Papiss Cisse
United are tracking Papiss Cisse Reuters

Arsene Wenger has praised Newcastle's quiet efficiency in the transfer market and believes Alan Pardew's side have to be considered challengers for the fourth Champions League spot on the back of their continued good form.

Newcastle have surpassed expectations this season after many pundits tipped them for the drop back in August.

The Magpies are currently fifth in the Premier League, two points behind fourth-placed Arsenal ahead of Monday's clash between the two teams at the Emirates Stadium.

And Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger insists the Newcastle squad are good value for their current position after prudent investment in the last two transfer windows.

"You could say that [I am surprised] if you look purely at the number of points they have. They were not expected there," Wenger told Arsenal Player.

"They have bought very well in a very efficient way. Some players have made a name now who were completely unknown at the start of the season.

"Therefore when you look at their quality it is not surprising they are where they are."

Wenger also revealed that he monitored both Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse before the pair joined Newcastle in June and January respectively.

"We knew them of course but you know you only have the right to have 25 players in your squad in England," Wenger said. "You cannot go for all the players who are good that are on the market.

"Newcastle lost Andy Carroll last year and they were searching for a striker, so credit to them [for signing Ba and Cisse]. Also Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa are good business for them. That's why they are where they are."

Meanwhile, Abou Diaby insists that he still has a future at Arsenal, despite an injury-ravaged season in which he has made just three appearances.

The France midfielder limped off during Saturday's 2-1 win at Liverpool after he aggravated a hamstring injury but he implored Wenger not to give up on him just yet.

"People stick this "fragile" label on me," Diaby is quoted in the Daily Mail. "I understand their point of view, but I'm not.

"I've had three operations on the ankle during my career.

"After that, my body was totally unbalanced between my left and right leg. One leg compensated for the weakness of the other - and to put back in its place is not easy.

"My problem is biomechanical. It will take some time. When everything is back in order, I won't have pain anymore."