Monday 20 May 2013
Arsene Wenger praised the "exceptional attitude and determination" of his Arsenal team after they secured fourth in the Barclays Premier League at the expense of Tottenham Hotspur with a 1-0 win away to Newcastle United.
Laurent Koscielny got the only goal of the match to ensure that for the 16th consecutive season under Wenger Arsenal would enter the UEFA Champions League, albeit in the qualifying round next season. The win meant that Spurs’ 1-0 victory over Sunderland at White Hart Lane, courtesy of another stunning late winner from Gareth Bale, was not enough to overtake their North London rivals. Having trailed Spurs by seven points at one stage, to finish above them was a source of pride for Wenger.
"We are not in yet, we have to qualify and that is always a very tricky round for us"
"I am happy because the exceptional attitude and determination of this group of players has been rewarded," Wenger said. "They continued to believe when we were seven points behind Tottenham in mid-March. We had no room for error any more and you could never see any sign of giving in.
"That's why the exceptional mental attitude of the players has been rewarded."
Wenger remained cautious, reminding his players that they were not in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League yet, with a qualifier against a potentially strong opponent to come, but the chance to get there would help him in strengthening the squad.
"It means to us to be able to play with the top teams in Europe - that's what you want,” he said. "It means as well that it's easier to bring in players when you have a chance to be in the Champions League. Let's not forget, we are not in yet. We have to qualify and that is always a very tricky round for us. But at least we have a chance."
Spurs head coach Andre Villas-Boas was disappointed to miss out on fourth despite his team earning a club-high 72 points and 21 league wins and he told his players they will have to raise their performances levels to new heights next season to break into the top four.
"Reaching 72 points and not making Europe means that we will have to get more than that next season, particularly as the other clubs are already great, great squads and they will continue to add quality,” he said. "Next year we will have to raise the bar once again and be extremely competitive because our competitors will do the same.
"We don't need a lot to make us even better"
"The difference between the three London teams is very short. We got ever so close to them. They will do their job in the transfer window and we will do ours in the Tottenham way - look for good grabs in the window to make ours an even stronger squad.
"I don't think we have a mental block about the top four. We have a competitive side with great determination and character. We don't need a lot to make us even better. We did enough to deserve it, but this year was very unusual. With this amount of points you would normally achieve a top-four finish."
In 11 of the 12 previous seasons, the 72 points that Spurs won during the 2012/13 campaign would have been enough to guarantee them a top-four place in the Barclays Premier League. In three campaigns it would have earned them third and second in two seasons.
Top four in 12 seasons before this
|Man City||89||Man Utd||80||Chelsea||86|
|Man Utd||89||Chelsea||71||Man Utd||85|
|Man Utd||90||Man Utd||87||Man Utd||89|
|Liverpool||82||Man Utd||77||Man Utd||75|
|Man Utd||83||Arsenal||87||Man Utd||80|