Can Newcastle do what nobody has since March against Arsenal?

And score a goal from open play. Hal Robson-Kanu was the last man to do so and The Gunners excellent recent form could see them into the Champions League.

Since defeat at home to Bayern Munich things have looked up for Arsenal FC. There is little doubt that right now the Gunners are the Premier League’s in form team.

After they lost to Spurs at the start of March nobody gave them a chance of Champions League qualification; even Arsene Wenger admitted that in a recent interview. But they have turned things around and in particular it was a rejig of the defence that bred new life into the team.

Club captain Thomas Vermaelen was frog-marched from the starting line-up and Lukasz Fabianski brought into the cold to replace the out of sorts Wojciech Szczesny.

And since that point in time there is a very interesting stat that highlights Arsenal’s good defensive form.

Since Hal Robson-Kanu bagged a consolation goal in the 4-1 thrashing at the end of March Arsenal have not conceded a goal that was not from a set-play.

Since that match the Gunners have featured in seven games conceding just the four goals.

James Morrison smashed home a penalty for West Brom while Robin Van Persie did the same for Manchester United at the end of last month.

When Wigan Athletic managed to grab an equaliser in their doomed attempt at Premier League survival at The Emirates last week it came from an exquisite free-kick by Shaun Maloney.

The only goal scored from what is deemed open play since March came against Norwich City. Michael Turner was the goalscorer but his header came as a direct result of a corner so once again was only made possible thanks to a set play.

It is a sign of the new times at Arsenal and a timely reminder that despite a lack of silverware Arsene Wenger has done a great job under increasingly fierce competition in the Premier League to get them to where they are this weekend; on the verge of a potential third-place finish.

To do so there new found defensive ability will have to withstand a testing tie with Newcastle United at St James Park and hope Everton do them a favour at Stamford Bridge. The flip-side is that a return to their previous leaky ways may just see them drop out of Champions League football altogether.

Such fine lines on the final day of the 2012-13 Premier League season.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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