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Stoke on the brink of relegation after dropping points against Burnley

Stoke on the brink of relegation after dropping points against Burnley

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A late flurry of goals saw Arsenal sweep aside West Ham and record a morale-boosting 4-1 win. In the wake of Arsene Wenger's decision to step down, the team showed they are capable of giving him a decent send-off between now and the end of the season.

The Gunners took the lead through Nacho Monreal before being pegged back. However, a strange goal by Aaron Ramsey and a brace for Alexandre Lacazette ensured Wenger marked the occasion with three points.

Positives

Ahead of the Atletico Madrid match on Thursday night, it was important that Arsenal got a positive result to gather some momentum. Their performance wasn't entirely convincing but at least they got the win.

Arsenal fans will also have been encouraged by more link-up play between Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. For the second game in succession, the January signing laid on a goal for the former Lyon man.

Negatives

Wenger will be disappointed to have lost Mohamed Elneny to injury. The Egypt international has been in terrific form recently and would most likely earned a start against Atletico. The midfielder departed the field covering his face to hide the pain: though the medical staff said it was just a "rolled ankle," it's unlikely he'll be back any time soon.

It's also a shame that even after Wenger's announcement, there were so many empty seats at the Emirates Stadium. The match was a "sell-out" so many season ticket holders must have simply chosen to stay away.

Manager rating out of 10

6 -- In the end, Wenger will be glad for a handsome win. However, that happiness will be offset by his disappointment at losing Elneny. We'll only know on Thursday if he made the right decision to go with such a strong XI.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK David Ospina, 6 -- According to Arsenal, Petr Cech was absent from this game with a hip injury. Assuming he is fit to face Atletico on Thursday, it will fascinating to see who Wenger picks in goal. He has insisted Ospina is the nominated keeper for European competition but with so much at stake, will he reinstate his No.1? Ospina might consider that harsh in the circumstances especially as he didn't really do too much wrong against West Ham.

DF Hector Bellerin, 7 -- This was a decent game for Bellerin, whose best moment was probably a fizzed first-half cross towards Danny Welbeck. Antoine Griezmann is likely to provide him with a sterner test in midweek.

DF Laurent Koscielny, 6 -- Finding a long-term replacement for the France international might be the biggest task facing the incoming Arsenal manager. In this match, he was caught out once or twice by Marlo Arnautovic: further evidence of his decline.

DF Shkodran Mustafi, 6 -- Assuming Diego Simeone has been doing his homework on Arsenal, Mustafi is surely the man he will look to target on Thursday night. Mustafi did actually make one excellent sliding tackle in the first half but just two minutes later, he was caught napping. That sums him up: he's wildly unpredictable, which isn't what you want from a centre-half.

Ramsey scored the crucial second goal for Arsenal as the Gunners eventually pulled away from West Ham.

DF Nacho Monreal, 7 -- The Spain international has discovered a scoring touch this season and continued that by sweeping come a corner with an excellent left-footed finish. He now has three goals in his last seven Premier League appearances.

MF Granit Xhaka, 7 -- The Swiss international was responsible for providing Monreal's goal with an excellent out-swinging corner from the left-hand side. He largely controlled the game with his passing from midfield but was also needlessly booked.

MF Mohamed Elneny, 6 -- What a shame that he looks likely to miss the Atletico match and possibly the remainder of the season. His form in recent weeks saw him earn a new contract and the consolation for Elneny is that he is certain to have a future with the club.

MF Aaron Ramsey, 7 -- The Wales midfielder had a pretty difficult afternoon filling in for Mesut Ozil at No. 10 but ultimately scored the winning goal with a teasing cross from the left side that evaded everyone before finding the far corner.

FW Alex Iwobi, 5 -- If Iwobi's form had looked to be recovering in recent weeks, today was a significant backwards step for him. His passing was off and his decision-making poor. In fairness to the Nigeria international, he tends to look far better playing off the left than the right.

FW Danny Welbeck, 7 -- Although his performance was punctuated by a couple of customarily clumsy goal attempts, for long periods Welbeck looked like the Arsenal player most likely to make something happen. He probably did enough to earn himself another Europa League start.

FW Alexandre Lacazette, 7 -- He is the sort of striker who can be ruthlessly efficient in front of goal. However, when chances don't come his way, you might struggle to notice he's playing. Eventually, his opportunities did come and he took them in the clinical fashion we've come to expect.

Substitutes

FW Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 7 -- Came on for Elneny (45) for a rare Premier League outing as a central midfielder.

FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 7 -- Replaced Iwobi (70) and helped Arsenal to find their flow in attack. It's just a shame they can't use him on Thursday.

DF Calum Chambers, NR -- Introduced for Welbeck (88) as Arsenal switched to a back three.

James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.

The latest chapter in this season that refuses to end sees Everton and Newcastle preparing to squabble over ninth place in front of the TV cameras on Monday night. The eight days between Everton's 1-1 draw at Swansea and this match has felt like an eternity.

The current state of play heading into the last few matches underlines the disastrous nature of this campaign. The relative pointlessness of the last four matches has seen the recent fan survey and fallout dominate much of the build-up to this penultimate home game.

The widespread reaction in the past few days has helped highlight one of the lesser-discussed questions in the survey, relating to the representation of the club within the media, as former players and pundits raced to defend under-pressure manager Sam Allardyce.

Allardyce believes safety was the one and only goal, but he had the platform to do more than that. That there was never any attempt or inclination to seize that opportunity speaks volumes. Three wins in his first four matches lifted Everton from 13th to ninth as panic and relegation talk faded. Those results saw Everton head into the festive period within six points of Tottenham. The gap between the two teams now stands at 26 points.

Everton then survived a run of six league games without a win due to the equally poor form of the teams around them. The general hopelessness of the teams outside the top six meant successive home wins against Leicester and Crystal Palace saw the Toffees back in the mix, travelling to Watford in February just two points behind seventh-place Burnley with a trip to Turf Moor the following week.

Wins at Watford and Burnley would have put Everton seventh on their own and given them a three-point advantage over both Burnley and Leicester in the standings. But Everton lost both matches with little resistance and the two-point gap to Burnley has since stretched to 10 and ended any hopes of a belated European push.

This recap of the past few months shows that there was a chance to salvage more than just Premier League status from this season -- but Everton supporters are becoming the villains of the piece for wanting exactly that. This is the Allardyce PR machine in full effect, dumbing down expectations to such a low bar that supporters demanding better receive sneers from those outside the club.

There is something fundamentally amiss when supporters raising expectations attracts criticism while ex-players and pundits fall over themselves to champion the merits of a man whose greatest achievement is not being one of the worst three teams in the division each season.

Goodison Park may be dated, but history oozes from every pore of this 126-year-old stadium. It was the first major football stadium built in England and ties in with the many other firsts set by Everton over the years.

This is a club that used to set the mark for others to follow. The glory days of the past may be a distant memory, but those same standards should still help dictate the future. If Everton do not aspire to be the best -- however difficult or unattainable that may presently appear -- then everybody involved might as well pack up their things and call it quits.

Allardyce claims to have an understanding and appreciation for the size and stature of the club but has shown no evidence of it. Building up a 1-1 draw against a Swansea side fourth from bottom in the table as a heroic achievement offered a truer reflection of his nature. It was the latest misstep from a manager who has misunderstood Everton on every level.

Supporters want progress or at least the hope of it, something to believe in and a long-term vision they can get behind. Allardyce has offered none of those things thanks to a management style too preoccupied with the opposition.

This myopic outlook makes positive results seem like a bonus. Victories are happy accidents rather than something Everton set out to gain. There is zero belief and the club motto has become meaningless as the outward message is one of constant mediocrity.

This week has seen a succession of players, coaches and pundits within the media effectively tell Everton supporters they should be happy merely to see their club exist. That may be enough for Allardyce, but it is not enough for supporters and should not be enough for Everton.

Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.

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