Arsenal ended its season in impressive fashion with a 4-1 victory over Stoke City at the Emirates on Sunday. All the scoring came in the first half, with three quick strikes by the Gunners inside the first 20 minutes sealing the three points early on for the home side.
Robin van Persie scored two goals for the Gunners in a match controlled basically from the start by Arsenal, who end the 2008-09 Barclays Premier League season at fourth place in the table.
An own goal by James Beattie following a Cesc Fabregas cross opened the scoring on 10 minutes. Six minutes later, van Persie was taken down by defender Ryan Shawcross in the box, resulting in a penalty. The Dutchman converted from the spot, giving him 19 goals for the season.
In Minute 18, van Persie sent in a deep free kick that Abou Diaby headed into the net, providing the 3-0 lead. Stoke keeper Steve Simonson then limped off four minutes later, replaced by Thomas Sorensen. But the Gunners continued to dominate the rest of the half, save for one positive moment for Stoke.
That came when Ricardo Fuller was tripped by Denilson on the half hour. And the Stoke striker put the penalty shot past Vito Mannone, who was in the Arsenal goal for the season’s final match.
That only seemed to re-energize the Gunners, who had chances to build the lead. Van Persie hit the post on with a fine free kick just before the Stoke goal, and Theo Walcott had a couple efforts saved by Sorensen.
Arsenal’s fourth came off a mistake by Rory Delap, whose back pass toward goal was collected by van Persie, who fired past Sorensen for the 4-1 lead at the break.
There were plenty more chances for Arsenal in the second half, with van Persie narrowly missing out on a hat trick and Carlos Vela denied late. But the damage had already been done early on, with the Gunners providing a positive finish for manager Arsene Wenger.
Chants of “There is only one Arsene Wenger” could be heard from the Emirates crowd before and during the match, as the home fans made their support known for the Arsenal manager. The Frenchman has endured through recent criticism after a fourth straight season without a trophy, but those on hand seemed to offer their continued faith in Wenger for the coming seasons.
“It makes me feel appreciated and even more regretful that we could not give them what they wanted this season,” said the Arsenal manager, who had earlier this week allayed fears he was set to quit for Real Madrid. “I am very respectful for the faith they have in me and it makes you even more determined to pay them back.”
Wenger praised van Persie’s performance in the post-match press conference, and added that it is crucial to make sure the likes of the team’s leading scorer to remain at Arsenal as he looks to lift the Gunners back into contention for the Premier League title.
Wenger also admitted that some new personnel might have to be added to the squad, but does not see the need to make any quick judgments on players.
“The question we have to analyse now is: are we strong enough like that to win the championship next year? If not, what do we need to add to the squad?” asked Wenger. “That is the basic question we need to answer.
“There is some great quality here, that is for sure, the squad is very young, so it is about what is needed to be added next year to challenge for the championship.” Wenger added: “It is important not to go into conclusions today. I have to analyse well and then make decisions after.”