Unai Emery believes Arsenal still face big challenge to finish in the top four
The Gunners are above Tottenham for the first time this season.
Unai Emery insists Arsenal’s biggest challenge in the race for the Premier League top four is still to come after his side moved up to third with a 2-0 win over Newcastle.
Goals from Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette gave the Gunners a 10th league home win on the bounce and moved them above bitter rivals Tottenham for the first time this season.
Just three points separate the Gunners, Spurs, Manchester United and Chelsea as the battle for the Champions League spots looks like going down to the wire.
Emery’s men have timed their run of impressive form well heading into the final part of the season, but with five of their remaining seven games away from home, the Gunners boss is not expecting it to be easy.
“Our target is very clear,” he said. “It’s going to be very difficult but step-by-step we’ve started to rise up the table after the first two matches in the Premier League when we lost against Manchester City and Chelsea.
“We are improving and now we are third. But we know it is going to be difficult for us because our opposition is big opposition and it is going to be very tough for us.
“We need to convince people that we can be consistent away.
“The opposition is going to demand us to get a lot of points at the end of the season and I am only going to think of the next match.
“Our challenge is away because we are going to play five matches away in the last seven matches. Our challenge is to be as consistent away as we are at home.”
The Gunners’ ascent up the table has been rapid, as they were 10 points behind Spurs a matter of weeks ago.
Emery put’s the rise down to finding some consistency.
“We were playing some key matches, against Manchester United, against Tottenham, against Chelsea,” he said.
“And we had these opportunities and we won. We drew against Tottenham, but we were being consistent in winning more matches to be closer to them. Now is the consequence.
“Today, being consistent and also taking a big performance. But with big spirit, I think we did that.
“Today, for me, is an important victory and it’s important to take this confidence and this position on the table.
“But I know Sunday is a big challenge and a very good challenge because each match is so hard in the Premier League.”
The three points were never really in doubt against the lowly Magpies and Ramsey stroked them ahead with a nice finish on the half-hour.
The game was not won until the 83rd minute when Lacazette finished Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s flick-on with a brilliant lob.
Ramsey had left the pitch by then with cramp, which Emery said is not serious.
Newcastle remain seven points clear of the bottom three.
Magpies manager Rafael Benitez said: “I am disappointed because we knew it would be difficult, we knew we could lose.
“But if we concede the first goal the way we concede the first goal was not ideal and if you don’t take your chances and you are not precise against these teams then you’ll struggle.
“I am proud of the players because they are trying hard. Today there was a big difference between the teams, but we were close enough to be a threat.
“When it was 1-0 we were pushing and you could feel the nerves in the stadium.”