Arsène Wenger hailed the "fantastic spirit" that enabled Arsenal to cling on for a 1-0 victory at Fulham in which Olivier Giroud picked up a three-match suspension after being shown a red card in the last minute. The striker's absence could prove costly to Arsenal's Champions League ambitions, with four matches left to play.
The Frenchman was dismissed for a dangerous challenge on the full-back Stanislav Manolev and Wenger conceded that the referee, Andre Marriner, was correct, especially as Fulham's Steve Sidwell had been dismissed early in the first half for a similar tackle.
However, Wenger, as is his wont, said he had not seen the incident and would examine it more closely before deciding whether to appeal against the striker's ban. "The two [red cards] looked all right," he said. "I spoke with Giroud and he said he did slip at the moment he went for the ball … He is not a tackler and he went a bit over the ball and knowing Sidwell had been sent off before I had no illusion about the colour of the card. But I did not see it properly and need to look at it."
Arsenal's win came courtesy of a goal by Per Mertesacker in the 43rd minute and secured three precious points for Arsenal. But the visitors were made to suffer as Fulham at times forced Arsenal to defend frantically.
"I put it down to psychological reasons, to the fact of thinking: 'Let's not be stupid,' and make a mistake [that costs points]," Wenger said.
Another factor may have been fatigue following the midweek home draw against Everton, the Arsenal manager said. "Everton was a very physical game and somewhere we were a bit jaded in the second half here – maybe that is also why Everton lost at Sunderland."
That 1-0 win for Sunderland, combined with the victories for West Ham and Stoke, leaves Fulham's tally of 40 points looking less than comfortable but, with nine points still separating them from the relegation zone, Martin Jol does not see them becoming entangled in trouble. "Aston Villa and Wigan still have a big hill to climb," he said.