x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

O'Neill starting to believe the hype

The Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill says his side's injury-time comeback against top-four rivals Arsenal as proof of "significant progress".

Aston Villa have made progress under their manager Martin O'Neill and could be the team to break the
Aston Villa have made progress under their manager Martin O'Neill and could be the team to break the "top-four" monopoly.

The Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill highlighted his side's injury-time comeback against top-four rivals Arsenal on Friday as proof of the "significant progress" they have made in the last two seasons. Villa are proving to be genuine contenders to break the 'big four' stranglehold in the Premier League and the 2-2 draw at home to the Gunners ensured they maintained a three-point lead over Arsene Wenger's side.

Villa found themselves 2-0 down after dominating the first half and spurning several chances. But, after goals by Denilson and Abou Diaby against the run of play, Villa regrouped and roared back in style with a penalty by Gareth Barry before the defender Zat Knight's stoppage-time equaliser. O'Neill said: "I think that two seasons ago we would have been unable to cope with going so far behind against maybe any opposition, let alone Arsenal. So that was really big. I feel the team have made significant progress."

Villa now travel to Hull on Tuesday but today the Portsmouth manager Tony Adams makes an emotional return against Arsenal. Adams was idolised by Arsenal fans during his 18-year spell with the north London club where he captained the side to four league titles. Adams is having to learn things the hard way at Fratton Park following crushing home defeats against Newcastle and West Ham. Although things have not gone exactly to plan, Adams is using all the knowledge he inherited from the Arsenal manager Wenger to help him succeed.

Adams said: "I have strengths and weaknesses, very different from Arsene. I am a different person. Don't laugh but I believe I am stronger in some areas and in others he is far greater than me. I think I would be silly not to pick up a few things from Arsene, but I am my own person and I am developing. It will be Tony Adams as a coach and a manager now. "I don't try and be Arsene, George Graham, Terry Venables or Sir Alex Ferguson. I want to be myself. I would love a crack at the Arsenal job. Who in their right mind would not want a crack at that?"

Wenger is hoping that the Portsmouth board stand by Adams and don't make any rash decisions despite their recent poor run. Wenger said: "Of course I hope he is given time. He has the qualities to be where the big managers are if he is given time." sports@thenational.ae