Arsenal play down talk of late Premier League title bid

Newcastle 1 Arsenal 2

Arsenal play down talk of late Premier League title bid

But at least his Arsenal players were daring to dream.

The Frenchman skilfully avoided invitations to discuss the chances of a first Premier League crown for 11 years, concerned more with the chasing pack in their efforts to qualify for the Champions League.

Overhauling an ill-at-ease Manchester City, who are a point ahead of them in second, appears a more realistic goal.

But after a sixth consecutive league victory reduced to four points the deficit on Chelsea, albeit having played two games more before the leaders returned to action at Hull yesterday.

Chelsea won to move seven points clear but there remains hope.

The smart money is on the title returning to Stamford Bridge in May.

But Arsenal, who have become adept at papering over the cracks with strong finishes to the season in the wake of their now annual early spring Champions League departure, have a head of steam.

Two years ago, they went unbeaten for the remainder of the campaign following their defeat to Bayern Munich.

Olivier Giroud admits it will take something similar if they are to deny Jose Mourinho’s side and atone in the best possible manner for the away-goals exit to Monaco.

“We need to win all our last eight games,” said Giroud, whose two first-half goals laid the foundation for a 14th victory in 16 games in all competitions.

In the space of four minutes, the French forward deflected in Danny Welbeck’s flick with his knee, before holding off Mike Williamson to head in a Santi Cazorla corner, taking the Arsenal forward’s personal tally to nine in the last nine games.

And he wouldn’t rule out domestic momentum taking them all the way to the summit.

“We need to focus on our games and step by step we’re going to see. If we can win our games, then we we’ll see if City or Chelsea miss one of these steps. You never know, you have to believe.”

There was similar cautious optimism from Aaron Ramsey. “We’ll try to win every game we have left and see where that takes us,” the midfielder said.

He added: “Strange things happen in the Premier League, the kind of upset where City went to Burnley and lost. We’ve got to be switched on and make sure that kind of result doesn’t happen to us, and at the same time believe the teams around us will be on the end of upsets.”

Newcastle came from four down in this fixture in 2011 to force a draw.

After Giroud’s double, the likelihood of them achieving even half that feat appeared slim. Yet after a transformed second-half display, they were disappointed not to have shared the spoils.

Moussa Sissoko halved the deficit with a firm volley from Remy Cabella’s cross, and goalkeeper David Ospina was transformed from spectator to central protagonist in his efforts to repel Newcastle’s surge towards a Gallowgate End equaliser.

Ayoze Perez and Yoan Gouffran went close and Ospina saved well from Sissoko as an unlikely equaliser beckoned.

“We were excellent going forward in the first-half, but had to show different qualities in the second,” admitted Wenger. “We suffered for 40 minutes.”

Though ultimately fruitless, it was a 45 minutes that at least backed Newcastle’s rebuttal of criticism that, safe in mid-table, they are coasting towards their summer holidays. An improved performance it may have been, but Newcastle have won just twice in 12 games under John Carver, whose appointment on a permanent basis this summer would be baffling.

“People outside the club have a lot to say about our displays as a team,” said Sissoko, who has been linked with a move to Arsenal and did little to dissuade Wenger that he would be a notable addition to his playing resources.

“We’re working hard every day in training to finish as high as we can in May,” the French international vowed.

NEWCASTLE (4-2-3-1): Krul 6; R Taylor 6, Janmaat 7, Williamson 5, Colback 5; Gouffran 5, Anita 4 (Gutierrez 72, 6), Cabella 6, Sissoko 7, Ameobi 5 (Armstrong 88, 5); Perez 6.

ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Ospina 6; Chambers 7, Paulista 6, Koscielny 6, Monreal 6; Ramsey 6, Coquelin 7; Sanchez 7 (Flamini 71, 6), Cazorla 6 (Rosicky 71, 6); Welbeck 6 (Bellerin 89, 6), Giroud 8.

Referee: Mike Jones 7

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