Fulham Vs Arsenal, Sun 22 May 2011

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Fulham manager Mark Hughes believes qualification for next season's Europa League could help the Cottagers in the long run by helping them accrue higher quality players this summer.

The west London outfit are in contention for an unlikely place in the competition via the Fair Play system after England received an extra berth for finishing in the top three of the Respect Fair Play League.

Fulham look the most likely beneficiaries as they are in second spot in the Barclays Premier League's fair play table behind Chelsea, who have already qualified for the Champions League, with one match remaining.

The Cottagers - who host Arsenal on Sunday - reached the final of the Europa League last season under Roy Hodgson and current incumbent Hughes believes it can have a positive impact on the club's recruitment policy.

"Obviously the attraction if you are in the market for players from other leagues in Europe and around the world is that you can offer them European football," he said.

"That is important to players and I think that would be an added advantage.

"If we didn't have it obviously that might be the difference between getting a good player or not.

"We want to be involved and want to do well in it, but obviously the acquisition of players is paramount in pre-season and that might be the difference."

He added: "We have got two scenarios and obviously we have planned accordingly for both eventualities.

"Our only concern is that we have not been able commit to any pre-season tournaments or whatever because of the Europa League, which could hinder our pre-season preparation for the Premier League.

"But we just have to bide our time and I would suggest that this time next week I think we would know officially.

"Obviously we have to wait until the programme is finished, then they will add up the sums and tell us who has qualified.

"The position of Tottenham is paramount in that. If they are fifth or sixth that has a bearing on whether or not we qualify."


Jack Wilshere intends to work even harder next season as the young England midfielder looks to cement his place at the heart of the Arsenal team.

The 19-year-old will have played more than half a century of matches for club and country by the time he finally gets to head off for a well-earned summer break, which is not likely to be until after the end of England's involvement at the European Under-21 Championship.

Wilshere may now be an integral member of both the Gunners and Three Lions set-ups, but the teenager has no intentions of resting on his laurels.

"My target at the start was to play 20-25 games. I have to keep working hard," Wilshere told the June edition of the official Arsenal magazine.

"Next year I will set myself new targets and one of them will be to score more goals. I have only scored twice this season and that is not enough.

"I used to score a lot in the youth team and there is no reason why I can't take that into the first team.

"Above that, though, I have to keep my place in the Arsenal team.

"I am still young, still learning and there is plenty of quality in the squad who can step in."

The Gunners head to Craven Cottage with a sense of what might have been.

A run of just two wins in the last 10 Barclays Premier League matches has seen Arsene Wenger's young squad slip back down the table to fourth, with FA Cup winners Manchester City now in the driving seat to claim automatic Champions League qualification.

Wenger is in no doubt their cataclysmic collapse was sparked by the shock a last-minute loss to Birmingham in the Carling Cup final.

Wilshere feels if things had gone differently at Wembley that fateful afternoon in late February, a great burden would have been lifted.

"If you get that first trophy then you hope more will follow," he said.

"It would bring a different sprit to the team, there is more happiness and you can be more relaxed when you go out there and play."

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