Arsenal took a four-point lead over Everton in the race for fourth place with a routine 3-0 victory over Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium on Monday.
The Gunners controlled the game from the first minute to the last and demonstrated their Champions League credentials against a Newcastle side that have now lost their last six Premier League matches in a row.
Mesut Ozil doubled the lead when he tapped home after Olivier Giroud spurned a great chance, but the Frenchman did get himself on the scoresheet in the second half to put the result beyond doubt.
Following the match, Wenger said that his side became stronger as the night progressed in North London. He rued what could have been, as their title challenge petered out recently due, in part, to some ill-timed injuries, per BBC Sport:
We had some problems at the start of the game, trying to find our way through the defence. When we found an opening we became stronger. I would not like to take anything away from Aaron Ramsey but we lost a number of other players in the same period and altogether I think that would harm the chances of many teams. We would love for the season to be longer. We were top of the league but lost too many players at the crucial point of the season. We are four points ahead of Everton and we want to take maximum points from now until the end of the season.
If the Gunners can find a way past West Bromwich Albion on Sunday afternoon, then they will secure their place in next season’s Champions League, though it may be wrapped up before they even take to the Emirates turf.
Everton take on Manchester City at Goodison Park on Saturday evening, where a loss will see Arsenal take fourth place despite the Toffees being in the driver’s seat for the top four less than two weeks ago.
Newcastle, though, are looking like a club in crisis; they have lost six top-flight games on the spin for the first time in 17 years, as OptaJoe revealed:
6 - Newcastle United have lost six top-flight games in a row for the first time since January 1987. Diminished.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 28, 2014
After seeing his side outplayed, Magpies boss Alan Pardew, who returned to the sideline for the first time following his touchline ban, lamented his side’s recent form despite praising their second-half attitude, as BBC Sport reported:
It is not comfortable. When you have gone six games and have not won the pressure builds in the Premier League and you have to be counted. In the second half we showed real character because it would have been easy to fold in the circumstances we were in.
Fans are growing frustrated at seeing their side embarrassed week in, week out, and a small group of supporters even held a “Pardew Out” banner to express their anger to the manager, as this tweet shows:
The 52-year-old manager has six years of his eight-year contract remaining at St James’ Park but needs to reverse the club’s fortunes if he’s to see out his contracted tenure on Tyneside.
For Wenger, though, the boo boys have subsided with the prospect of Arsenal landing their first trophy in eight years in next month’s FA Cup final; and if they produce a similar performance to the one from Monday night, then it looks like an inevitability.