Wenger: Gunners had a hungover

Thomas Vermaelen’s own goal gifted the visitors, who had not won at

Arsenal in 25 attempts, the lead on 65 minutes. The Belgian went on

to redeem himself when nodding in from close range with seven

minutes left, but the Gunners could not conjure up a winner. Wenger

believed his squad had shown “a bit of mental and physical fatigue”

after their exertions in the midweek victory over Borussia Dortmund

which had secured safe passage into the knockout stages. “The

positives are we have shown an exceptional spirit and desire,

refusal to lose the game,” the Arsenal manager said. “You could see

many players were on the fringe, and that we had not completely

digested the Champions League game on Wednesday night. “We needed

to dig deep, the circumstances in the game went against us because

the moment when Fulham scored they were not crossing halfway a lot.

“We scored an own goal at a moment when it was all us, earlier in

the season, we could have lost this game, but we came back. “It is

disappointing because we dropped two points, but at least it keeps

our unbeaten run going.” Wenger added: “We had a bit of mental and

physical fatigue because we had not completely recovered from the

Champions League game, and that happens sometimes. “We lacked a bit

of accuracy in our passing. “However, we still had the potential to

win, early on in the game we could have scored.” The Gunners boss,

though, insisted their European game should not be used as an

excuse. He said: “We gave a lot on Wednesday night, and it is a

short amount of time to play again. “But it is not an excuse, it is

an explanation. “We want to be in the Champions League, so we can

not cry when we are tired. “Our challenge is to win these types of

games even when we are tired.” Despite the onslaught of Arsenal’s

pressure, Fulham continued to defend resolutely – before snatching

the lead on 65 minutes. Gunners midfielder Mikel Arteta thought he

had been fouled, but play continued, and Danny Murphy chipped the

ball into the box. John Arne Riise collected the pass on his chest,

which then saw the ball bounce on the penalty spot before being

scuffed back past Wojciech Szczesny into the far corner by the

retreating Belgian. Arsenal had to step things up, and were denied

an equaliser when Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer – once a target for

the Gunners – clawed away a goal-bound header from Johan Djourou

after a corner. The home side finally were level when Vermaelen

redeemed himself with a close-range downwards header on 83 minutes

after Theo Walcott’s cross from the right. Both Gervinho and then

Walcott should have produced better finishes when weaving into the

box instead of shooting tamely at the keeper. Robin van Persie hit

the sidenetting when through down the right, and despite all of

their late pressure, the Gunners had to make do with just a point.

Fulham may have failed to improve their terrible away form with a

rare win, but Cottagers boss Martin Jol feels his team can still

take a lot of credit from today’s battling display. He said: “A

draw for us is a satisfying result. “In the first half, we had

50/50 possession, with seven attempts on goal. “But we could not

play our football in the last 15 minutes. “We tried to pass it and

get it to the front players, but to get three points, you have to

do a bit more.” Jol added: “Arsenal had played a difficult game in

the Champions League this week, but you still have to work hard

against them, because they have a winning mentality and showed that

in the second half when they were 1-0 down, they did everything to

score. “But with their form over the past six weeks, a draw is

pleasing for us.”