Hodgson ranks Wenger up with the best

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The Independent Football

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson believes Arsene Wenger has earned the right to be known as one of the greatest managers in the world and claims the Frenchman can go on and on.

Wenger, who has been at Arsenal for 13 years, said this week that he has no plans to retire from the game despite the fact he will turn 60 next month.

He is regarded by Arsenal fans as possibly their greatest coach of all time, having won a host of major trophies, including four FA Cups and three league titles, during that tenure.

Hodgson believes the 59-year-old deserves all the credit he gets.

"Arsene's career has been second to none," said Hodgson, whose side take on the Gunners at Craven Cottage tomorrow.

"It has been quite incredible the job he has done at Arsenal, 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."

Hodgson, at 62, also has no plans to retire and explained why he thinks Wenger and Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson will struggle to give up the game.

"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."

Arsenal's defeat at Manchester City two weeks ago was, according to some, a sign that the Gunners had slipped below their big-spending counterparts in the race for a top-four finish.

Hodgson believes that up to nine teams can break the monopoly of the 'Big Four' on the Champions League qualification places. He also admits that City's spending spree could endanger the survival prospects of smaller teams in the division.

The Fulham boss said: "We have seen that Manchester City are capable of attracting players away or enticing players away from clubs like Blackburn, Arsenal and Everton, so we have to understand that a high influx of money to clubs, as has happened at Manchester City and has seemingly happened at Tottenham, will allow intelligent managers to buy the best players and the teams will get stronger and stronger.

"It will weaken, to some extent, the teams who have to let these players go. It makes their jobs a little bit harder.

"It's the big fleas and little fleas syndrome that we have talked about before. There will always be a club out there that is big enough to take your players off you."

Hodgson will make several changes from the second-string side that took a full-strength City to extra-time on Wednesday.

The former Inter Milan boss was buoyed by that performance, but concedes his team will have to play well to reproduce the 1-0 win that Fulham earned over the Gunners in last season's corresponding fixture.

"We are playing one of the very top teams, not only in the country but also in Europe tomorrow," he added.

"They are not weaker this season. Not a bit.

"Last year it was a very early game and we scored early on and we were lucky to keep them at bay."