We have the spirit for a title fight, claims Wenger

Arsenal 2 Fulham 1

One of the hallmarks of potential champions is the ability to win games despite playing poorly. However, Arsenal's title credentials were not entirely enhanced by this narrow victory over Fulham that put them on top of the Premier League, after the postponement of Manchester United's game at Blackpool.

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, was clearly not convinced. He said: "We are far from winning the championship yet. The only thing I can say: we have the desire and the spirit to fight for it."

The opinion of the Fulham manager Mark Hughes was much the same, after two wonderful solo goals from Samir Nasri decided the game.

"Champions? Not today in fairness but that is credit to us. We made them look quite ordinary," Hughes said, after seeing his team match Arsenal in all statistical breakdowns except the one that matters, the scoreline.

Possession was evenly shared between the teams; Arsenal had 15 chances in front of goal to Fulham's 13, while Fulham actually won the corner count seven to three. Hughes claimed his team had caused Arsenal so many problems that he described it as a "template" for others to follow, starting with Manchester United who welcome Wenger's side to Old Trafford in a week's time.

"We've given a template for a team who have to play them," the Fulham manager said. "I'm certain they'll look at how we approached the game and will take information from it. It will be more difficult for them [Arsenal at Old Trafford], I'd suggest."

The Mark Hughes of old, the bruising combative centre-forward who played 467 games for United, would fancy his chances against the current Arsenal defence. He said: "Maybe 20 years ago. You have to ask questions of centre-halves sometimes. They are not possibly as strong as they have been in recent years and at times you can expose them because they are an attacking team. If you put them under pressure sometimes they are not used to it and they have to do things they haven't done much work on."

Arsenal certainly looked shaky at the back, notably when Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci went for the same high ball in the run-up to Diomansy Kamara's goal for Fulham that ended with Koscielny leaving the pitch with concussion.

With Thomas Vermaelen still out with an Achilles injury and not expected back until January, Wenger has little option but to soldier on with the men at his disposal.

Wenger admitted his desire to encourage his team to play with flair can leave Arsenal vulnerable but he resolutely refuses to change tack.

"I am comfortable with that, sometimes it leaves us open in the middle of the park," Wenger said. "We want to play in the other half of the pitch and, therefore, we have to push our opponents back. If we lose the ball in the build-up, we are in trouble. My philosophy is not to be in trouble, but to fool the opponent into trouble."

Against Fulham, Arsenal were bailed out of trouble by the dancing feet of Nasri, who this season has shrugged off years of hesitancy to become one of the most exhilarating players in the Premier League. He scored two goals of the very highest order; he made mugs of Fulham's centre-halves Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes, selling them a pair of dummies and then sweeping the ball high into the net; then he took a ball from Robin van Persie in his stride, took it around John Pantsil and then swivelled 360 degrees to finish with his right foot just as he seemed to have taken the ball too wide.

Nasri has scored 11 goals this season, and puts his improved form down to his growing maturity. "When I'm in front of a goalkeeper I am more relaxed now," he said. "Before I felt too much pressure to score, I wanted it too much maybe. Now I don't worry as much. I'm more at ease in the game and I'm not just looking for goals, I'm looking to work for the team. I think I'm more mature in my football game. I think more with my head."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed