Arsenal seal top-four finish

Arsenal secured fourth spot in the Premier League with a 1-0 win

over Newcastle United at St James’ Park.

After a goalless first half, which mirrored what was happening

at White Hart Lane between Tottenham and Sunderland, it took

Arsenal less than ten minutes into the second half to claim the

winner which guaranteed their top-four finish ahead of their

arch-rivals.

Newcastle failed to deal with a Theo Walcott free-kick, and it

fell for Laurent Koscielny just six yards out and he volleyed home

with great aplomb.

That goal was enough to mean that the result in north London was

meaningless, although Tottenham did do their part as Gareth Bale

fired home to win it for them but Arsenal did their job to claim a

top-four finish by just one point.

Arsene Wenger’s side were clearly a bit nervy from the start,

more concerned with not conceding rather than scoring, although the

first opening came for Walcott when he fired over six minutes

in.

But with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley willing to share out

?1million between the club’s non-football staff if they won, the

home side did have something to play for, and Papiss Cisse came

close to converting a cross from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who was playing

as a makeshift left-back, but it flew just over.

Arsenal’s gamble of playing Mikel Arteta did not work as he was

forced off on the half-hour with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming on,

and they took time to adapt to the change.

Newcastle did have glimpses of goal with Yohan Cabaye testing

Wojciech Szczesny before Hatem Ben Arfa blazed over the bar when he

should have done better after finding room in the box.

One of the highlights of the first half was just before the

break on 37 minutes when Newcastle’s home fans gave a minute’s

applause to their number 37 – the retiring Steve Harper.

But he almost had a moment to forget just 30 seconds into the

second half. His poor clearance presented Walcott with a good

chance, but the veteran shot-stopper saved well and Steven Taylor

got back to clear.

On 52 minutes a Walcott free-kick was not dealt with and it

dropped to Koscielny off Yanga-Mbiwa and the Arsenal centre-half

volleyed past Harper from close range to send the travelling fans

into raptures.

To their credit Newcastle did not just cave in and they pushed

on looking for an equaliser but Koscielny and Per Mertesacker stood

firm at the heart of Arsenal’s defence. Both were on hand to put a

block on Yoan Gouffran inside the six-yard box, whilst Ben Arfa

fired one just wide from long range.

The late goal at Tottenham made for a nerve-jangling finish,

although it was Arsenal who should have doubled their lead as

Walcott broke clear in the final minute, and he beat Harper but his

shot cannoned back off the post.

But, despite their efforts Newcastle could not find a way

through as Arsenal claimed the win which means the Magpies finish a

lowly 16th, whilst the Gunners take their place at Europe’s top

table once again as their qualification for next season’s Champions

League was confirmed.