RAFAEL BENITEZ has played down suggestions that he is close to agreeing a new deal to remain with Newcastle United.

Benitez watched his side crash to a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates, with goals from Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette lifting the Gunners into the top three.

Newcastle remain in 14th position, seven points clear of the relegation zone with six games to play, but even though they are still to confirm their Premier League survival, reports earlier in the day had suggested Benitez was poised to a sign a new deal that would extend his managerial tenure beyond the end of the season.

However, the Spaniard insists there has been no progress with his contract talks, and that his position remains unaltered.

“Nothing has changed,” said the Newcastle boss. “We are exactly the same as we were some days ago. We are in the same position, the same situation. I am just trying to concentrate on Crystal Palace (who travel to St James’ Park on Saturday).

“At the moment, I am only concentrated on what I can do, and that is to prepare the team for the next game. People can talk about things, and that is normal in football. Players, managers, whatever. The only thing I can do now is try to do the job properly and stay in the Premier League.”

Newcastle were comprehensively outplayed at the Emirates, with Arsenal claiming a comfortable victory despite not being at their blistering best.

Ramsey had an early effort controversially disallowed, but broke the deadlock towards the end of the first half as he swept home a low finish.

Lacazette added a second goal with seven minutes left, lobbing Martin Dubravka after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang took advantage of some poor defending from Jamaal Lascelles, and Benitez felt his players paid a high price for a lack of composure at some crucial moments.

“We’re disappointed,” he said. “We knew it would be difficult and that you could lose, but the way we conceded the first goal was not ideal. It is never ideal to concede, but it was a scrappy goal.

“The reaction of the team was fine, we were well organised and a little bit dangerous on the counter-attack, but we were missing the final pass. The final pass could have made the difference, but we had a chance with (Salomon) Rondon when Ayoze (Perez) was waiting there, and when you do not take these chances and are not precise when you regain the ball in a good situation against these kind of teams, you know it is maybe a question of time until you make a mistake like we did in the second half and concede the second goal.

“Before we conceded the second goal, we were pushing and you could feel their fans were a little bit nervous because we were still in the game. But the second goal made the difference.”

While Benitez was forced to turn to Ki Sung-yueng, Kenedy and Yoshinori Muto in an attempt to change the game in the second half, Unai Emery was able to bring on Aubameyang to help make the game safe.

The days of Newcastle being able to compete with Arsenal in the transfer market are long gone, and while the Magpies upset the odds to beat Manchester City earlier in the season, Benitez accepts it is extremely difficult to turn the tables on the established big six.

“Sometimes we are lucky enough or good enough to get the points, but today there was a big difference between the teams,” he said. “We were close enough to be a threat in the first half, and maybe to get something in the second half too, but they had situations where they were dangerous, they had pace and ability.

“They could bring Aubameyang from the bench and he is £75m or something like that. That is the difference. When you have to define a game or make a difference in a game, it helps when you have players like that who can keep their tempo and pace and have ability at the same time. It is quite difficult for you not to make a mistake, and not concede.

“You can compete, but you have to do everything right. We beat Manchester City doing everything right. In some cases, even doing everything right, the other team can make the difference. Today, you could see that when they have the shape of the team, one against one would be a battle and normally in this kind of situation they have an advantage.”