Hodgson scoffs at Arsenal criticism
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson believes any talk about Arsenal's demise is both foolish and premature. Arsenal's defeat at Manchester City two weeks ago was, according to some, a sign the Gunners had slipped below their big-spending counterparts in the race for a top-four finish. Hodgson, however, believes Arsenal will still qualify for next year's UEFA Champions League and heaped praise on Gunners manager Arsene Wenger.
"There's so much talk about Man City, and to some extent Tottenham Hotspur, making the top four after the money they have spent, but it would take a brave man who would stake his house on a team like Arsenal not making the top four," the 62-year-old said.
"Arsene's career has been second to none. It has been quite incredible the job he has done there, at Monaco and at Nagoya Grampus Eight.
"He's a first-class manager and coach and all the praise that has been showered his way is praise that, for me, has been fully deserved," said Hodgson. Wenger, 59, said yesterday he has no plans to retire and Hodgson believes the Frenchman still has the desire to go on and on.
"I was watching Sir Alex Ferguson at Sir Bobby Robson's memorial service and there was still that enthusiasm and passion that still emanates so clearly from him when he speaks, and Arsene is in the same situation," Hodgson said.
"Other coaches get tired and they retire. It all depends on the person's energy levels and I can't see Sir Alex's energy levels ever sinking and it is the same with Arsene."
Gunners meet the Cottagers
Hodgson welcomes Arsenal to Craven Cottage today as he looks to build on his side's encouraging performance in the 2-1 loss against Manchester City in the Carling Cup. Fulham managed to take the big-spending side, whose team included summer signings Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez and Kolo Toure, to extra time despite Hodgson fielding a weakened side.
City manager Mark Hughes spent over £120m on transfers this summer and Hodgson concedes the Blues' spending could endanger the survival prospects of smaller teams in the league.
"I think it's very difficult for clubs without that financial potential to hold on to people," Hodgson said. "Without being able to match the wages from those clubs, then how can you seriously nail the guy's feet to the ground and keep him at your club?"
One player Hodgson managed to keep at Craven Cottage despite interest from a big club was Brede Hangeland. The centre half, who has since been offered a new contract, was linked with Arsenal in the summer and Hodgson is happy he chose to stay at the club.
"I think he realises that it was nice to be associated to Arsenal and that it was nice that people regarded him as good enough to take that step to a club like Arsenal, but it didn't happen, so he's quite happy to stay here."