Arsenal are in the Champions League for a 16th successive season.

They finished in the top four thanks to a nervy-jangling 1-0 win at Newcastle United on Sunday.

Laurent Koscielny hooked home the crucial goal from close range in the 52nd minute following Theo Walcott’s free-kick.

Arsenal pushed for a second and came closest when the Englishman nudged a shot against the post in the dying seconds.

By that time, Tottenham Hotspur had just taken the lead against Sunderland.

It meant that, for the first time in the afternoon, Arsenal HAD to win to reach the top four and, despite the tension, they held on for a famous, famous victory.

It was fitting that the crucial result was a gutsy 1-0 win away from home as these have been the foundation of the last-season revival.

Like the campaign it concluded, this game was no classic but the finale was sufficiently satisfying.

And the plan is to move forward next term.

Before kick-off, Wenger named the same side that had overwhelmed Wigan Athletic at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night.

That meant Mikel Arteta continued in midfield despite being classed a major doubt after picking up a calf injury in that win.

It was that sort of 'patch-em-up' situation. Arsenal needed one more win to secure a place at European football's top table. The position was made a little more spicy by virtue of the fact that Tottenham were their pursuers.

It was set to be an afternoon on a knife-edge. And the position would not change during the first half.

Arsenal started brightly enough but, once they settled, Newcastle forced their way back into the game.

In the seventh minute, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa overlapped down the left and Papiss Cisse stepped off his marker to fire an effort inches over the bar.

A couple of minutes later, the Senegalese striker was denied at the far post by Koscielny, who would have an excellent game.

In between those efforts, Arsenal’s French defender had glanced a header wide from Santi Cazorla’s corner.

Just after Mertesacker had nodded Theo Walcott’s free-kick over the bar, Arteta started waving to the bench. His game was over and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on.

The game itself was struggling to lift itself above the mundane. Perhaps the weight of importance was resting too heavily on its shoulders. 

On the half-hour, Kieran Gibbs drove forward, cut inside and set up Santi Cazorla, who sliced his effort over the bar.

Then Walcott released Lukas Podolski through the middle but the German's shot was saved. He was flagged offside anyway.

Arsenal went into the break with their situation unchanged. Their game was goalless, Tottenham’s game was goalless and the nerves were still there.

But within seconds of the restart, Wenger's were nearly grabbed the lead. Ramsey intercepted Steve Harper’s clearance and fed Walcott on the right. His drive was blocked by the goalkeeper and Steven Taylor cleared the rebound away from Cazorla.

The visitors had come out with aggressive intent and were looking for the goal.

They would find it.

In the 52nd minute, Yohan Cabeye felled Bacary Sagna near the corner flag. Walcott’s free-kick pinballed off Podolski for Koscielny to turn the ball home from close range. A replica finish to last year's winner in the finale at West Brom.

Newcastle struggled in the wake of the goal while Arsenal drew confidence.

However chances were still scarce. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hatem Ben Arfa blazed over at each end.

As the minutes ticked away both sides started to look a little leggy. In response, Wenger withdrew Podolski for Olivier Giroud.

Newcastle poured men forwards in the dying seconds and it gave Arsenal a glimpse of a chance on the break.

Giroud set up Walcott to break away but, having weaved his way through, he prodded a close range shot against the post.

News began to filter through that Gareth Bale had given Tottenham a last-gasp lead and, if it were possible, the tension increased yet still more.

However Arsenal clung on and will once again compete in Europe’s top competition next season.

Arsenal

1
Szczesny
6
Koscielny Goal!
3
Sagna
3
Gibbs Yellow Card
4
Mertesacker
16
Ramsey
7
Rosicky Yellow Card
8
Arteta 28
19
Cazorla 89
14
Walcott
9
Podolski 77

Substitutes

21
Fabianski
10
Wilshere 89
12
Giroud 77
5
Vermaelen
15
Oxlade-Chamberlain 28
18
Monreal
27
Gervinho

Newcastle United

22
Harper
2
Debuchy
13
Yanga-Mbiwa 80
27
Taylor
2
Coloccini
15
Gutierrez Yellow Card
24
Tiote
10
Ben Arfa
4
Cabaye 57
9
Cisse
11
Gouffran 65

Substitutes

49
Campbell 80
2
Simpson
22
Marveaux 65
8
Anita 57
25
Obertan
42
Alnwick
24
Perch
Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source Richard Clarke 19 May 2013