Arsene Wenger waves farewell to the Emirates with a vintage Arsenal performance against Burnley

Arsenal 5-0 Burnley: Aubameyang (2), Lacazette, Kolasinac and Iwobi all got on the scoresheet

Miguel Delaney
The Emirates Stadium
Sunday 06 May 2018 19:07
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Arsenal pays tribute to Arsene Wenger in send-off video

It was a day to remember the great times, and one fittingly filled with so many great moments.

There may have been all manner of discussion about how Arsene Wenger does not want to leave Arsenal, but there really couldn’t have been a better day or way to commemorate his departure.

Even events on the pitch obliged, as Arsenal swept Burnley aside 5-0 with a fluid performance to really recall those great times.

As gloriously appropriate as that was, it was still one of those days when the actual football felt secondary to the really important moments, as to how this crowd - in a stadium that stands as a testament to his legacy, and should surely be named after him - would recognise one of the most important figures in the club’s history.

They were faultless, as all the gripes and complaints and debates of the last few years faded, to be sounded out by cheers and celebration on what must have been one of the most good-natured afternoons this ground has had. It was so often touching.

The official post-match was much the same, although there was a very audible round of boos when it was announced that chairman Sir “Chips” Keswick would be making the presentations, and some more later for majority shareholder Stan Kroenke. They couldn’t match the cheers, though, as the club first recognised a few other great servants leaving: kit manager Vik Akers, Arsenal women’s legend Alex Scott and of course Per Mertesacker.

It was then time for the man Bob Wilson introduced as “the greatest manager we have ever had, and time for him to say goodbye.

It was a sign of the man that the first thing he said was to wish his great friend Sir Alex Ferguson well.

“Thank you for having me for such a long time,” Wenger smiled. But above all, I am like you. I am an Arsenal fan. This is more than just watching football, it’s a way of life. It’s caring about the beautiful game, the values that we cherish, and as well that something that goes through all our bodies in every cell of our bodies; we care, we worry, we are desperate. But when we come here, we realise.”

The joyous tone for the day was set straight away as both starting XIs formed a guard of honour before the game, the club legend walking out to the chant of ‘There’s only one Arsene Wenger’.

The result means Arsenal will finish sixth in the Premier League this season

That was to be heard throughout the day, along with a number of other songs from the title-winning era - including, conspicuously, many for Patrick Vieira - and even the Burnley fans offered their own refrain of the tune that soundtracked the day as they paid respect to the great man too.

That was met with a round of applause, as was most else on the day.

A crowd who all seemed to have put on the complementary red ‘Merci Arsene’ t-shirts to create a jubilantly red stadium in the sun watched as Wenger’s last ever home XI put on something that was more akin to an exhibition than a football match.

Even any lingering worries that the game itself might slightly spoil the day were quickly swept away by Arsenal’s football, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang turned the ball in after just 14 minutes. His provider Alexandre Lacazette offered his own strike just before half-time, with Sead Kolasinac then scoring the goal of the game shortly after the break. Jack Wilshere - recalling his own best form - surged through the Burnley defence to feed the ball to the wing-back, who then crashed the ball into the bottom corner of the net with a spear of a shot. Alex Iwobi soon put it into the top corner, before Aubameyang completed the scoring - and the day.

None of those goals got the cheers that Wenger got, though, or someone else leaving. Mertesacker was brought on after 77 minutes for his own last home appearance, and raised the roof. His every touch, then, raised further cheers.

Aubameyang opened the scoring

​It wasn’t all celebration and rapturous responses for those leaving. There was one big question about someone now signed to stay for the long term, as Mesut Ozil missed the game due to a back problem. Those around the club say that the general questions around the playmaker are not all unfair perception, and there is a growing issue for the next manager to sort out.

Arsenal were still capable of some delightful touches even without Ozil, with some particularly fine interchanges between Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

There was also some real old-school Arsenal defensive muscle to go with that, and from one of their newest players.

Konstantinos Mavropanos is seen as a Sven Mislintat signing, and a sign of the next era, but certainly seemed willing to stake a claim in the next manager’s team. He twice flattened substitute Sam Vokes, leaving him on the ground, and generally stood his ground so well.

He is one for the future and, as much as this day was about a past that made the football feel secondary, this result was genuinely important for the future too.

Wilshere is still yet to sign a new contract at the Emirates

It did ensured Arsenal will finish in sixth place, and that means they avoid Europa League qualifiers that would have scotched their pre-season tour.

It still didn’t feel a day for those type of discussions, though. It was a day for one man.

There’s only one Arsene Wenger. And, after all that, this was one fitting day to say farewell.

“I would like to finish with one single word,” Wenger said. “I will miss you.”

So, whatever happens next, will football.

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