Giroud out to finish in style
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud is targeting a perfect finish to the season to pile the pressure on Barclays Premier League title contenders Chelsea and Manchester City.
The Gunners kept up the heat on leaders Chelsea and second-placed City on Saturday evening following their hard-fought 2-1 victory at Newcastle.
Two seasons ago, Arsene Wenger's men responded to their Champions League exit by putting together a run of eight wins and two draws in their final 10 league games and, having succumbed to Monaco last Tuesday evening, Giroud is looking for a similar surge towards the finishing line.
He told the club's official website www.arsenal.com: "It's nice for the team because we are on a really good run, even if we were disappointed about the Champions League. We want to finish really strongly and finish in the best position by winning every single game.
"There are still eight games to play, so we need to focus on our games and step by step we're going to see. First we need to win every single game and then after we need to see if City or Chelsea miss one of these steps.
"You never know, you have to believe in football and that's why we want to win every single game."
The victory at St James' Park extended Arsenal's winning league run to six games and, while it looked as though it would arrive in routine style after Giroud's first-half double, they were ultimately grateful for the excellence of goalkeeper David Ospina, who produced a series of second-half saves to keep the resurgent Magpies at bay.
Giroud opened the scoring with 24 minutes gone when he bundled home Danny Welbeck's flick-on from a Santi Cazorla free-kick and he extended the lead just four minutes later when he made the most of some insipid defending to head Cazorla's corner past Tim Krul.
However, Moussa Sissoko reduced the deficit within three minutes of the restart when he swept home Remy Cabella's cross and, had Ospina not managed to beat away a Mike Williamson header and Ayoze Perez's deflected 87th-minute shot, the home side would have emerged with a point.
Wenger said: "I would say the spirit of the team and the quality of the players, the mental quality of the players - they are outstanding guys and it's a pleasure to see how they behave. It's a credit to the club as well to see that quality on the behavioural front and how much they want to do well.
"We are a stronger team today than we were in September - that's down to the focus of the whole club, of the whole staff and the quality of work the whole staff puts in.
"Let's hope we can go from strength to strength now until the end of the season."
There were positives too for Magpies coach John Carver, who was forced to field a makeshift defence as injury and suspension took their toll, despite the fact that former boss Alan Pardew's Crystal Palace leapfrogged his team as a result of their 2-1 win at Stoke.
His concentration swiftly turned to the Wear-Tyne derby on April 5, a game he cannot afford to lose after four successive defeats by Sunderland, whose need is even more pressing as they find themselves entrenched in another fight for top-flight survival.
Carver said: "It's good to put in a good performance just before a derby game and we have already touched on it because our preparation starts now for it and we have got to get focused for it because we have not had a win against them for a while.
"It's very important that we are focused for it, and we will have a normal week. There is no time off this week, we will have a normal week - Monday, Tuesday, off Wednesday, in Thursday, Friday - so our preparation starts now and we know it's a big game."