Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger refused to get carried away despite his side taking a major step towards Champions League qualification with a convincing 3-0 Premier League win at home to Newcastle.
Goals from Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud at the Emirates Stadium handed the fourth-placed Gunners a routine victory that moved them four points clear of fifth-placed rivals Everton with just two league games of the season remaining.
FA Cup finalists Arsenal require one more domestic league win to achieve their 17th successive campaign in Europe’s premier competition, although an Everton defeat by Manchester City at Goodison Park on Saturday would also suit the Gunners.
But Wenger was not ready to start celebrating just yet despite a decent performance against Alan Pardew’s struggling outfit, who lost a sixth successive English top-flight match for the first time since 1986-87 season amid calls for the Newcastle manager to be sacked from the north-east club’s travelling fans at the Emirates.
“It’s a step forward and one more win will be top four, for sure. But it’s not done,” said Wenger.
“I’m long enough in the job to know to get over the line is difficult,” added the 64-year-old Frenchman, now far and away the Premier League’s longest-serving manager after taking charge of north London giants Arsenal in 1996.
“We have suffered enough this season in some periods not to be complacent. The pain we went through will help us focus to do the final job well. We are in a strong position now.
“We have another home game and another opportunity to win again. What is important is our performances and, game by game, they look strong and convincing and show we have the potential to play very good football.”
Wenger allayed fears Arsenal and England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, missing with a groin problem, would be unfit for England World Cup duty in Brazil in June, while Jack Wilshere should return from a fractured foot before the end of the season.
“He has an inflammation of his groin,” Wenger said of Oxlade-Chamberlain.
“He couldn’t practise… We decided to give him a complete rest for two weeks.
“Will he be involved with me? I think he has a chance. But will he be ready for England? I think so.”
Turning to Wilshere, Wenger said: “Jack is training already. When will he be ready? Honestly I cannot tell you exactly. Next week or the week after. At the moment the progress he’s making is good.”
As the game wore on, Newcastle fans vented their anger towards Pardew, but the Toon Army manager accepted the criticism and insisted he’s solely focused on beating Cardiff on Saturday to secure a top-10 finish.
“They (the supporters) are frustrated,” said Pardew.
“We had 2,000 here making this long trip. Although we’re playing a good team, they expect us to win.
“They’ve seen us lose again and they’re not happy, and I have to respect that.
“It puts pressure on the team and myself and I have to do my best to protect the team and the performance.
“But all I can do is do this job to the best of my ability. We’ve been top 10 all year. We should have performed better in this run.
“We’ve got to finish in the top 10 and a win on Saturday will guarantee us top 10.
“If Cardiff think it’s important (to avoid relegation), it’s important for us to finish in the top 10, believe me.
“All I can do is get my team in the best possible place. At 2-0, we could have copped harm, but we came out with our dignity still there.
“Our stadium has to give us the atmosphere. We’ve got the best fans in the world, and they don’t deserve the run we’ve given them. Our focus is to get that win as quickly as possible.