Olivier Giroud’s hat-trick inspired Arsenal to a 4-0 demolition of Aston Villa on Sunday that, combined with Tottenham’s defeat at Newcastle, ensured they finished the season as Premier League runners-up.
Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has endured protests from supporters convinced it is time for a change throughout much of a difficult campaign.
But snatching an unexpected second place finish that maintained Arsenal’s record of finishing above local rivals Tottenham every year since the Frenchman took charge in 1996 will strengthen Wenger’s position heading into the close-season.
Wenger had acknowledged the disappointment of failing to challenge for the title by insisting before this game that defeat hurts him more than ever because, at the age of 66, he knows he has only a limited number of seasons in front of him.
Chips Keswick, the Arsenal chairman, also expressed in the matchday programme his disappointment at the club’s failure to close in on champions Leicester, but despite the feeling of frustration, Wenger’s side still came into this game having already secured another top four finish.
Last weekend’s draw at Manchester City meant the manager had guided the club into the Champions League for a 19th successive season.
And for Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, there was the added incentive of demonstrating to watching Roy Hodgson he is now fully fit, 24 hours before the England coach announces his squad for Euro 2016.
Wilshere was making his first start since the final day of the last Premier League season after suffering a leg fracture last August and offered enough signs during his 70-minute appearance to strengthen his claims.