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May 19, 2013

Wenger praises 'special' Arsenal

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hailed his group of players as "special" after the Gunners secured Champions League qualification for a 16th successive season.

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A 52nd-minute goal from Laurent Koscielny at St James' Park sealed victory over Newcastle and fourth spot in the Premier League, denying rivals Tottenham a place in Europe's elite club competition once again.

"I am proud of the character and spirit of these players, all they have had to deal with this season and they have shown that they are special," Wenger said. "We were very far behind Tottenham after the defeat there, but we have shown character and attitude to come back.

"I have had many players in my life, and focus and desire to do well was always there. It is one of the best groups I've had from those qualities. This is why I always felt we would come back.

"We want to win trophies next season, but let's not forget the consistency, we have shown consistency again. Consistency is the most difficult quality in our sport. We played against a strong Tottenham team, a strong Everton team, but we did well to finish ahead."

Wenger went on to dampen speculation that he is set to spend big in the summer transfer window, hinting that he may be priced out of the market for top players by some of his rivals.

"It depends what you call big, is it spending big, buying many players?" he said. "We want additions to the squad, but the structure and spirit of the team we have now needs to be kept.

"There are many, many clubs with big money and maybe not enough talent to strengthen teams that have money, but we will be out there in a very proactive way."

Meanwhile, Arsenal winger Theo Walcott believes his side have proved their doubters wrong after securing a top-four finish.

"I'd like to say it's a shame [for Tottenham], but it's not really," he said. "A lot of people didn't think we would make the Champions League today, but we have shut a lot of people up and I'm very proud of everyone in that dressing room.

"We have worked very hard, shown a lot of belief in each other and we deserve that. It was so tense out there. Newcastle showed that they shouldn't be in the position they are in the league, but our defence stayed solid and clean sheets win you games. We did our job today.

"We can beat anyone and we went into every game believing it. We just need to add consistency and then these kind of celebrations for qualifying for the Champions League will be for challenging for the title. That has to be our next step."

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