Robin van Persie's row with Newcastle ’keeper shows his desire, claims manager Arsene Wenger
ARSENE Wenger hailed the spirit, belief and commitment of his side following a dramatic win over Newcastle and although he refused to taunt Spurs over the possibility of stealing third place, his players did it for him
Arsenal are now only one point behind their North London rivals having been 10 points adrift of Harry Redknapp's side and at one stage; and Wenger was delighted with the momentum of his revitalised team who have now won five matches in a row - including the last three against top-four rivals Spurs, Liverpool and Newcastle United.
They also set a new Premier League record for four winning consecutive matches after going behind in each of them.
"It's the best answer to respond to something that has been questioned at times," said Wenger, reflecting on the record. "I believe it shows we have quality, we have spirit. It was a relentless effort against Newcastle from the first to the last; the tempo was absolutely top level.
"We kept going until the last seconds of the game. We feel now in the team we have that complete and total commitment to do as well as we can and give absolutely everything. And that gets the crowd behind the team."
Arsenal's commitment boiled over following Vermalen's late winner when Robin van Persie was booked for taunting goalkeeper Tim Krul, a confrontation that led to a melee of players gesticulating in the centre-circle. But Wenger was happy at the commitment shown by his captain.
"If it's history from Holland or it's today's story I don't know. I will find out but I'm happy he stayed yellow and didn't become red. Robin is absolutely committed; he gave absolutely everything tonight and got us a quick equaliser as well."
Wenger refused to discuss the possibility of finishing above Spurs, but urged his players to stay focused on the job ahead, adding: "I don't focus on Tottenham. What is at stake is ourselves, our commitment. I don't compare us to any other team. We have revealed confidence, belief – and that will be vital in the race until the end. It can change very quickly because as soon as you lose a little bit of urgency you are in trouble in this league. So let's focus on keeping that and afterwards we'll see where we finish."
Wenger's players were less reluctant to remind Tottenham, who have lost three matches in a row, they are now breathing down the neck of their rivals.
"It was a great win," said Walcott, whose performance prompted Wenger to describe the winger's display as 'tactically and technically a complete game'.
"It's been an up and down season so far but it's the way you finish that matters. Tottenham have got to be looking over their shoulders."
Vermaelen added to Walcott's comments by saying: "We are on a good run and we're coming close to Tottenham. We'll fight for third place now." And that must be a sentence Arsenal fans thought they would never hear this season.
By contrast Newcastle have now given up hope of finishing in the top four with manager Alan Pardew saying: We ain't going to get to there but we can make the Europa League and we can't let this result affect us against Norwich on Saturday. We still have a lot to play for."