GiveMeSport live from Emirates Stadium
Arsenal have celebrated guaranteeing fourth place with a game to spare by recording a routine 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion this afternoon, with Gunners fans able to bask in the May sunshine without a care as Olivier Giroud settled a mundane final home fixture with a clinical header after just 14 minutes.
Giroud has racked up the vast majority of his 22 goals in all competitions this season against the Premier League's basement boys and continued that trend early on with a smart finish, sprinting across the near post to steer Santi Cazorla's header home from close range.
Arsene Wenger was surely expecting Arsenal's final home to be a nervy clash between Champions League contenders and bottom-three battlers just a fortnight ago, but thanks to a sharp upturn in form was able to enjoy an afternoon of possession dominated by the potent passing of Mesut Ozil, who showed small flashes of his quality to light up a fairly dull occasion.
West Brom still needed a result to be 100% sure of survival before entering today's showdown, but despite beleaguered boss Pepe Mel patrolling the touchline throughout his side looked toothless in attack for the vast majority of battling display, as Arsenal recorded their 16th clean sheet of the season with minimum fuss.
Giroud settled the match early on and bullied marker Craig Dawson at times, enjoying a strong home performance which hints at why Wenger was so keen to show the French forward his full faith despite widespread castigation at various points in the campaign.
Wenger gave Ozil the freedom to roam and switch from middle to right and the midfield maestro enjoyed his creative remit, but without the rested Aaron Ramsey there were few willing runners to capitalise on space regularly afforded by West Brom's deep rearguard.
Arsenal fans may have been exasperated at a lack of tempo for large spells but surely enjoyed a lap of appreciation at the full-time whistle with fourth place safely secured, with Wenger's men finding four successive Premier League victories just when it mattered most.
One feature of that trot round the field was a particularly vocal chorus of "Bacary Sagna, we want you to stay" from the home faithful, with the dependable full-back once again strong in the tackle and a constant out ball on the right hand side this afternoon.
Sagna's efforts across seven seasons in North London have clearly been noted by the fans at least, but in marked change from last summer's stability at the Emirates a star players still looks set to walk away for a lucrative move elsewhere at this stage.
Their latest win could have been far more emphatic, with Lukas Podolski striking the crossbar unmarked from close range in a rare lack of clinical finishing from the confident forward.
West Brom probed at the other end but failed to create any chances of true worth, their best effort coming before the break as Morgan Amalfitano forced Wojciech Szczesny to parry with a fierce but central drive from distance.
The Baggies just need a Norwich defeat at Chelsea later this afternoon to guarantee survival, but another season in the top flight may not be led by Mel after another frankly underwhelming display.
For Arsenal the final match of the Premier League campaign will for once be a meaningless affair, but try telling that to Norwich City, as the Gunners rev up for an FA Cup final which will define whether another rollercoaster campaign at the Emirates can be considered successful despite a title charge which petered out tamely, much like this afternoon's match.
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