LONDON • It has happened again. For the 21st season in succession, Arsenal finished above Tottenham Hotspur and, this time, the result came lacerated by black comedy - at least, as far as the red half of north London was concerned.
Arsenal's 4-0 victory yesterday over the most abject Aston Villa team in recent memory was never in doubt and, when it was coupled with Tottenham Hotspur's 5-1 capitulation at Newcastle United, the Emirates Stadium crowd could laugh and gloat extremely loudly.
A few weeks ago, Tottenham were vying with Leicester City for the title. But they must now reflect on having somehow come in third in a two-horse race. How Arsenal gloried in it all and the Emirates has not felt this happy for quite some time.
Olivier Giroud was barracked by sections of the home crowd but he still managed to score a hat-trick and the afternoon was completed when Mikel Arteta, the club captain, came on as a late substitute on his farewell appearance.
He almost marked it with a goal, too, but his shot came back off the crossbar, hit the Villa goalkeeper, Mark Bunn, and went in for an own goal. Arteta was in tears at the end.
A few minutes after the full-time whistle, the Arsenal players formed a guard of honour for Tomas Rosicky, another stalwart, who will leave next month when his contract expires after a decade at the club.
They each wore No. 7 shirts, with Rosicky's name on the back. It was a nice touch, before the lap of appreciation began and, for the moment, at least, the fans inside the stadium could forget about their collapsed title challenge.
On a day when Newcastle's fans devoted virtually the entire 90 minutes to imploring Rafael Benitez to stay on as their manager next season, their previously under-achieving team belatedly remembered they could actually play a bit.
In the process Aleksandar Mitrovic created one goal, scored another and was sent off for a truly appalling challenge as Tottenham's chances of finishing above Arsenal for the first time since 1995 were shredded.
Mauricio Pochettino's players needed only a point to finish second, but ended up third and looking anything but a team capable of competing in next season's Champions League.
At Stamford Bridge, Roman Abramovich sought out the first manager he had sacked as Chelsea's owner to offer an embrace and warm congratulations on a job well done.
Claudio Ranieri's Leicester City then completed a season of unprecedented success with an equaliser worthy of champions.
Danny Drinkwater drew them level eight minutes from time, dispatching a shot from 30 metres which dipped across a diving Thibaut Courtois and into the corner of the net, with few among Chelsea's fans begrudging the visitors their reward after Cesc Fabregas had given the home side the lead via a 66th-minute penalty.
While the locals were eager to welcome Ranieri back, they feared this might be a farewell to their captain John Terry, who came onto the pitch at the end and said he is still contemplating the one-year contract extension offered to him in midweek. While he stopped short of saying that he would accept it, he suggested that he saw his immediate future at Stamford Bridge.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE