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Newcastle boss looking forward to a successful 2014
ALAN PARDEW is predicting a successful 2014 despite his Newcastle United side ending the year on a losing note after a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal.
Olivier Giroud's second-half header condemned the Magpies to only their second home defeat of the season, and ensured that Pardew's side will enter the new year in eighth position, four points adrift of the Champions League places.
After exactly half of their Premier League matches, Newcastle have 33 points, and an identical record in the second half of the season would give them every chance of claiming a European place.
Pardew regards such a return as attainable, and with all of his key players injury-free, is even targeting a higher points haul after the turn of the year.
“I'm happy with the way we're finishing the year, and more importantly, I'm delighted that we've got our best players fit,” said the Newcastle boss, who will take his side to West Brom for their opening game of 2014 on New Year's Day.
“If we can keep them fit, then I think we can replicate what we did in the first half of the season in the second half, and possibly even better it.
“It's not like I feel that we've reached a position that should really be beyond us. I think 33 points is a fair reflection of how we've played, and we need to try to improve that in the second half. I think we can.”
Yesterday's defeat was Newcastle's first since they shipped three goals at Swansea at the start of the month, and represented a marked contrast to the same day last year, when they crashed to a calamitous 7-3 defeat at the Emirates.
Mathieu Debuchy struck the woodwork in first-half stoppage time, and while Newcastle failed to create a large number of chances, Arsenal were no more threatening for much of the game.
Giroud's headed winner was aided by some wretched Magpies marking, but Pardew did not want to be too critical of his players after they pushed the league leaders all the way.
“It's frustrating that we haven't got something on the scoreboard in terms of taking a point,” he said. “One set play where we didn't defend well has cost us, and we've been good at them all year really.
“It was a really tight and interesting game. A lot of my players can take massive credit from the way they played.
“We had some outstanding performances, but unfortunately we have nothing to show for it. Our confidence should perhaps even improve as a result of that though, and on reflection, hopefully the players will feel that.”
Having already beaten Chelsea and Manchester United this season, Newcastle came close to claiming another notable scalp with Cheik Tiote and Vurnon Anita combining at the base of midfield to ensure that Arsenal's creative play-makers were unable to enjoy the kind of space and freedom they are often accustomed to.
Neither Jack Wilshere nor Santi Cazorla were able to exert much of an influence on the game, but Giroud converted the one clear-cut chance that came along and Newcastle were left pointless as a result.
“The margins are so fine,” said Pardew, who is likely to make changes for the trip to the Hawthorns as Newcastle tackle their third game in the space of six days. “It's not like we've come up against the top teams, played well and lost to all of them.
“We've beaten Chelsea and Manchester United and it was as tight a game again. We just came out on the wrong side today, but if we can stay like that against the top teams all year, I'll be relatively happy because I think we'll win three or four of them.”
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