Arsene Wenger said au revoir to the Emirates Stadium in style as Arsenal romped to a 5-0 win over Burnley.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice whil Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac and Alex Iwobi also found the net in a party atmosphere in north London.
Today was not about what comes next for this perplexing, exasperating side, but celebrating the man who had got them to where they are now in a stadium that will stand as the living embodiment of his work. Wenger had been eager to avoid any sentimentality associated with a game in which defeat might have left his side facing a battle to avoid seventh place and a July start to their Europa League campaign.
No-one else associated with Arsenal was willing to let him have a quiet farewell though. A guard of honour welcomed him to the pitch at kick-off, while the Emirates chanted “only one Arsene Wenger” and were “walking in a Wenger wonderland” with a vociferousness this stadium has not seen in many years. The crowd’s attentions seemed more focused on the manager than the match. Any stoppage in play saw the North Bank call on Arsene to “give us a wave”. He invariably obliged.
Aubameyang continued his exceptional start in the Premier League, where he now has eight goals in 11 games, with a poacher’s finish as he dived between two Burnley defenders to divert Alexandre Lacazette’s cross-shot into the net. Lacazette had found space to shoot thanks to an incisive through ball from Alex Iwobi, one of many squad players who need to impress the new manager. He would likely have done exactly that today, albeit against a Burnley defence that were not their formidable selves.
Meanwhile Konstantinos Mavropanos, whose signing without Arsene Wenger’s say-so may eventually be heralded as the moment when the Frenchman’s end was clear, was earning further adulation after an impressive debut at Old Trafford last week. A towering, aggressive defender, he is a typical of what Wenger prizes in his players. But maybe Arsenal fans are ready for that. They certainly enjoyed his clattering foul on substitute Sam Vokes, who replaced the injured Ashley Barnes midway through the first half.
Just before the interval Lacazette doubled the Gunners’ advantage. Again Iwobi got the ball rolling, slipping Hector Bellerin through. The Spaniard’s crossing had been wayward in the defeat at Atletico Madrid but he was on the money here, hanging one up for Arsenal’s No.9 to volley home.
Sead Kolasinac’s howitzer early in the second half secured three points before Iwobi got the goal he had so richly deserved, finding acres of space in the bod before hammering a shot into the roof of the net as he wrapped up a move he had started.
Aubameyang got his second to make it five, enough of a lead that Per Mertesacker could come on for his final game at the Emirates before he takes over the Arsenal academy.
Even Burnley fans were eager to give Wenger the farewell he deserved, chanting in support of the soon-to-be former manager with as much gusto as many home supporters.
He still has two away games left before he officially leaves the club but Wenger will never forget what felt like his true farewell.