Arsenal denied Premier League title despite late victory over Everton

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Arsenal;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Arsenal</a> finished two points behind <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Manchester City;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Manchester City</a> in the table.</span><span>Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images</span>

For a few seconds, the miracle that Mikel Arteta and Arsenal fans so craved seemed as if it might happen. As Takehiro Tomiyasu was slamming home an emphatic ­equaliser against Everton, rumours that West Ham had scored a second goal to peg back ­Manchester City began to sweep through the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal, having surprisingly found themselves trailing to Idrissa Gueye’s free-kick that deflected off the head of the unfortunate Declan Rice, suddenly had hope of ending their 20-year wait to become Premier League champions. They almost matched Pep Guardiola’s side stride for stride this season, but the brutal reality that City do not falter at the final hurdle was made clear when news of Rodri’s goal, which sealed an unprecedented fourth straight title, was confirmed just before the hour.

Related: Manchester City beat West Ham to win fourth Premier League title in a row

All but a handful of Arsenal’s fans remained until the final whistle as the team poured forward in search of the winner that would take them to 89 points, second only to Arsène Wenger’s Invincibles. It eventually came in the 89th minute courtesy of Kai Havertz’s 13th league goal of the campaign, after the substitutes Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Jesus had almost snatched victory, although this nervy performance against Sean Dyche’s well-drilled Everton was probably a signal that Arsenal are not quite the finished article.

“Please keep pushing and ­inspiring this team,” Arteta implored when the Arsenal manager addressed the crowd on the pitch after the game, with most of his players having barely moved from the centre circle after the final ­whistle. “Don’t be satis­fied because we want much more than that, and we are going to get it.”

There had been a sense of optimism around the Emirates Stadium before kick-off, with the Arsenal fans creating a party atmosphere in the warm May sunshine. The co‑chairman Josh Kroenke made clear in his pre-match message that whatever the outcome, “no one at the club will stand still” after more than £200m was spent on signings last summer, and plans are welladvanced for how to improve the squad. An over- reliance on Bukayo Saka, deemed not fit to feature here owing to a muscle problem, is one of the key areas they must address. But the return of the defender Jurriën Timber as a second-half substitute after he missed most of the season with a knee injury was a reminder of the depth Arteta has at his disposal.

Everton, who had ended Jürgen Klopp’s hopes of winning the title in his final season at Liverpool, have no such luxury and fielded Ashley Young and Séamus Coleman – with a combined age of 73 and both offered new contracts last week – as full-backs. However it was the visiting sup­porters, for once enjoying a stress-free final day, who made themselves heard as news filtered through that City had taken an early lead.

Related: Chelsea into Europe after Caicedo’s goal from halfway cuts down Bournemouth

Arteta clapped his hands in frustration when Tomiyasu headed wide a cross from Rice and again when the England midfielder could not take advantage after Jarrad Branthwaite presented the ball to Havertz. Jordan ­Pickford came to Everton’s ­rescue twice in five minutes when he pushed away a volley from ­Leandro Trossard before denying Gabriel ­Martinelli at full stretch. Gabriel Magalhães needed treatment after taking a ­Dominic Calvert-Lewin free‑kick flush in the face, just as news of City’s second goal emerged. “You nearly won the league,” the Everton fans taunted.

Not even 20 minutes had been played but perhaps many of the home fans who made an early dash for refreshments when the game was stopped for a water break had accepted their fate. They would have missed Calvert-Lewin coming within a whisker of putting Everton in front when his shot came back off the post and he put the rebound wide.

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With Arsenal labouring in attack despite enjoying the bulk of possession, Thomas Partey was booked for bringing down Dwight McNeil in full flight. Gueye’s free-kick looked off target but Rice diverted the ball past the despairing David Raya with his head.

It appeared all was lost. Yet a ­flowing move that led to Tomiyasu finishing Martin Ødegaard’s cutback meant Arsenal were level within three minutes, just as news began to spread that West Ham had pulled one back. The fake rumour that David Moyes’s side had equalised did ­nothing to calm the heart rates of Arsenal fans.

Arteta sent his players out early for the second half in a clear sign of his intention to go on the attack. Gabriel, clutching his right shoulder, had to be withdrawn before Havertz struck the post with a header. Somehow Pickford scrambled away Ødegaard’s effort from close range before Branthwaite was on hand to block the follow- up from Smith Rowe, who was unfortunate to see his volley bounce off the crossbar seven minutes from time.

Havertz barely celebrated when he struck after Ødegaard’s shot was saved by Pickford to ensure Arsenal at least kept up their end of the bargain, even if City were never going to be quite so obliging.