own goal rounding off a catastrophic campaign as they head into the Championship.

“It’s definitely realistic for Villa to aim to come straight back to the Premier League,” said caretaker-manager Eric Black. “There is no doubt that Villa is a massive club with the potential to come back, but there is stuff to be sorted out with the owners and the new manager.

“Some of these players will be here next season and it’s important for them to get the fans back on board, which they have started to do in the last three games.”

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech 6; Bellerin 7, Gabriel 6, Koscielny 6, Monreal 7; Coquelin 6, Cazorla 7 (Campbell 87,6), Wilshere 6 (Elneny 69, 6), Ozil 8 (Arteta 87, 6), Sanchez 8;, Giroud 9.

Subs: Gibbs, Arteta, Ospina, Ramsey, Campbell, Iwobi.

Aston Villa (5-3-2): Bunn 6; Lyden 6 (Grealish 75, 6), Bacuna 5, Lescott 5 (Richards 65, 6), Toner 5, Cissokho 5; Westwood 6, Gana 6, Sanchez 6; Sinclair 4, Ayew 5.

Subs: Guzan, Traore, Gil, Hepburn-Murphy, Gestede, Grealish.

Referee: M Clattenburg 6

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