Arsenal finish second in Premier League as title slips away

Arsenal's 2-1 victory over Everton proved in vain as their hopes of a first Premier League title for 20 years were crushed on the final day of the season on Sunday.

Fans arrived at a sun-drenched Emirates Stadium full of hope, if not expectation, that they could become the first team in the Premier League era to grab the title on the final day having not started it as leaders.

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They began the day two points behind and needing a win over Everton and for City to fail to beat West Ham United at home if they were to claim the club's first title since the 2003-04 'Invincibles' -- a scenario that always looked unlikely.

And so it proved as City duly beat West Ham 3-1 to earn an unprecedented fourth successive title.

Takehiro Tomiyasu scored Arsenal's first goal against Everton on Sunday.

"I think we're all a little bit disappointed," Arsenal skipper Martin Ødegaard said on the pitch at the end.

"We've been fighting so long for the big dream. We were so close. I'm so proud of the boys, so proud of the team the fans. I'm so proud of the progress we are making."

Despite the crushing disappointment of falling short, Arsenal can console themselves with pushing a superb City side to the final day of an absorbing title race, losing out by two points.

All hope looked lost when Idrissa Gueye's deflected free kick put Everton in front after 40 minutes while City were already two goals to the good 300km up north.

With Arsenal struggling to get on top of Sean Dyche's team the atmosphere was subdued until Takehiro Tomiyasu swept home an equaliser in the 43rd minute at about the same time as news of West Ham halving the deficit against City.

Suddenly the volume went up and it was deafening a few minutes later as rumours of a West Ham equaliser circulated, although they proved false.

When City did restore their two-goal advantage in the second half the mood at Arsenal turned to one of resignation although Kai Havertz's late goal at least ensured Arsenal completed the season with a sixth successive victory.

Statistically it was the closest ever Premier League title race with an average points gap between the teams placed first and second just 1.51 points.

But Arsenal knew hope was fading when City eked out a 2-0 victory at their arch-rivals Tottenham on Tuesday -- a result that took Arsenal's destiny out of their hands.

No team had won the title having not led going into the final game since Michael Thomas's iconic goal for Arsenal at Anfield in 1989 saw them pip Liverpool to the trophy.

This time there was no magic finale, but Arsenal signed off having made a bold statement that they are a force to be reckoned with. Unlike last season when their form and self-belief crumbled in the final weeks under City's relentless pressure, this time they showed incredible resilience.

After a dip in form at Christmas, Arsenal have been City-like in their pursuit, winning 16 out of 18 league games in 2024 -- the home defeat by Aston Villa ultimately proving costly.

In that run Arsenal have scored 54 goals and conceded nine.

While City will celebrate making history, they will know Arsenal are not going away.

"For me, it's a matter of time," Odegaard, inspirational throughout the season, said in his programme notes.

Midfielder Declan Rice, signed for £100 million ($127 million) from West Ham last summer, has been phenomenal in the Arsenal engine room, Bukayo Saka has stepped up with 16 league goals while former Chelsea forward Havertz, who initially looked like a misfit, proved the doubters wrong with key goals in the run-in.

Arsenal's defence, with William Saliba at its heart, has also been watertight with the 29 goals they conceded their lowest total since the 2003-04 side leaked only 26.

Arteta, too, has grown in stature as a coach, even if he must still play apprentice to Pep Guardiola.

"Don't be satisfied because we won, want more than that, we are going to get it," an emotional Arteta told Arsenal fans after the game.