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Monday 14 May 2012

Wenger pride at Arsenal performance

Gunners boss delighted with UEFA Champions League spot after dismal start

Arsenal's players celebrate finishing third in the Barclays Premier League at West Brom

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he is very proud of his players for sealing a spot in next season's UEFA Champions League by finishing third in the Barclays Premier League.

Wenger's team suffered an appalling start to the season, losing four of their first seven matches - including an astonishing 8-2 reverse at Manchester United in August.

"I am very proud, especially this season having started where we started"
- Arsene Wenger

But they recovered and, thanks in part to the 30 League goals of top scorer Robin van Persie, the Gunners secured a top-three place to gain entry to the Champions League for a 15th successive season.

A 3-2 win at West Brom finished the job off for Arsenal on Sunday, with Wenger hailing his squad's resilience after a campaign of highs and lows.

"I think if you look at the season as a whole, we lost only two of the last 16 games and created a fantastic run," he told the club's official website. "In the end we finished with 70 points, which is respectable, and we qualify for the Champions League for the 15th consecutive year.

"Of course we are very proud of that, especially this season having started where we started. We had problems getting over the line and you could see that again at West Brom.

"I don't know if this is one of my best seasons, I leave that to you. I am very proud of this season because we were not only tested on the football front but on our mental solidity, unity and solidarity within.

"We were deeply tested, we did not show any weakness, kept united and in the end came back. It is a good lesson for everybody. At some stages everybody was wondering what we were doing."

"It has been the strangest season yet because there were changes throughout"
- Arsene Wenger

Wenger said he thought it was the most bizarre season he has witnessed in English football, with the drama lasting until the final seconds as Manchester City won the title in incredible fashion.

"It has been the strangest yet because there were changes all over throughout the season," he added. "It looked first of all like we were battling relegation and then at the last game of the season we are battling for a Champions League position.

"Man City looked like they would cruise to the League and then suddenly they had lost it, and nobody understood why. After that, Manchester United looked like they had won it and we heard all these things about 'when they are in the driving seat they do not give it away'.

"Suddenly they lose it again when City had basically given up. So it has been a really strange League."

Settle for fourth

Tottenham were forced to settle for fourth place after Arsenal's victory, with Spurs' 2-0 win at home to Fulham meaning they finished only a point behind their north London rivals.

That would normally be good enough for a place in next season's Champions League, but if Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in Saturday's final, they will take Tottenham's place in next year's competition.

"Tottenham is my team and I want us to be in the Champions League"
- Harry Redknapp

Boss Harry Redknapp admitted he would be supporting Bayern on 19th May, even though his nephew Frank Lampard is expected to be in the Chelsea team.

"To finish fourth in a Champions League place, we can't ask for more than that," he told their official website. "To finish above Liverpool and Chelsea, to be right up there, one point behind Arsenal in the end, it's a fantastic achievement.

"We played some amazing football this season and to finish in the top four is great for us.

"Tottenham have only finished in the top four twice since the Premier League started and I've been lucky enough to be manager both times. I'm very proud of that.

"Tottenham is my team and I want us to be in the Champions League. Frank knows there's no love lost. My allegiance is only to Tottenham. He understands that."

Newcastle United, who ended their season with a 3-1 defeat at Everton, finished fifth and they will play in next year's UEFA Europa League.

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Key Points

  • Arsene Wenger delighted as Arsenal secure third spot with win at West Brom
  • Gunners secure Champions League place for 2011/12
  • Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp says fourth place is a "fantastic achievement"