Arsene Wenger clung to the security of the tunnel and watched his players as they embarked on a trudge around the pitch to acknowledge supporters who were trying to digest the ignominy of Europa League football.
The classic Wenger quote about caviar and sausage sprang to mind.
Having failed for the first time to lead them into the Champions League, the Arsenal boss opted not to join his team for a farewell wave and stayed on the periphery as fans united in protest against the American owner.
Danny Welbeck, who provided the assist for Hector Bellerin’s goal, celebrates with his team-mate along with Granit Xhaka
Arsenal players celebrate as Alexis Sanchez gives them a 2-0 lead in the 27th minute to put them on course for the victory
Romelu Lukaku took his tally to 25 goals for the season after scoring from the penalty spot following a foul by Rob Holding
Arsenal players celebrate after Aaron Ramsey sealed victory with their third goal of the match in second-half injury time
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE:
ARSENAL 3-4-3: Cech 7; Gabriel 6.5 (Mertesacker 53, 6), Koscielny 3, Holding 6; Bellerin 8, Ramsey 7, Xhaka 6.5 (Coquelin 62, 6), Monreal 6.5; Ozil 6.5, Welbeck 6, Sanchez 7.5 (Iwobi 67, 6).
SUBS: Ospina, Elneny, Walcott, Giroud.
GOALS: Bellerin 8, Sanchez 29, Ramsey 90+1.
BOOKINGS: Gabriel, Holding.
SENT OFF: Koscielny (14 min).
MANAGER: Arsene Wenger 6.5.
EVERTON 4-3-3: Robles 6; Holgate 6, Jagielka 5.5, Williams 6, Baines 6.5; Gueye 6.5 (Barry 46, 5), Schneiderlin 6, Davies 6 (Barkley 21, 5); Valencia 7 (Kone 83), Lukaku 6, Mirallas 6.
GOAL: Lukaku 58.
SUBS: Hewelt, Williams, Pennington, Besic, Kone.
BOOKINGS: Williams, Jagielka, Schneiderlin.
MANAGER: Ronald Koeman 6.
MOM: Hector Bellerin.
REF: Michael Oliver 6.
Team P GD Pts 1 Chelsea 38 52 93 2 Tottenham Hotspur 38 60 86 3 Manchester City 38 41 78 4 Liverpool 38 36 76 5 Arsenal 38 33 75 6 Manchester United 38 25 69 7 Everton 38 18 61 8 Southampton 38 -7 46 9 Bournemouth 38 -12 46 10 West Bromwich Albion 38 -8 45 11 West Ham United 38 -17 45 12 Leicester City 38 -15 44 13 Stoke City 38 -15 44 14 Crystal Palace 38 -13 41 15 Swansea City 38 -25 41 16 Burnley 38 -16 40 17 Watford 38 -28 40 18 Hull City 38 -43 34 19 Middlesbrough 38 -26 28 20 Sunderland 38 -40 24
Alexis Sanchez finished off a fine move to give Arsenal a 2-0 lead.
‘Stan Kroenke get out of our club’ they sang with some gusto, as they did during the second-half of this breathless encounter with Everton, shifting the focus of the discontent from the manager.
Kroenke is a populist target: remote and silent without Wenger’s history of success, and these cries were undoubtedly inspired by news of a £1billion takeover bid from Alisher Usmanov who owns 30 per cent of Arsenal.
Wenger still splits opinion with so many eternally grateful for his early work: the training ground, the stadium, the culture, three Premier League titles, an unbeaten season, six FA Cups with another final to come on Saturday.
This badge of consistency has been ripped from his lapel because finishing fifth has always been his definition of failure.
The last time Arsenal were left outside this elite club, Tony Adams, Ray Parlour and Ian Wright were in the team and Tony Blair was sweeping into Downing Street to a Britpop soundtrack.
Bellerin strikes the ball low and hard to beat Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles and give Arsenal a 1-0 lead
Koscielny attempts to intercept Everton forward Valencia with a flying slide tackle but completely mis-timed his jump
The experienced Frenchman appears to make direct contact with Valencia’s ankle, leaving the referee with little choice
Alexis Sanchez is left with an easy tap-in after some suspect defending from the Toffees allowed him to waltz the ball in
By the time his players returned from their lap of appreciation, Wenger had ducked down the tunnel.
Off to fulfil his media duties, confirming his love and loyalty to Arsenal despite job offers from elsewhere while revealing the uncertainty of his own future had created a ‘horrendous’ environment for his team to perform in.
For this, he lauded their spirit but, surely, Wenger could have cleared the confusion at any moment by declaring his intention to stay or leave.
He could have cleared it there and then, in fact. Ahead of the FA Cup final.
But he chose to keep it vague and uncertainty swirls away – even when all signals point towards a new contract for the 67-year-old manager.
Arsenal have lost nine times in the Premier League. The damage was done weeks ago.
Arsenal’s Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista lies injured on the ground after a challenge on Everton’s Valencia
Gabriel’s knee appears to get caught underneath him during a coming-together with the Everton star early in the second half
Medical staff carry Gabriel from the pitch with the centre back still in obvious discomfort during the second half
Lukaku finds the side-netting from the penalty spot, leaving Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech with no chance of saving it
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger withdraws Sanchez with the game far from secured to save him for next week’s FA Cup final
Welsh midfielder Ramsey caps a deserved win for Arsenal with a fine curling effort into the top corner of Everton’s goal
Arsenal players wait to start their lap of appreciation for fans after their final game of a disappointing Premier League season
They accrued more points than last season when they finished second but the league is stronger this time and, ultimately, they missed out by two points – or one point and three goals.
The search for where it went wrong can begin with defeat at home to Watford in January. It felt bad at the time and looks even more costly today. As do defeats at West Bromwich and Crystal Palace, and a goalless draw at home to Middlesbrough back in October.
Had Boro taken a point at Liverpool there was a late opening for Wenger but Jurgen Klopp’s team were in control from early in the second-half.
Wenger wore a look of resignation on the bench as the chill of Thursday night football blew into the Emirates.
It all made for a surreal back-drop to a chaotic game.
Hector Bellerin pounced to open the scoring and Alexis Sanchez made it 2-0 before half-time with his 24th goal of the Premier League season.
In between these goals, Laurent Koscielny was sent off for a needless flying tackle on Enner Valencia which left his team to play most of the game with 10 men.
A fan holds up a banner calling for Wenger to leave after their first finish outside the Premier League top four during his reign
It also means Arsenal will be without their captain and best defender in the FA Cup final as they attempt to stop Chelsea winning the Double but it was hard to argue with referee Michael Oliver’s straight red.
Petr Cech pulled on the armband and raised the question of who leads Arsenal out at Wembley. David Ospina has played in all the FA Cup games when fit but omitting Cech would mean the absence of another natural leader from a team with very few.
Wembley plans were hit further when Gabriel Paulista was carried off in the second-half after twisting his left knee beneath his own body-weight as he lunged into a challenge on Valencia.
Gabriel was replaced by Per Mertesacker, making his first appearance since April last year.
Players applaud the fans that remained behind after full-time with chants of ‘Stan Kroenke, get out of our club’ ringing around
Everton, so wasteful in front of goal, reduced the deficit when Romelu Lukaku converted a penalty after Nacho Monreal had inexplicably handled a cross.
Lukaku finishes the season with Premier League 25 goals. Only Harry Kane has more. Everton finish marooned in seventh, eight points adrift of Manchester United in sixth and 15 ahead of Southampton in eighth. Ronald Koeman declared it ‘overall positive’.
Aaron Ramsey completed the scoring with a beautiful third for Arsenal, curled into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
It seemed appropriate to bring to close the worst Premier League campaign of the Wenger era with such an attractive goal, and yet this time no-one was fooled.