Wenger proud of Arsenal character after Champions League return is secured

The manager credits his team's attitude after reaching the top four ahead of Tottenham with a final-day win over Newcastle - their eighth in an 11-game unbeaten run
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised the character shown by his players to qualify for the Champions League after a 1-0 away win at Newcastle secured fourth place ahead of Tottenham on the final day of the Premier League season.

The Gunners had opened March with a 2-1 defeat away at their north London rivals that left them off the pace in fifth but went on to win eight of their final 10 league games in an 11-match unbeaten run.

Sunday's win meant that Wenger's side qualified for the Champions League for the 17th successive season, despite coming in a year in which they endued a run of one win in six matches beginning in November as well as humiliating exits to Bradford City and Blackburn in the Capital One Cup and FA Cup, respectively.

14/1 Arsenal are 14/1 with Bet365 to win the Premier League in 2013-14
After Sunday's victory at St James's Park, Wenger told Sky Sports: "I'm proud of the character and the spirit from these players, after all we had to deal with the season. They are special. I said that many times but they have shown it - in the last two months they have been exceptional.

"It's a good basis for the longer term to go into next season following such a strong run and I'm proud given we were very far behind Tottenham after the defeat there.

"Everybody ruled us out but we have ruled us out but we have shown character and attitude and came back. We reached 73 points – that's three points better than last season."

Asked if he now felt vindicated following the criticism he endured at various points during the season, Wenger replied: "No. I just did what I feel is right because these players deserved it. I had many groups in my life and the focus, the desire to do well was always exceptional.

"It's one of the best groups I've ever had in my life on that front and their combination of quality and attitude has been great is why I always felt we would come back."

Pressed on whether that meant that his side should be challenging for silverware after eight years without a trophy, he commented: "We want, of course, to do that next season but let's not forget the consistency we have shown over the years to be in the Champions League, knowing everybody is desperate to get in there.

"Consistency is most difficult, and we needed to be resilient because we played against a very strong Tottenham team, a very strong Everton team and we needed to be really special to come back and get in front of them."