Arsenal pip Spurs to Champions League

Missing out on Champions League football again despite amassing their highest Premier League points tally was hard for Tottenham Hotspur to swallow on Sunday and to make matters worse, it was arch rivals Arsenal who pipped them to the post once more.

Two months ago it had looked as if Spurs would finally turn the tables on their North London foes when they beat them in the derby to establish a seven-point lead.

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However, despite Gareth Bale's superb winner in a 1-0 victory over Sunderland on the last day of the season, they could only finish fifth as Arsenal secured fourth with one point more after a less than assured 1-0 win at Newcastle United.

"It's devastating. It's really hard to take," Spurs captain Michael Dawson told Sky Sports.

"We've got 72 points, the highest total the club's ever got and we still miss out on the Champions League... it's hard to take. It's a hard day. It's not a good day."

Bad luck seems to follow Tottenham around in their pursuit of a place in Europe's elite club competition and Arsenal have a habit of capitalising.

Last year they were edged to third placed by Arsenal and while Tottenham's fourth-place finish would normally be enough for a Champions League place, on this occasion it was not as sixth-placed Chelsea took the final place as European champions.

Seven years ago, Tottenham needed to win against West Ham United to secure fourth place but most of the team came down with food poisoning the night before the game. They lost and Arsenal overtook them to clinch the coveted European spot.

They were again ruing their misfortune on Sunday after two decent penalty shouts were turned down in their game against Sunderland.

Winger Bale was shown a yellow card for diving midway through the first half when television replays suggested Seb Larsson's foul on him could have resulted in a Spurs spot-kick.

Referee Andre Marriner then also turned down appeals for a penalty after a second-half handball by Carlos Cuellar.

"[It is] very, very disappointing because a penalty doesn't just change the running of this game, it changes the running of the other game [Arsenal game] too... extremely disappointing," Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas told Sky Sports.

"It is difficult to take, in the end we did what we had to but Arsenal did their job well and go through. It is difficult at this moment."

BEST ASSETS

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who faced many questions over his future at the club during the season, was delighted to have turned the season around and secured a 16th successive Champions League qualification.

"I'm proud of the character displayed and all we had to deal with during the season. These players are special I told them many times, they showed it in the last two months they have been absolutely exceptional," Wenger told Sky Sports.

"I'm very proud that we were very far behind Tottenham after the defeat there [in March], everybody ruled us out, we have shown attitude and character to come back."

While Arsenal got the three points they needed, it was a nervy performance at Newcastle where the hosts looked the better side in the first half before Laurent Koscielny's 52nd-minute goal snatched the win.

With the dust barely settled on the season, the rivals started looking ahead to next term.

"We want to have additions to the squad [over the summer] but keep first the structure and spirit of the team we have now," Wenger said.

"But, let's not forget, there are many clubs who have big money and there's maybe not enough talent to strengthen all the teams who have money."

Rather than buying, Tottenham's main focus might be keeping hold of Bale, whose 89th-minute long-range strike on Sunday was the latest addition to his collection of brilliant goals.

Villas-Boas did not think they would have a problem ensuring the Welshman stayed despite not being able to offer him Champions League action.

"It's been an ongoing question but I think it's absolutely fine," he said.

"We have to keep our ambitions high, hold on to the best players, the reference to the points tally, so for us to make it better in the future we need to hold on to the best assets."


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