Sunday, 19 May 2013

Arsenal win race for fourth as raging Tottenham denied THREE clear penalties

Arsenal will be north London's representatives in the Champions League next season after a nail-biting afternoon at the climax of the Barclays Premier League season - but Tottenham were left fuming after being denied what they believed to be three clear penalties as tempers flared at White Hart Lane.

Arsene Wenger's Arsenal team secured their 16th successive season of Champions League football - and a bumper European pay packet worth at least £25million - after comfortably beating Newcastle 1-0 courtesy of a volley from Laurent Koscielny.

But the afternoon's drama took place a long way from St James' Park in a small corner of the capital.

Contrasting emotions: Arsenal celebrate in the away dressing room as Gareth Bale waves towards fans
Bale was denied 1 of numerous penalty appeals
Grab and go: Bale was booked by referee Andre Marriner - who was 40 yards away - for this 'dive' 


Spurs dominated possession and territory against Paolo Di Canio's inexperienced Sunderland side, but despite endless chances - and three clear penalty appeals - they failed to put Arsenal under pressure until a late wonder strike from Gareth Bale. 

Master blaster: Bale caps off a spectacular season with yet another superb strike, but it isn't enough for Champions League glory
When the goal did finally come, it was a spectacular long-distance effort from player-of-the-year Bale that was almost identical to his rocket against Southampton a few weeks ago.

As for the three missed penalties, first Bale was wrestled to the ground in the area - with Sebastian Larsson grappling him to the floor - but referee Andre Marriner booked the award-winning Welshman for diving even though the official was positioned nearly 40 yards away.




Euro millions: Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny scores at St James' Park to give the Gunners some breathing space in the battle for fourth 
It was a painful irony to furious Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas that Marriner was the referee brought into the club's training ground earlier in the season with the specific remit to prevent his star winger from getting booked so often for simulation.

Tottenham were also denied two handball claims either side of half-time, with Sunderland pair Jack Colback and Carlos Cuellar escaping punishment for blocking shots from Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor respectively.

There have been five previous occasions where Tottenham and Arsenal have battled to finish above each other on the final day of the Premier League season - 1992-93, 1995-96, 2005-06, 2009-10, 2011-12 - and only once have Spurs enjoyed the summer's bragging rights. That is now one in six

 Afterwards Arsene Wenger hailed his current squad as one of the best he has ever assembled.

'They are special. I've told them many times but they've shown it in the last two months they've been absolutely exceptional,' Wenger said of his players on Sky Sports 1.
'We have shown character and attitude. 'We make 73 points, that's three points better than last season.

'I've had many groups in my life and the focus, the desire to do well, was exceptional. It's one of the best groups I've had in my life on that front.'

Asked if silverware now needs to be the next aim after another barren campaign in that area, Wenger added: 'We want of course to do that next season, but let's not forget the consistency we have shown over the years to get into the Champions League.'


Discussing his plans for squad rebuilding in the summer - when a sizeable budget is expected to be at the Frenchman's disposal, he added: 'We want to have additions to the squad but keep the structure, spirit and quality of the squad we have now. 'We will be out there in a very pro-active way.'

Meanwhile, forward Theo Walcott admitted the players had been unaware that Tottenham had defeated Sunderland 1-0, a result which meant a late Newcastle equaliser would have condemned Arsenal to the Europa League.

'We weren't aware of the Spurs result and we knew what we had to do, it was in our hands and we did the job,' he said.

'We had to prove people wrong. We had a disappointing result against Tottenham earlier this season and it's never nice to lose to them.

'A lot of people thought we wouldn't do it today so it's nice to show them that we could do it.

'I'd like to say it's a shame [that Spurs missed out on fourth place] but it's not really.'

Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas does not believe missing out on Champions League football will mean his side will struggle to keep hold of Bale and their other leading players for next season.

He said: 'No, I don't think so. This has been an ongoing question. We have to keep our ambitions high, hold on to our best players.

'For us to make it better in the future we have to hold on to the best. Today there was another great moment of individual brilliance although the squad in the second half was very, very strong, pushing for a winner.'

Villas-Boas felt it might have been a different story today if Spurs had been awarded a penalty in the 21st minute when Bale went to ground inside the box under a challenge from Sebastian Larsson.
Instead of winning a spot-kick though, Bale was once again booked for diving.

Talk to the hand: Gareth Bale does not hide his frustration with referee Marriner after his booking

Villas-Boas said: 'It's very, very disappointing because a penalty doesn't only change the running of this game but changes the running of the other game (Arsenal match) too.'

Arsenal's victory could earn them as much as £50m extra next season, depending on their progress in Europe's elite competition. Spurs earn £100m less a season in income - £144m to Arsenal's £245m - because the match-day income from the Emirates is three times that at White Hart Lane.

Sunderland finished the game with 10 men after David Vaughan was sent off for a second bookable offence after a foul on Aaron Lennon - but with Arsenal beating Newcastle at St James' Park, Tottenham's fate was out of their hands.

Spurs were seven points clear in the race for fourth with 10 games to play, but Arsenal took 26 points from a possible 30 in their impressive final run-in.

Mr Flexible: Even Gareth Bale at full stretch could not secure Tottenham a season of Champions League football
The pressure is now on Tottenham to keep hold of Bale this summer - their biggest asset and the hottest property in Europe.

In the matchday programme, chairman Daniel Levy vowed to retain his best players and invest in new signings this summer.

Bale has been linked with a move to Real Madrid after an outstanding season that has seen him score more than 30 goals for club and country.

Levy used his annual chairman’s message to Spurs supporters as a way of insisting that the club’s top stars would not be leaving in the summer.

'Looking ahead to the summer, we shall continue to seek to strengthen and improve the team and to retain key players,' Levy wrote.

'We also look forward to the return of Sandro and Younes (Kaboul) who were missed this season but who are well on the road to full fitness.'

Background tension: There's no love lost between Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Newcastle's Alan Pardew
Gunning for it: Newcastle United's Hatem Ben Arfa vies for the ball with Santi Cazorla
Tottenham captain Michael Dawson admitted he thought Bale's last-gasp winner had put them into next season's Champions League.

Dawson had assumed that celebrations among sections of Spurs supporters earlier in the game had meant Arsenal, who had taken a 52nd-minute lead at Newcastle through Koscielny, were no longer winning at St James' Park.


Dawson told Sky Sports News: 'Yeah, I thought that was it (Spurs were in top four) because of the (earlier) celebrations around the ground from our fans.

'I didn't hear anything else, then towards the end after Gaz scored I sort of picked things up that the fans weren't as lively as we would've liked if we'd been in the top four, and you sort of got that feeling towards the end of the game.'


  1. in ur face,,, totenham. I just luv Arsenal so friggin bahd

  2. How i luv dis team so much.. nuthin can break our spirit.. Common u gunners

  3. Arsenal till death do us part..