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Newcastle 0 - 1 Arsenal: Match Report

Arsenal held on to take all three points in Newcastle today, sealing their fourth place finish and a spot in the Champions League qualifiers this August. Here's how it went down.

Stu Forster

0 - 1 Laurent Koscielny 53'

Arsenal defeated Newcastle by a final of 1 - 0 today to secure fourth place in the English Premier League for the 16th straight year, all under Arsene Wenger. It was a tense, tense match, and Arsenal were not at their best, but they again defended resolutely and held on.

Arsenal started with Mikel Arteta, who'd been a doubt to start, in the midfield alongside Aaron Ramsey. The first 25 minutes were very tight, neither side really fashioning much of a chance aside from Papiss Cisse looping over the crossbar from a cutback when he really should have done better. The first notable action from an Arsenal perspective took place in the 27th minute, when Arteta's calf flared up, preventing him from continuing.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took his place, but Arsenal still struggled to find fluency. The first half sailed on by with very little action.

As the second half began, a "plague of flies" settled upon the St. James Park pitch. They did not bother Laurent Koscielny, though, as a free kick from the right came in, Podolski headed it forward, and Koscielny got past Fabricio Coloccini to poke the ball past Steve Harper out of the air. It was the kind of goal Kos has been scoring from free kicks, always alert for the bounces, and it was massive.

From that point forward, Newcastle really put a lot of pressure on. Arsenal looked to spring the counter, but the ball wasn't behaving, and the passing was all a bit off. (I blame the flies). Hatem Ben Arfa put a shot wide in the 72nd minute, and Olivier Giroud replaced Podolski six minutes later. His holdup play helped a bit as Arsenal continued to clear Newcastle attacks.

Jack Wilshere replaced Santi Cazorla, and then the news came through that Gareth Bale had scored for Tottenham. Arsenal would have to hold on to their result to finish fourth, and the four minutes of injury time were mildly terrifying. Arsenal, as is their wont, refused to just go to the corner flag with the ball. Arsenal really should have pulled ahead by two in the 91th minute, as Theo got clean through, shifted onto his left foot, and slid a shot which only hit the far post and bounced back to Harper.

It was agonizing, but Arsenal held on and won a corner, which as soon as they took, brought about the end of proceedings, Howard Webb blowing for full time on the match and the season. Arsenal had finished in fourth place with three more points than last year's squad as well as a goal difference of +35.

After the match, Arsene Wenger summed it all up:

I'm happy as well because the exceptional attitude and determination of this group of players has been rewarded. They continued to believe when we were seven points behind Tottenham in mid-March. [They knew] that we had no room for error anymore and you could never see any sign of giving in. That's why the exceptional mental attitude of the players has been rewarded.

Here's an interview with Laurent and Theo:

Roll on the summer.