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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

Unai Emery: Arsenal must improve away form to get top-four finish

Home form has carried them back into the fight but five of the London side's remaining seven games are on the road

Arsenal players celebrate with Alexandre Lacazette, centre, after his goal in their win over Newcastle United. EPA
Arsenal players celebrate with Alexandre Lacazette, centre, after his goal in their win over Newcastle United. EPA

Arsenal manager Unai Emery believes his side must improve their away form if they are to finish in the top four in the Premier League.

Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette struck in either half to wrap up a 2-0 victory for the London side on Monday against Newcastle United and give them the upper-hand in the battle for a top-four finish.

Only reigning champions Manchester City have taken more points at home than Emery's side this season - but a poor return on the road threatens to derail the Spaniard's bid to secure a return to the Champions League.

Arsenal have won only five times away from the Emirates Stadium in the league this season, with only two of their remaining seven league games at home.

A trip to Everton is first up on Sunday and Emery concedes there is still a huge challenge to secure a place in the top four.

"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.

"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."

It is the first time Arsenal have been as high as third place since April 2017, highlighting their improvement since former Paris Saint-Germain boss Emery replaced Arsene Wenger at the end of last season.

Ramsey's fifth goal of the season was only the Wales midfielder's second since he signed a lucrative pre-contract agreement to join Juventus at the end of the current campaign.

But, while Ramsey won't be part of Emery's long-term plans, the future still looks bright for Arsenal, who recorded a 10th consecutive home league victory for the first time since December 1997 to May 1998.

Arsenal finished with 63 points in Wenger's final season, but Emery has matched that tally with seven games to spare.

No wonder Arsenal fans celebrated an important win by taunting their spluttering north London rivals with chants of "are you watching Tottenham".

"It's a new history. We are creating our own way. Our target is very clear," Emery said. "We have created a big atmosphere here. We are in a good moment, a good mentality with the players.

"We are improving and making progress, but we know it is difficult. Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United are going to win a lot of games."

Ramsey thought he'd given Arsenal the lead when he swept home at the far post from Sead Kolasinac's flick.

But his celebrations were curtailed as the goal was controversially ruled out by referee Anthony Taylor for Sokratis's shirt tug on Florian Lejeune.

If Arsenal felt aggrieved by that debatable decision, they poured their frustration into breaking down Newcastle's five-man defence and it was Lacazette who was the creator of the first goal.

He was surrounded by three defenders and as he twisted to find space, the ball cannoned off DeAndre Yedlin into Ramsey's path and he guided a low shot past Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka via the far post.

Lacazette then turned scorer with seven minutes to go as he reacted quickest to a header from substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to slot home.

Updated: April 2, 2019 11:14 AM

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