Monday, May 22, 2017
City, Liverpool deny Arsenal Champions League slot on final day
LONDON - Manchester City and Liverpool claimed the last two Champions League qualifying spots with comfortable wins on Sunday that meant Arsene Wenger's Arsenal missed out on Europe's elite club competition for the first time in 20 years.
The big guns blew away the rest on the final day of the Premier League season -- City thrashing Watford 5-0 and Liverpool beating relegated Middlesbrough 3-0 -- to leave the top six places exactly as they had been at the start of play.
That meant Arsenal failed to qualify for Champions League football for the first time since Wenger became manager in 1996.
Despite beating Everton 3-1 with only 10 men -- defender Laurent Koscielny was sent off and will miss the FA Cup final against champions Chelsea on Saturday -- Wenger's team were left stranded in fifth position as Manchester City and Liverpool finished in the top four behind Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.
Latest media reports have indicated that Wenger will sign a new contract whatever the result at Wembley Stadium, in the face of disillusionment with his stewardship by many Arsenal fans.
"We were playing in a hostile environment," the Frenchman told reporters of his side's difficult mid-season period.
"The players came back stronger in the last two months and I'm very proud of them for doing that.
"One thing you cannot question is my love for this club. I've turned down every club in the world to stay here."
On a day full of goals -- 37 in the 10 matches -- Tottenham led the way with a 7-1 thumping of hosts Hull City four days after winning 6-1 away to dethroned champions Leicester City.
England striker Harry Kane scored his second hat-trick of the week to finish as the clear winner of the Golden Boot with 29 goals from only 30 games.
"Finishing the season with seven goals in two games is perfect, hopefully I can continue it at the start of next season," he said.
Pep Guardiola's City knocked in five at Watford to give departing home manager Walter Mazzarri a miserable send-off.
The win kept the Manchester side two points ahead of Liverpool, whose comfortable success at home to Middlesbrough earned them a place in the Champions League playoff round.
Disappointed Arsenal could point out that their total of 75 points was more than they achieved in finishing runners-up last season and would normally have put them in the top four.
It emphasised how the top clubs have pulled away from the rest, with a gap of 15 points between Everton in seventh place and Southampton in eighth. There was a similar gap between fourth-placed Liverpool and their Merseyside rivals.
Chelsea's 93 points was the second highest total since the Premier League began in 1992 and they became the first Premier League team to register 30 victories in one season. They finished seven points ahead of second-placed Spurs.
Antonio Conte's side were presented with the trophy after beating bottom club Sunderland 5-1 at Stamford Bridge, where departing club captain John Terry made an emotional farewell speech to the crowd.
"Today is one of the most difficult days of my life," he said.
Sixth-placed Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-0 after resting several players ahead of Wednesday's Europa League final against Ajax Amsterdam in Stockholm.
The struggles of old rivals Arsenal and United this season meant it was the first time both sides had finished outside the first four places in the top flight since the 1978-79 campaign.
United's Josh Harrop, 21, scored the opening goal against Palace on his league debut while 16-year-old substitute Angel Gomes became the youngest player to feature for the Old Trafford club in the Premier League era.
Leicester City failed to secure the win they needed at home to Bournemouth for a place in the top half of the table, the 1-1 draw ending their poor defense of the title in 12th position.
(Reporting by Steve Tongue; Editing by Ken Ferris)