Martin O’Neill suggested his “resurgent” Aston Villa team were again undermined by defensive frailties during their captivating 3-3 draw with Everton.
The solitary point Villa picked up from the six-goal thriller at Villa Park has left them very much on the periphery of Champions League contention.
Arsenal’s victory over Wigan Athletic means Arsene Wenger’s team now hold an eight-point advantage and a vastly superior goal difference going into the final six games of the season.
Yet, despite a draw which extends Villa’s search for a victory to 10 games in all competitions and seven Premier League fixtures, O’Neill had nothing but praise for his team’s overall performance.
However, the Villa manager did express his concerns about the damage lax defending has already inflicted on their top four ambitions after the concession of 11 goals in the past three matches.
“I feel as if Villa at this minute are resurgent,” said O’Neill, who was relieved to maintain Villa’s one-point advantage over David Moyes’s men after fighting back from 3-1 down.
“I think that the football we try and play going forward has been what we’ve attempted to do for the last couple of seasons and we naturally have to improve defensively.
“I thought that we were fantastic going forward, we were an absolute dream. Defensively we were not so clever but it’s been high entertainment and it’s been a great game.
“Naturally I think that we should have won the game because we had a great chance towards the end and a number of other chances.
“But if you’re going to win then you shouldn’t be asking to score four goals to do so.”
O’Neill accepts that Villa are now virtually out of the chase for the top four after conceding further ground to Arsenal over the weekend.
However, he is refusing to completely give up on Villa’s Champions League ambitions until it is mathematically impossible.
“Are we out of the Champions League?” said O’Neill. “I would not disagree. I think either of us had to win to keep in touch. It is a result that suits Arsenal.
“With Arsenal winning it will now be very hard but we shouldn’t just give up the fight like that.
“Arsenal have some very tough games ahead, so have we, so we just have to go and win them and see what happens.
“I am not giving up but it will be very hard.”
Everton manager Moyes echoed his claret and blue counterpart’s sentiments, saying: “I think the Arsenal result has made it very difficult for any of us to get there.
“If Villa had beaten us they would think they would still be in with a shout and if we had won, we would have not given up the chase.
“You don’t say never until it is mathematically impossible but realistically it will be hard to get fourth place.”
Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor limped out of game with a hamstring strain and club medics will await the result of a scan before contemplating his involvement in Saturday’s home game against West Ham United.
With Emile Heskey also out with a similar problem and Marlon Harewood on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Villa’s only available strikers are John Carew and youth team teenager Nathan Delfouneso.