Mikel Arteta had a 92% passing accuracy in Arsenal's win over Newcastle as Arsene Wenger closed in on the Champions League
Last Updated: 28/04/14 11:38pm
Mikel Arteta: Attempted 88 passes with a 92 per cent accuracy
A top-four place which for a while seemed like a mere possibility has gone beyond probability and is now all but achieved for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal.
Three points in their final two league games will confirm the club's 17th consecutive season of UEFA Champions League football, a record better than any club in Europe other than Real Madrid.
Arsenal were not at their best in the victory over Newcastle United, which moved them into the above position, but neither did they need to be; this was the first time Newcastle have lost six consecutive top-flight matches since 1987.
Alan Pardew chose to pack his midfield in an attempt to hold out for as long as possible and win on the break but his defence pushed high up the field from the off.
Newcastle's average player position shows the high line and packed midfield
That left space in behind into which Arsenal's creative midfielders were only too happy to lift the ball and Wenger's team scored more than twice for the third match in a row for the first time since November 2011.
The passing of Mikel Arteta in Arsenal's midfield was important in that achievement. The Spaniard attempted 88 passes with a 92 per cent accuracy and lost the ball on fewer occasions than any other Arsenal midfielder.
Arteta's passing (blue: success; red: fail)
Now, in the wake of this success for Arsenal and with their ambitions almost achieved, thoughts could turn to what might have been.
What if it had not been for the significant injuries suffered by Theo Walcott, who has been limited to just nine league starts?
Arsenal won nine and drew another of the 12 games Walcott started this season and without him lacked one of their most principle weapons - this was Arsenal's top scorer last season.
But there is also little time for negativity. Wenger will surely be at the helm to lead Arsenal into yet another season in which they will compete on four fronts.
A version of this article first appeared on Football365
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Arsenal v Newcastle
Per Mertesacker insists Arsenal have answered their critics as they close on Champions League qualification once again.
Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal have demonstrated the strength of their spirit after a 3-0 victory over Newcastle.
Gary Neville has backed under-fire Alan Pardew, saying Newcastle are "where they should be".