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Laurens: Pastore matures for PSG

Ligue 1 16 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
May 7, 2006

Wenger delighted to leave Highbury on a high

Arsene Wenger admitted his Arsenal side would have 'felt guilty' if the final match at Highbury had ended in disappointment.

The Gunners made sure of fourth spot in the Barclays Premiership, and with it a place in the Champions League again next season, after beating Wigan 4-2 on an emotional afternoon at the famous old venue which had been the north-London club's home for 93 years.

Tottenham could have made the result here irrelevant had they won at West Ham, but in the end a side weakened by food poisoning were beaten 2-1.

Fittingly it was Thierry Henry who stole the headlines once again, with the brilliant Arsenal captain marking his last Highbury appearance with a hat-trick.

Afterwards, Wenger declared: 'For the history of the club and for this building here, to finish on a high I am very proud of because we would all have felt guilty to have walked out of here on a low after what has happened here for years.

'There was fantastic excitement, strength of character and quality as well.'

With top-level European club football guaranteed next season ahead of the Champions League final with Barcelona on May 17, there is renewed hope the brilliant French striker will commit his long-term future to Arsenal.

Wenger reflected: 'When you are the best player in the world, you want to play in the best competition in the world.

'Therefore of course I feel it is an excitement for us.

'But even if we had not qualified today, we still had a chance on May 17, which we want to take - we could qualify as well through that.'

Wenger declared: 'Certainly for me, today he is the best striker in the world.

'It looks being captain this year has given him another dimension in that he has grown in stature as a player and has matured a lot with a sensible attitude on the pitch.'

As to the goings-on in the Spurs camp, where several players had gone down with food-poisoning which at one point threatened to see the match postponed, Wenger maintained it had always been about his side not losing focus rather than worrying about what may go on elsewhere.

The Arsenal manager said: 'I saw it on the television, but do not know what happened there.

'I always said we had to play our own game no matter what happens at West Ham.

'I thought Wigan gave us a hard time and that we had to deal with nerves as well.

'I feel we did it in a fantastic manner over the final week of the season and am very proud of my team, who showed a lot of character.'

Wenger, though, accepts Spurs were worthy challengers for the top four.

He said: 'The only thing you can say is they had a good season, and finished with 16 points.

'I said always to get in the Champions League from fourth spot you need 67 points - then if they do better, they do better.'

Wenger added: 'It now takes a bit of pressure off [for the final], but I am confident this team has character.

'We will not be favourites, but we will go in there and try to get the cup back.'

After today's match, there was a parade of Arsenal legends on the Highbury pitch, including Ian Wright, David Seaman and Charlie George, before Who singer and Arsenal fan Roger Daltrey performed a specially-written tribute song ahead of the current squad's lap of honour.

Much of the famous old stadium is set to be auctioned off before the site is redeveloped into a residential area.

Wenger quipped: 'I would love to take a piece of grass for my garden.'