Three things we learned from the Europa League final
Giroud makes most of European chance
Olivier Giroud has found opportunities difficult to come by in the Premier League following his January 2018 move from Arsenal, but the France striker again proved his worth in Chelsea’s Europa League triumph as he finished the competition’s top scorer with 11 goals, one above highly-rated Eintracht Frankfurt sharpshooter Luka Jovic. Giroud has made just 13 league starts in 18 months at Stamford Bridge scoring only twice in the top-flight this season. He recently admitted his frustration at his bit-part role, but his displays on the continent have convinced the club’s hierarchy to extend his deal for another season. The former Gunners forward came back to haunt to his old side with a superb glancing header for the opening goal in Baku, also won a penalty that led to Chelsea’s third goal and then teed up Eden Hazard to complete the rout.
Late season flourish boosts Sarri
Maurizio Sarri’s future as Chelsea boss appeared bleak after goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted during February’s League Cup final defeat by Manchester City on penalties. Already battling to avoid the sack, the Wembley mutiny further undermined the Italian’s standing and left him apoplectic. Yet Sarri, who has been heavily linked with a move to Juventus, oversaw a notable upturn in fortunes from that point forth, leading the Blues to a third-place finish in the league and a second Europa League crown in seven years. Sarri had stolen the headlines 24 earlier when he angrily stormed off the pitch during a training session, but winning the final — his first title as a manager — transformed what he already claimed to be a “very good season” into a “wonderful” one.
Questions persist over Emery
Unai Emery’s Europa League magic ran out in Baku, as he finished on the losing side for the first time in four finals. A promising first 30 minutes from Arsenal quickly faded into a distant memory as Chelsea blew the Gunners away with a merciless second-half blitz that underlined the magnitude of the task Emery faces as the successor to Arsene Wenger. In a time of transition, the Basque coach has done a steady if unspectacular job, but doubts remain over his ability to lead Arsenal back to past heights after they missed out on Champions League revenue for the third year in a row.