Nicolas Pepe scored twice as Arsenal beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 to finish eighth in the Premier League, missing out on European qualification for the first time in 25 years.
Pepe put the Gunners ahead early in the second half on Sunday when he received the ball from Calum Chambers and produced a fine angled finish.
The Ivory Coast international added a second on the hour when he arrowed the ball into the net after a jinking run into the penalty area.
Arsenal’s win was not enough to nudge them ahead of bitter rivals Tottenham, who claimed a 4-2 victory over Leicester City to deny the Foxes a Champions League spot.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) May 23, 2021
Thomas Partey showed positive early intent with a long-range effort which flashed just wide of the post, while Granit Xhaka’s volley shortly after was comfortably gathered by Robert Sanchez.
The lively Partey continued to look dangerous and Sanchez pushed his speculative shot away before he smothered Xhaka’s free-kick.
Rob Holding thought he had poked the ball over the line from a corner just after the half hour only for the assistant referee to raise his flag for offside.
Brighton flickered into life before half-time with Jakub Moder’s shot blocked and Lewis Dunk firing high into the stands.
Gabriel’s looping header had Sanchez scrambling back but the ball bounced off the crossbar.
Pepe put Arsenal ahead four minutes into the second half with an exquisite finishing, chipping a cross from Chambers into the air with his left foot before crisply striking it low into the net with his right.
A fine ball from Martin Odegaard allowed Pepe to find space inside the box shortly afterwards and despite a crowded area he managed to direct his shot beyond Sanchez.
Mikel Arteta’s men played out the remainder of the game with swagger as Partey struck the crossbar and Brighton rarely threatened, but there will be no continental competition for the Gunners next term.
What does it mean? Euro blow for Arteta
For the first time since the 1995-96 campaign, Arsenal will begin a season without European football after Spurs pipped them to seventh place.
Arteta can largely blame his side’s poor home form this season having taken 28 points from 19 league games at Emirates Stadium this season (won eight, drawn four and lost seven).
Victory over Brighton at least meant the Gunners did not suffer their worst ever home points total in a Premier League campaign (27 in 1994-95) but that will be only a crumb of comfort for Arteta.
Pepe finishes on a high
It was an impressive display from Pepe, who scored in three consecutive games in all competitions for the first time in his Arsenal career. No other Arsenal player has been directly involved in more goals for the Gunners than the Ivorian this term (21 – 16 goals, five assists).
Mac Allister fails to cut it alone
Alexis Mac Allister was tasked with providing the attacking impetus Brighton in a central role but made no real impact on the game. He failed to register a single shot, was too deep and never had a touch in box, and was hauled off in the 66th minute.
Arteta will switch his focus to pre-season and how he goes about reviving Arsenal’s fortunes while Brighton counterpart Graham Potter will try to build on a positive campaign in the top flight.