Newcastle - Arsenal claimed the final Champions League spot at the expense of their arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur on the last day of the Premier League season on Sunday with a 1-0 win at Newcastle United.
Defender Laurent Koscielny put visitors Arsenal ahead in the 52nd minute to secure fourth place with 73 points, one point ahead of fifth-placed Spurs who mustered a late goal from Gareth Bale to beat Sunderland 1-0 at White Hart Lane.
Chelsea sealed third place on 75 points with a 2-1 win at home to Everton.
Arsenal looked likely to miss out on a lucrative top four finish
in the Premier League when they were seven points adrift of north London
rivals Tottenham with only 10 games to play.
But the Gunners'
unblemished record of qualifying for Europe's elite club competition
under Wenger was extended thanks to Koscielny's goal early in the second
half at St James' Park.
It brought Arsenal their fifth
successive away win and maintained their excellent form in the second
half of the season, a period when they have picked up more points than
any team in the top flight.
There was an extra edge to Arsenal's
celebrations as their success came at the expense of Tottenham, who
finished one point behind the Gunners in fifth place.
Newcastle's third successive home defeat was a disappointment for a
crowd of 52 354. But, following the victory at QPR that confirmed their
Premier League status, the main focus for Newcastle was the final game
of Steve Harper, the goalkeeper who has spent two decades at the club.
Captain for the day and wearing the No 37 jersey, Harper was applauded
by the fans before and after the match and received a remarkable
standing ovation in the 37th minute.
In truth, Harper must have
expected a much more hectic exit because the odds were always loaded
against Newcastle in view of Arsenal's excellent form in recent weeks.
They were unbeaten in their previous nine games and the confidence engendered by that run was soon obvious.
Newcastle were outnumbered and outmanoeuvred in midfield where Santi
Cazorla, Thomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey prospered with the security of
Mikel Arteta behind them.
But, for all their possession, Arsenal
created few tests for Harper in the opening stages, although Koscielny
did head narrowly wide from a 12th minute corner.
forced to alter their midfield shape in the 28th minute when Arteta was
injured and replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Ramsey was given a more defensive role but Arsenal retained their midfield edge and should have gone ahead in the 31st minute.
Cazorla was given time and space on the edge of the area to meet a cross from Kieran Gibbs, but his shot lacked conviction.
Newcastle's more direct style, allied to the trickery of Hatem Ben
Arfa, brought another chance which the French international failed to
steer under the bar.
Arsenal required only 30 seconds of the
second-half to carve out a better opportunity than they had created in
the entire opening 45 minutes.
Ramsey seized on a poor clearance
by Harper to send Theo Walcott clear, but Harper made amends with a low
save, although he was fortunate that no Arsenal player was closing in
on the rebound.
If Arsenal's followers expected it to herald a
more imaginative and aggressive second-half performance, they were
quickly proved right as Wenger's team finally broke through in the 52nd
Walcott's free-kick was won by Lukas Podolski and fell
perfectly for French defender Koscielny to turn and volley in via
Newcastle's earlier attacking instincts had faded
by now and their prospects were further damaged by an injury to Yohan
Cabaye, who went off after only 57 minutes.
notorious for their ability to grind out 1-0 wins, seemed content with
that scoreline once again, although Oxlade-Chamberlain did threaten with
a long-range effort in the 70th minute.
Ben Arfa remained Newcastle's best hope of a reply but his final shot of the match was wayward in the 70th minute.
It meant Arsenal were able to cruise to a vital victory without any
late scares and it would have been more convincing if Walcott had taken a
glorious chance in stoppage-time instead of hitting the post.