Arsenal on brink of Europe but Wenger rues failed title bid
Gunners overcome out-of-sorts Newcastle to set up 17th straight Champions League campaign
Arsenal 3 Newcastle United 0. A comfortable victory over Newcastle at the Emirates on Monday evening took Arsenal to the brink of Champions League qualification. The Gunners consolidated fourth position in the Premier League with the win - their third straight success – to move four points clear of Everton with two games remaining.
The Toffees host Manchester City on Saturday and all Arsenal have to do when they entertain West Bromwich Albion 24 hours later is match Everton's result. If the Gunners do that then they will ensure they finish fourth and manager Arsene Wenger can start planning his 17th consecutive season of Champions League football, a record in Europe's premier competition that is now only bettered only by Real Madrid, thanks to Man United's failure to make the top four this season.
"It is a step forward but we need to make another one because we have another home game [on Sunday]," explained Wenger afterwards, who warned the club's supporters that there could yet be a twist in this dramatic finale to the Premier League season. "It is not done yet. I am long enough in the job to know that to get over the line is always difficult. We have suffered enough this season in periods not to be complacent."
Arsenal began cautiously against Newcastle, even though the Magpies arrived at the Emirates on the back of a five game losing streak and with the fans calling for the head of manager Alan Pardew. It took Arsenal a while to find their rhythm and it was the unlikely figure of defender Laurent Koscielny who gave them the lead on 26 minutes when he did well to poke home Santi Cazorla's free-kick.
Mesut Ozil, who showed some nice touches throughout, made it 2-0 shortly before half-time when he was on hand to tap the ball into the visitors' net after Olivier Giroud had seen his initial shot parried by Tim Krul.
The Newcastle keeper kept his side in the game with fine saves from Cazorla and Lukas Podolski but he was powerless to prevent Giroud scoring Arsenal's third on 66 minutes, the Frenchman heading home Ozil's cross from point-blank range.
Yoan Gouffran and Paul Dummett had chances for Newcastle but the Magpies look like a side who just want this season to end, having suffered a spectacular collapse in the second half of the season.
Arsenal endured their own slump in form in March, winning just one of their five league games to effectively end their title hopes. Yet despite that hiccup the Gunners have spent more days on top of the table this season than any of their rivals, leaving Wenger to wonder might have been. "We were on top of the league for 17 weeks but at the crucial period of the season we lost many players," reflected Wenger, a reference to Arsenal's appalling injury problems this campaign. "We have shown quality... we have shown we have potential, but we want more next season and hopefully we can do it."