Arsene Wenger says he always had faith that Arsenal would qualify for the UEFA Champions League after a 1-0 win at Newcastle United secured fourth spot.
Laurent Koscielny's second-half volley clinched the required win for Arsenal to render Tottenham Hotspur's victory by the same scoreline over Sunderland immaterial.
Earlier in the season, the Gunners trailed Tottenham and Everton in the race for fourth, but Wenger was always confident his team could reel in their rivals.
"I'm proud of the character and the spirit, especially with all we had to deal with during the season," Wenger told Sky Sports.
"The players are special. I've told them many times and they've shown it. In the last two months they have been absolutely exceptional.
"It's a good basis, as well, on a longer term to go into next season on such a strong run.
"I'm very proud. We were very far behind Tottenham and even after defeat there (at White Hart Lane) we've shown character and attitude to come back and make 73 points, which is three points better than last season.
"I have had many groups in my life and the focus and the desire to do well was always exceptional. It's one of the best groups I've had in my life on that front.
"The combination of quality and attitude has been great, and that's why I always had faith that we would come back."
Wenger is now hoping that Arsenal can build on the momentum gained in recent months by challenging for the Premier League title next season.
He added: "We want to do that next season. Let's not forget the consistency we've shown over the years in qualifying for the Champions League and knowing everybody is desperate to get in there.
"Consistency is the most difficult thing in our sport. We need it over the season.
"We have played against a very good Tottenham team, a very good Everton team and we needed to be really special to come back to get in front of them."