Roy: Please UEFA, don’t make an ash of Euro final

THOUGH an early Fulham goal or news of a Tottenham romp at Burnley might have put a different complexion on matters, this game was always going to be about the future.

For Fulham that represents a game in Hamburg in two days’ time and, even more pertinently, the chances of catching a flight there tomorrow.

For Arsenal it was all about not having to qualify for the Champions League next season, having bolstered a squad that once again wasn’t quite up to it in the process.

For the record, the 90 minutes that constituted Arsenal and Fulham’s final fixture of the Premier League campaign featured four goals, some woodwork thumping, a penalty that was missed by the officials, a goal ruled out for offside and a few bookings.

Andrey Arshavin capitalised on an error from the otherwise-excellent Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal to make it 1-0. Robin van Persie, having seen his initial shot deflected on to the crossbar by the self-same Australian, made it 2-0 on the rebound and Cottagers’ defender Chris Baird added another before the break with a comedy own goal from a Theo Walcott cross.

Substitute Carlos Vela completed the scoring with six minutes left with a cheeky little chip as the visitors had to accept the beating its performance deserved.. Fulham fielded a shadow side featuring only Schwarzer, defender John Pantsil and striker Clint Dempsey as regular picks.

The reason, of course, is to keep the rest fresh for Wednesday night’s Europa League final with Atletico Madrid but already there is a problem for Hodgson and Co in the shape of a volcanic ash cloud.

Hodgson called upon UEFA to do the decent thing. “I would be expecting UEFA to show some understanding rather than the usual intransigence and try to find a solution that helps us both by postponing the game for a time when we can both fly,” he said.

“The final is a great occasion and we would be playing the game with thousands of fans unable to go because of volcanic ash in the air.”

At least Hodgson has not yet had to leave any of his preferred picks at home, although Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff have yet to leave the treatment table and resume training.

Arsene Wenger’s sights are set firmly upon August when his players must once again embark on a quest to find the end of a trophyless trail dating back five years.

Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh is due to sign within days but exactly who else will arrive remains to be seen. The Frenchman insisted on debating the exact definition of a ‘big signing’.

“It is always the same when you say big names or big players,” he said. “Sometimes it is only one player. Sometimes not big names are still big players. I believe that what the fans want from me is that I bring in top players.

“We bought Thomas Vermaelen last year and nobody knew him. Today he is a big player. What the fans want concerns me of course because we both love the club and want the best possible team. But we have to be in a position where we can pay our wages at the end of the month. We have to respect our business rules.”

So, no big names then. And no new contract for the Frenchman either, at least not yet. “At the moment I have not extended,” he said. “I am very happy with my club and always respect a contract but when I extend I don’t know yet.”

MATCH RATING *** – Arsenal made it entertaining but Fulham were always going to be there for the taking.

REFEREE: Mike Jones (Cheshire) 7 – Booked Emmanuel Eboue for diving and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski for handling outside his area so gets plaudits for making decisions that annoyed the home fans.

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