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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger backs his side to improve
Arsene Wenger is confident Arsenal will make a better first of next season's title race after securing a 16th consecutive crack at the Champions League.
The Gunners clinched fourth place in the Barclays Premier League and a qualifying tie for the European competition with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Newcastle to end derby rivals Tottenham's hopes of overhauling them on the final day of the campaign.
Wenger is confident that the growth which enabled them to do that will serve them well once again next season. He said: "Since February 1, we have taken more points than everybody else in the league, and I don't believe that's just down to coincidence, but just to the fact that the group has grown, this team has grown through the season."
The Frenchman went on: "We lacked belief for long periods because we couldn't win a big game, but the Bayern [Munich] game changed our season away from home. In the last three months, I believe we have been remarkably consistent. We have won every away game, so it is a good springboard for next season, to transfer that belief into the start of next season.
"That means we need to have stability and strengthen our group if possible because there are many clubs out there with a lot of money, so the competition is very hard and there is not as much talent as money today in football."
However, Wenger warned his players that the job is not yet complete, with a potentially tricky qualifier to come before they can install themselves alongside the continent's elite. He said: "It means to us to be able to play with the top teams in Europe - that's what you want.
"It means as well that it's easier to bring in players when you have a chance to be in the Champions League - let's not forget, we are not in yet, we have to qualify and that is always a very tricky round for us. But at least we have a chance."
Victory was secured seven minutes after the break when central defender Laurent Koscielny volleyed home from close range after striker Lukas Podolski had headed down Theo Walcott's right-wing free-kick.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew was able to comfort himself with a much-improved display after thumping home defeats by Sunderland and Liverpool in their last two games. But ultimately a 16th-placed finish with 41 points was a major disappointment, with the demands of a Europa League campaign taking their toll.
Pardew said: "It was the depth, really, and quality we need to improve on. But next year, we haven't got that pressure and we can go week to week in this Premier League. But we are not going to be foolish enough to think that we don't have a couple of issues to sort out in the team - not major issues, but certainly one or two players to add to offer us a different look."
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