Arsenal played Newcastle last night knowing that a win would put them within three points of finishing fourth in the Premier League and also guarantee that they finished ahead of Spurs for the 19th season in a row. They came into the game on the back of two wins in a row while Newcastle had lost their previous five games. The scene was set for Arsenal to finish their season strongly after the setbacks of the last couple of months.
Arsene Wenger chose the same team which won 3-0 away to Hull last week and Newcastle's team looked a little stronger than it had recently with Loric Remy and Mathieu Debuchy returning from injury. They also welcomed Alan Pardew back to the sideline after serving his seven match ban for head butting Hull's David Myler. If they were going to cause a shock Remy was the man most likely to deliver the goods.
The game started fairly slowly but Arsenal gradually started to apply more and more pressure as Newcastle showed very little ambition. They took the lead after 26 minutes when Laurent Koscielny got on the end of a Santi Cazorla free kick to slide the ball past Tim Krul. It was the goal of a poacher and Koscielny has shown that ability a few times in the past too.
Arsenal began to turn the screw on Newcastle and it looked like only a matter of time before they increased their lead. Both Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey were putting in very good displays in midfield and showing exactly what Arsenal had missed during their absences. It was Ozil who got the second goal after he tapped home a rebound from a twice saved Olivier Giroud effort.
Giroud had been played through on the right with only Krul to beat and should have done a lot better, but Ozil was on hand at the far post to finish it off. He was in an offside position but it wasn't spotted and Arsenal had a two goal advantage just before half time. There were a few other good chances in that first half too with Ozil, Cazorla and Lukas Podolski all going close at times.
It was more of the same in the second half with Arsenal looking to add to their lead and Newcastle offering very little at the other end. They did have one good chance when it was still 2-0 with Yoan Gouffran getting through on goal but Wojciech Szczesny saved well on one of the few occasions he was called upon to do anything. It was a reminder that the game wasn't completely put to bed though and Arsenal pressed forward to get the all important third goal.
That goal came mid way through the half when Ramsey held the ball up and played it to Ozil who went past him on the left side of the Newcastle penalty area. He had time to pick out his cross and put it perfectly on to the head of Giroud who made a run to the near post and headed it past Krul. It was 3-0 to Arsenal and game over with just over 20 minutes to go. I thought Newcastle were there to be well and truly beaten but the players did enough to ensure the victory without over exerting themselves.
Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky came on for Ozil and Ramsey and the team lost some of it's attacking impetus. The performances of Ozil and Ramsey showed what the team were missing as their league campaign fell apart and left us all wondering what might have been if they had stayed fit. It wasn't to be though and at least they arrived back in time to help the push for a Champions League place and the FA Cup.
The win puts Arsenal four points ahead of Everton with two games left to play and they will secure the last Champions League place if they beat West Brom on Sunday. In fact that spot could be tied up on Saturday evening if Everton lose at home to title chasing City, but either way it looks like Arsenal will now finish fourth. With two games to go they have closed the gap to the league leaders to seven points and that could be even less by the time the season ends.
If Arsenal finish fourth it will be the 17th season in a row they have qualified for the Champions League and that's a feat all of it's own. Fourth place is not a trophy though and it's even like a trophy in my opinion, but the FA Cup most certainly is a trophy. If they can secure fourth place and beat Hull in the final the season has to be judged to be a success despite the collapse of their league challenge. There are only four trophies available each season and it's been nine years since Arsenal won any of them so taking the FA Cup will be a success and is very very important for the club.
The big celebrations were of course for the arrival of St. Totteringham's Day for the 19th season in a row as last night's win meant Arsenal will finish ahead of Spurs as per usual. It's always nice to celebrate getting one up on Spurs and it was nice not to leave it until the last day of the season this time. They will have to content themselves with more Thursday night European football next season as they scratch about in Europe's second rate competition and Arsenal yet again play in the Champions League as long as they get past the qualifying round.
All in all it was a good night for Arsenal and there promises to be a few more before the season ends. Fourth place should hopefully be tied up for the final home game of the season on Sunday and then there's the small matter of that trip to Wembley. Fingers crossed that the team bring home the trophy before the important transfer business that has to be done this summer.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.