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Roy Hodgson Arsenal defeat small price

last updated Monday 10th May 2010, 1:49 PM
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson
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Fulham boss Roy Hodgson admitted that a weakened Fulham's 4-0 loss to Arsenal is a small sacrifice for improving their chances in Wednesday's Europa League final.

The Cottagers boss rested players ahead of the match with Atletico Madrid and said: "Reaching the Europa League final outshines our Premier League record.

"Five players were unavailable because of injury, so I rested only Danny Murphy, Zoltan Gera and Simon Davies.

"We didn't have enough in our locker to beat a good, determined Arsenal team."

Fulham take on Atletico Madrid in Hamburg in midweek and victory would see them cap a terrific season with some silverware.

After failing to get the match with Arsenal brought forward a day to give them more time to prepare for their trip, Fulham were always going to field an unfamiliar line-up.

And with Arsenal desperate to earn at least a point to secure third place - ahead of Tottenham - and automatic qualification into next season's Champions League, Fulham's task looked a tough one.

"I made a lot of changes to the line-up and we unfortunately went a goal down to a rare mistake from Mark Schwarzer," said Hodgson.

The visiting keeper miscontrolled a backpass and Andrey Arshavin nipped in to steal the ball and eventually fire home.

Hodgson continued: "Mark said the ball bobbled but I don't believe it! I think he was being tongue-in-cheek.

"He has barely made an error all season, so one had to come. And it's better that it happened today than on Wednesday."

Arsenal scored twice more in the first half, through Robin van Persie and a Chris Baird own goal.

"As soon as Arsenal scored their second we knew it was going to be an uphill struggle," said Hodgson.

"After going in 3-0 down at half-time, my aim was to 'draw' the second half and we almost did that.

"We gave a brave performance and people worked hard enough but we were unable to really bother Arsenal."

Arsenal wrapped up the win when substitute Carlos Vela dinked in late on.

But Gunners boss Arsene Wenger seemed in reflective mood after the game, clearly disappointed at ending the season without a trophy for the fifth consecutive campaign.

"We have mixed feelings," said the Frenchman. "With the number of injuries we had, to be third is maybe not too bad - especially when you think what people expected of us at the start of the season.

"But third is not good enough because you want to win."

Arsenal had to do without Van Persie for most of the season, and also lost Cesc Fabregas and William Gallas for spells.

But they remained in the hunt for trophies until they fell away in the last couple of weeks, hammered in the Champions League by Barcelona and then blowing their title hopes.

Wenger admitted: "We scored lots of goals this season but we conceded too many.

"And when you reach March, April and you do not have your best players available it is very difficult."

However, Wenger took some consolation from the fact his side hung on to third place and will again play in the Champions League next season - for their 13th consecutive year.

"I felt that we gave absolutely everything to finish in the top three. It is the second best place to be in England - the first is to win the title, the second is to qualify for the Champions League.

"But for me it is not enough - it is the minimum requested .

"We were close this year, we are a young side and have learnt a lot. We want to add to the squad and come back stronger next season."

Wenger also revealed that he is close to clinching a deal for Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh.

"He could be our first new signing," he said. "We have to finalise some papers and he will need to pass a medical but it is very close."

Source BBCSport
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