Newcastle United vs. Arsenal  0 - 1


Podolski delighted with fourth spot

21 May 2013 12:29

Lukas Podolski expressed his delight at Arsenal's fourth-place Premier League finish that sealed UEFA Champions League football next season.

The striker was Arsene Wenger's marquee signing in July 2012 and he has repaid the faith shown in him by the Frenchman with a double-figure goal tally this season.

The German's two strikes against Wigan in their final home game of the season gave Arsenal the advantage over rivals Tottenham in their race for fourth place.

A final-day victory over Newcastle United secured a 16th consecutive season in the UEFA Champions League for the club, something Podolski knows was crucial.

"Of course you'd rather play in the Champions League than the Europa League," he said. "So that (win against Newcastle) was an important win for us.

"We are all delighted with having secured the fourth place in the league.

"Now we're going to be off for a few weeks and then next season we are going to attack."

This season's UEFA Champions League final will be an all-German encounter as Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich meet at Wembley, but Podolski, a former Bayern player, cannot pick a winner.

"It is very difficult to say (who will win)," he continued. "That is one game on neutral soil. We will see.

"We (the German national team) are all going to watch it and after 90 minutes, or

120, or even penalties we will see who the winner will be."

Podolski's team-mate and fellow Germany international Per Mertesacker is also unsure who will come out victorious at Wembley when the top two teams in the Bundesliga meet.

"(What is important is) that Bayern and Dortmund show their best possible performances," he said. "Just the way they already have all season long. Lots of pressure on the opposition, quick plays.

"I think we have all been surprised by what is possible for them, especially in the Champions League. I think both teams deserve the win. But there can only be one winner.

"I think there is going to be a great atmosphere surrounding the stadium and all over London."


Gibbs wants to build on strong finish

21 May 2013 03:08

Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs believes his team's superb end-of-season form will make them stronger next term.

Arsene Wenger's side went unbeaten in their last 10 English Premier League games, winning eight to secure UEFA Champions League football for another season, as they pipped local rivals Tottenham to fourth place.

While Gibbs admitted their campaign could have been better, he has been impressed with the way they turned things around, especially with several new faces in the squad.

"We would have liked to have had a better season, but I think overall you have to be happy with the way the team got back together after December and showed real character, yet again, to come back and finish where we want to be," he told The Evening Standard.

"We were a new-look side for another season, again, with new signings that have had to come in and step up.

"It is never easy to just come straight into the Premier League and perform like some of our good players have.

"In the end, there was a combination of us needing to realise what we wanted from the season and the players starting to get to know each other more. As time went on, we started to gel.

"That was important and it puts us in good stead for next season because I believe the team have gelled because of this.

"The dramatic finale makes us even stronger and we are going into next season head on."

The 23-year-old has played an important role for Arsenal this season, retaining his first-team place despite competition from January signing Nacho Monreal, and wants to see an improved challenge from the club in all competitions next season as they aim to halt a run of eight years without a trophy.

"We haven't shown it consistently enough in the cups and the league, but you have seen many glimpses of what the team are capable of," he said.

"We have to focus on every detail to give ourselves the best chance to produce something because we are desperate to win a trophy."


Harper hails ´incredible´ reception

20 May 2013 14:32

Steve Harper has thanked Newcastle fans for the rousing reception he received during his final game for the club against Arsenal on Sunday.

Harper joined the club as an 18-year-old and has spent the majority of his career as back-up goalkeeper, but he was delighted to get one more start before ending his 20-year association with the club.

The goalkeeper has worn the number 37 shirt this season, and during their 1-0 defeat to Arsenal the home fans gave him a standing ovation after the 37th minute, with the keeper admitting it was an emotional moment for him.

"The 37th minute was just incredible," he told The Chronicle. "It was mind-blowing, really, and I was struggling a bit.

"I’ve been here 20 years and that’s more than half my life. Football is this city and so is Newcastle United.

"I'll be

honest, I haven’t got half the ability of some of the people in that

room. But what I have got is I give my all, day in and day out for the

football club.

"And if you do that, that’s the sort of response you get from the fans."

Harper could not bow out with a clean sheet as Laurent Koscielny volleyed past him, but he was pleased with an improved outing from his side after recent thrashings at home to Liverpool and Sunderland.

"The performance was much better," he added. "We just started the second half badly, and although people expected us to cave in, we didn't. It was great to play in a much better team performance.

"We probably owed the fans a much better performance at home, and so it proved."

Harper was also given the captain's armband for the match and regular skipper Fabricio Coloccini was more than happy to hand the responsibilities over to his team-mate who has supported him throughout his time at the club.

"I enjoyed Harps taking the armband in his last game after 20 years at the club," the Argentine said. "He's been here so, so long and I think it was a nice day for him.

"He's a man who helped me when I came. In the first year, he was near me every time if I needed something around the city.

"We will miss him because he's a good man, a positive man in the changing room and that's very important."


Walcott wants title tilt next term

20 May 2013 10:22

Theo Walcott called on Arsenal to push for the Premier League title next season after securing a UEFA Champions League berth.

For the second year running, a Laurent Koscielny winner secured passage into Europe's premier competition, as he scored the only goal in Sunday's 1-0 victory at Newcastle.

The win made it 10 games unbeaten in the Premier League for the London club and Walcott believes the 2-0 success against Bayern Munich in March was the catalyst for their resurgence, after trailing Tottenham by seven points at the beginning of the same month.

"Challenging for the title is our next goal. A lot of people thought we wouldn't do it today so it's nice to show them that we could do it," Walcott said.

"We weren't aware of the Spurs result and we knew what we had to do - it was in our hands and we did the job.

"We had to prove people wrong. We had a disappointing result against Tottenham (losing 2-1 in March) and it's never nice to lose to them.

"We bounced back well and we knew if we could beat Bayern we could beat anyone."

Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny conceded that finishing fourth was not the target the club had set at the start of the season, but felt qualification for the Champions League was like a title win given their early season struggles.

"We celebrated a bit like we had won the Championship which was a bit weird considering the ambition at the start of the season," the Pole said.

"We have not conceded a lot of goals and when we got the goal we were confident of getting the result."


Pardew: We owe debt to fans

19 May 2013 22:24

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew feels his squad owe the fans a debt following a poor campaign which ended with a 1-0 loss to Arsenal on Sunday.

Pardew's side fell to their 19th loss of the season as Arsenal booked their spot in the UEFA Champions League thanks to Laurent Koscielny's second-half volley.

The St James' Park outfit did produce a more resolute display in comparison to recent home defeats to Sunderland and Liverpool, but Pardew knows his charges must improve next term.

"It was certainly a more composed performance from us, we showed that we have got class in the side and that it wasn't going to be easy for Arsenal," he said.

"First half we had a great period, and we really needed to score in that period and didn't quite find the goal, and when Arsenal had their best period of the game they scored, that's the margins we talk about in the Premier League.

"It's obvious that the Europa League campaign, which we did brilliantly in, really hurt us in terms of energy, and it's the depth in quality that we need to improve on. Next year we haven't got that pressure and we can go week to week in this Premier League.

"We're not going to be foolish enough to think that we don't have a couple of issues to sort out in the team, not major issues, but certainly one or two players to add to offer us a different look.

"We're very, very lucky to have the support that we got and therefore we owe them a debt next year to make sure that we serve up a better standard of football and better quality of results."


Wenger praises Arsenal belief

19 May 2013 21:59

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hailed his players' attitude after they sealed a top-four finish on Sunday with a 1-0 win at Newcastle.

The Emirates Stadium outfit booked their place in next season's UEFA Champions League qualifying round thanks to Laurent Koscielny's second-half strike.

And Wenger was quick to credit his squad for overcoming a seven-point deficit to usurp rivals Tottenham, who looked certainties to play in Europe's premier club competition following their 1-0 win over Arsenal back in March.

"We knew before the game that we had to win and any other result could kick us out of a potential Champions League group stage and we were right because Tottenham and Chelsea won and we had a big disadvantage to play away from home," he said.

"The exceptional attitude and determination of this group of players has been rewarded, they continued to believe when we were seven points behind Tottenham in mid-March. We had no room for error anymore, and you could not see any sign of giving in."

Arsenal have suffered numerous disappointments this season despite its positive conclusion, most notably shock cup exits at the hands of Bradford City and Blackburn Rovers.

However, Wenger stressed that his team's professionalism never dipped despite those various moments of strife.

He added: "I've had many, many groups in my life, and this is one on that front who have been absolutely outstanding, they have shown a combination of qualities as well as attitude. I have always admired the way they have behaved.

"We have faced so many storms as well with Bradford with Blackburn and with Bayern at home, and never could you see that the players could dismantle or that the group was not united, and that is not easy in the modern game."


Premier League: Newcastle 0 Arsenal 1

19 May 2013 19:01

Arsenal secured their place in next season's UEFA Champions League with a tense win over Newcastle on Sunday.

Laurent Koscielny proved to be the hero for Arsenal as he fired acrobatically past Steve Harper from close range after latching on to the end of a Theo Walcott free-kick to book the Emirates Stadium outfit's place in Europe's top club competition next term.

That proved to be enough for the Gunners as they held off a

spirited fightback from the hosts to claim the points.

Newcastle made two changes from the team that secured

safety against QPR last weekend, with Steven Taylor coming in for Mike

Williamson and goalkeeper Steve Harper making his final appearance for the club

in place of the suspended Rob Elliot.

Arsene Wenger's side remained unchanged

following their win over Wigan, but Olivier Giroud returned to the squad

following suspension.

The London outfit made the better start to the

game, but it was the hosts who had the first clear chance, Papiss Cisse firing

over after latching on to a low cross from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.

Arsenal had their first opportunity as Koscielny headed wide from a corner at the near post.

Newcastle displayed good spirit, and the

visitors' dominance soon faded, as Cisse and Yoan Gouffran both squandered


Wenger's men suffered a blow midway through the

first half when Mikel Arteta was forced off with a calf problem to be replaced

by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The contest developed into something of a war of

attrition thereafter, with both sides enjoying spells of possession without

creating any real goalscoring opportunities before the interval.

Arsenal, though, could have been ahead just a

minute into the second period, Harper making a strong save from Walcott

after Newcastle had carelessly given the ball away in their own half.

That chance proved to be a pointer to Arsenal's opener, as

Koscielny latched on to Lukas Podolski's flick-on from Walcott's right-wing

free-kick after 52 minutes to volley home.

Pardew's charges were not deterred by falling

behind and continued to create chances, with Gouffran going closest as he failed to

connect with a near-post ball from Mathieu Debuchy before Hatem Ben Arfa fired

wide from distance.

Arsenal were able to hold on without much difficulty for the remainder of the second half, but they should have added a second when Walcott broke free to hit the post late on - with the ball rebounding safely back into Harper's grasp.

Ultimately, that miss proved inconsequential though, as Wenger's men held on to continue the French manager's streak of ensuring UEFA Champions League football in every year of his tenure.


Ashley ´offers incentive´ for Magpies win

19 May 2013 12:41

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has reportedly offered a share of one million pounds to certain staff members if they beat Arsenal on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger's side need to win at St James' Park to guarantee UEFA Champions League football for next season ahead of rivals Tottenham.

Ashley, though, wants his team to finish on a high after enduring a poor season that has seen them flirt with relegation until recently.

According to reports, he has offered the money to non-playing and coaching staff if they can upset the odds and put the Gunners to the sword.

Meanwhile, Wenger believes the lack of drama surrounding the exit of key players will help his side next term, whatever happens on Sunday.

The high-profile departures of Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in recent close seasons has impacted badly on the club.

The Frenchman said: "It is a very important thing because, last year and the year before, the summers were of course very difficult.

"We started pre-season, on camps, with every time a player being half in or half out and that is not the best way mentally to prepare the season."

With France Under-21 forward Yaya Sanogo set to sign from Auxerre on a free transfer, Wenger is aiming to bring in some big names to follow.

He added: "Finish well on Sunday and we will give ourselves a good potential chance to win the championship next year by doing well in the transfer market this summer."


Wenger: Destiny in our own hands

17 May 2013 11:40

Arsene Wenger knows Arsenal's destiny is in their own hands as they travel to Newcastle aware that a win will secure a top-four finish.

Having started the Premier League season strongly, Arsenal's form dipped in October and November which threatened a top-four finish, but a return to winning ways in the second-half of the campaign has left them in pole position to claim a UEFA Champions League spot.

They go into their final game with Newcastle knowing a win will guarantee fourth place, and a third-placed finish is still not out of the question providing results go their way.

Wenger was pleased with the form shown by his team and called on his players to maintain their focus and finish the campaign strongly by qualifying for their 16th consecutive UEFA Champions League.

"We are on a very strong run," he said. "Recently we have shown (that in) these (recent) games, let's continue to do that.

"We've fought back to be in a position where we have our destiny in our hands. The team have improved throughout the season. The players have been absolutely marvellous."

North London rivals Tottenham are the team they are fighting with for fourth place, but Wenger admitted he will not be keeping up-to-date with how their game with Sunderland is going and will concentrate on winning their match instead.

"I will just focus on our game," he continued. "This is a period where you have to deal with the nerves of the players and the environment. That's a big part of it. It's down to the mental strength of the players.

"No matter what happens on Sunday, I will keep a fantastic memory of this team."

The Frenchman also revealed that talks with Auxerre over the transfer of Yaya Sanogo were progressing well, but no deal had been finalised for the 20-year-old striker.

Sanogo has scored eight goals in 11 appearances for the French second division club this season, and could move to the Emirates on a free transfer after rejecting a new contract with the club.


Premier League Preview: Newcastle v Arsenal

17 May 2013 11:28

Arsenal will be looking for a rare win at St James' Park against Newcastle to secure a spot in next season's UEFA Champions League.

With fourth position in the English Premier League yet to be decided heading into the final day of the season, Arsenal need a victory on Sunday to be assured of a top-four finish ahead of arch-rivals Tottenham, who host Sunderland.

Arsenal sit fourth on the Premier League table with 70 points and plus 34 goal difference, while Tottenham (69, plus 19) are in fifth position.

To wrap up a spot in the qualifying stages of next season's UEFA Champions League, Arsenal will need to achieve something they have only managed once since 2004 - win at St James' Park - or leave their fate in the hands of rivals Spurs.

Since Arsene Wenger took charge as the London club's manager in 1996, Arsenal have only won five of 15 games away to Newcastle and if they fail to claim three points on Sunday, Tottenham could leapfrog them into fourth position.

While Newcastle have only one of their past five games, Wenger will be wary of the home form of Alan Pardew's side, as the north-east club have triumphed in four of their past six matches at St James' Park.

Wenger's team have won eight of their past 10 Premier League fixtures and will most likely look to Theo Walcott for goals against Newcastle.

Walcott has scored in Arsenal's past three games to move to the top of the club's Premier League goal-scoring charts with 14 for the season, two ahead of Santi Cazorla.

Last week, Newcastle broke a run of five games without victory in all competitions, beating Queens Park Rangers 2-1 to secure Premier League football for next season and moving up to 13th in the standings.

Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoan Gouffran hit the back of the net for Pardew's team.

Gouffran has been handy for Newcastle since Pardew signed him in the January transfer window with last week's goal his third since arriving from Bordeaux, while he has created two others in the Premier League.


Podolski focused on UEFA Champions League qualification

17 May 2013 11:19

Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski is eager to secure UEFA Champions League qualification with a win at Newcastle on Sunday.

The Germany international moved to the Emirates Stadium in July 2012, scoring 11 goals in his debut season, and now wants to finish the season on a high by helping Arsenal to finish in the top four for the 16th consecutive season.

Victory over Wigan on Tuesday but the club in pole position to finish above Tottenham, and they know that three points will guarantee they end the 2012-13 campaign in fourth.

Podolski scored twice in the win over Roberton Martinez's men, but admitted the result was more important to him than personal achievements, and is fully focused on the final match of the season.

"We needed the three points (against Wigan) and got the three points so we are looking forwards to the next match now," he told the club's official website.

"I am always happy with a goal, but the three points were more important for us.

"We are in the fight for the Champions League places and for third place, so now will prepare for the next match."


Harper ready for Arsenal game

14 May 2013 11:26

Veteran goalkeeper Steve Harper is looking forward to appearing in Newcastle's final game of the season against Arsenal on Sunday.

The 38-year-old was called into action against Queens Park Rangers last Sunday after Rob Elliot was sent off in the second-half of the club's 2-1 win.

And with regular number one Tim Krul still missing with injury, Harper will be handed the jersey in the final game of the campaign at St James' Park.

"I was hoping to play, but not in these circumstances," he told Newcastle's official website.

"Rob is a great lad who works so hard and it's horrible on him. I thought the sending off was very harsh - his feet were outside the box but I don't think anyone could tell if the ball actually was.

"However, I'm looking forward to the Arsenal game, it will be fantastic."

Newcastle fell behind at Loftus Road, before Hatem Ben Arfa's penalty and a Yoann Gouffran strike secured all three points and Premier League football in 2013-14.

And Harper was full of praise for the side.

"The big thing is we are safe. That is a huge, huge result," Harper added.

"I think we were a little nervous at the start, so to go a goal down and come back to win is fantastic. We showed fantastic character at a very tough place to come and on a difficult pitch, with the rain pouring down in our faces in the second-half.

"There was good spirit today and it was a massive, massive result for this football club.

"It's always horrible going on, whether Rob's been injured or harshly sent-off, as he was today. But that's why you're there - you have to be ready, and I was very well protected by the lads in front of me.

"You have to be mentally prepared. You warm up beforehand and you just click the auto-pilot button.

"I've been in that position too many times so I know what it's all about. I think I've gone on (as a substitute) probably double figures now.

"It's difficult but you have to tune in and concentrate on the game. Thankfully I was well-protected, had a few kicks and we managed to dig out a vital win."

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 38 +43 89
2 38 +32 78
3 38 +36 75
4 38 +35 73
5 38 +20 72
6 38 +15 63
7 38 +28 61
8 38 -4 49
9 38 -4 46
10 38 -8 46
11 38 -17 44
12 38 -10 43
13 38 -11 42
14 38 -11 41
15 38 -22 41
16 38 -23 41
17 38 -13 39
18 38 -26 36
19 38 -30 28
20 38 -30 25