Laurent Koscielny insists the Arsenal players knew exactly what was at stake if they had failed to beat Newcastle and missed out on another shot at the Champions League. Boss Arsene Wenger feels his side have gone some way to answering critics following their end to what had been a frustrating campaign – including the lows of cup defeats by Bradford and Blackburn, before a Champions League masterclass from Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium only to then outplay the Germans when winning the second leg of the last-16 tie. “The exceptional attitude and determination of this group of players has been rewarded,” Wenger said. “They continued to believe when we were seven points behind Tottenham in mid-March. [They knew] that we had no room for error any more and you could never see any sign of giving in.” Arsenal will be proactive in the summer transfer market, with the free transfer of France Under-21 forward Yaya Sanogo from Auxerre expected to be the first of several new arrivals. Wenger is understood to have targeted offensive additions, with the likes of Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic, Real Madrid frontman Gonzalo Higuain and even England forward Wayne Rooney all said to be on the Arsenal manager’s radar, as is Borussia Dortmund defender Lukasz Piszczek and even Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, who is set to leave relegated QPR. Wenger, though, warned finding the right man at the right price is set to be another test, and he said: “We have been remarkably consistent. We won every away game so it’s a good springboard for next season, to transfer that belief into the start of next season, that means we need stability and to strengthen our group if possible. “However, there are many clubs out there with a lot of money so the competition is very hard – there is not as much talent as money today in football.” The Gunners ended the Barclays Premier League campaign by winning eight of the final 10 matches to move back ahead of north London rivals Tottenham and seal a top-four finish following the 1-0 victory at Newcastle. Koscielny, whose second-half goal at St James’ Park proved crucial, feels everyone deserves great credit for the superb collective effort. “It is very important for the club to be in the Champions League,” he said, quoted on www.arsenal.com. “The team played well and gave themselves for the team. We are all good players and we want to play Champions League football. It is a big competition. We did the job and we are happy.” Press Association
PSG had taken the lead towards the end of the first half, when captain neatly directed a free-kick into the goal Kaboul was sat behind. That player was Argentina defender Pochettino, who 13 years later would give the captain’s armband to the Frenchman in his role as Tottenham head coach. “He scored in the goal that I was just behind and I remember it,” Kaboul said with a smile. “It was a volley from his right foot and it was the first game of Ronaldinho being at PSG. “I remember it like it was yesterday and now he is my manager. “Of course I spoke to him about it and he remembered this goal. That was only 2001, it was not long ago when you think about and now he is my manager.” Pochettino spent three years in France playing for PSG and then Bordeaux, before returning to his first club in Europe, Espanyol. The defender was a regular for Argentina and represented them at the 2002 World Cup, so brings the kind of experience Kaboul is lapping up. “Mauricio was a top defender first of all,” he said. “A very classy defender. “We learn a lot from him because he has got experience at this level and we try to put in the game everything he has taught us. “[He is helping me] to read the game. To read the game properly and to anticipate stuff. “I think we have applied this already during the games.” Kaboul has certainly looked impressive under Pochettino, following-up a man-of-the-match display in the 1-1 draw at rivals Arsenal with a solid display as Southampton were overcome 1-0 on Sunday. It is such performances the France international hopes can finally put paid to the reputation he has for being injury prone. “That is finished,” Kaboul said. “Look at me on the pitch. “I want to end all the speculation about all of my injuries. “You know, for a professional footballer you need a full pre-season. If he goes through all of this full pre-season over nearly two months, he should be fine. “You always can have these little injuries, that is normal, but physically you feel much better. “This is the first time I’ve had a pre-season for three years, so I had no injury, I am fully-fit and feel very good.” Kaboul also cleared up the situation surrounding his contract, with many supporters thinking the defender is in the last year of his contract. “I still have until June 2016,” he said. “I am very happy at Spurs.” Tottenham captain Younes Kaboul is learning a lot from former Argentina defender Mauricio Pochettino – someone just 13 years ago he watched in awe when a ball boy at Auxerre. Back in 2001, the defender was part of the Burgundy club’s youth system and would regularly work as a ball boy at Stade de l’Abbe-Deschamps. One of those matches was Ronaldinho’s debut for star-studded Paris St-Germain, who were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw after being pegged back by a late acrobatic Djibril Cisse strike. Press Association
Press Association With fellow defender Winston Reid one of up to seven first-team regulars missing in south Wales, Tomkins is likely to be at the heart of the visitors back four and is targeting a first league win since they beat Chelsea in October. “I know they are down there though so if we can get on top of them, the crowd are going to get on them,” he told the club’s official website. “Everybody is looking forward to it and hopefully we can get some points on the board.” Swansea are still searching for a new boss having sacked Garry Monk following a poor run of form. Several names have been linked with the post but there has been no movement and Tomkins admits it is difficult to judge what kind of Swansea he will be lining up against. “You never know what you are going to get with a team who have just changed their manager,” he added. “We will see what sort of team we will face on the day, but they are still a good team. A couple of bad results doesn’t make them a bad team.” Bilic has seen his side draw their last two games, securing a point with a 0-0 stalemate at Manchester United before the same result at home to Stoke last weekend. James Tomkins is hopeful West Ham can get back to winning ways at Swansea on Sunday – even though he admits he does not know what to expect from the Welsh side. The Croatian could be without Andy Carroll after confirming the England striker has suffered a groin injury. But, despite also having Diafra Sakho, Dimitri Payet and Victor Moses missing, Bilic has backed his side to get back on the goal trail. “Against Stoke, we had the most shots off and on target,” he said. “So we have to show more quality in the final third and I’m sure we are going to show that in this game.” With a squad rocked by injuries, Slaven Bilic’s side have not won any of their last six Barclays Premier League fixtures. They remain in the top half and take on managerless Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday looking to head into the Christmas period on a high.