The flak is still flying for David O'Leary but the under-pressure manager left Highbury on Saturday night insisting that it is Aston Villa's next two results that matter more than being made to look like April fools by rampant Arsenal.

Villa's 5-0 defeat on their final visit to Highbury was their heaviest since also losing by the same margin at Blackburn Rovers in January 1998, the day of Savo Milosevic's shame.

Saturday, by contrast, was a case of being outplayed by the best set of players in the country at the very peak of their powers.

O'Leary, despite again coming under fire from a section of travelling fans, was not the only one who regarded it almost as a free weekend ahead of the two important derbies - both at Villa Park - against West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City.

With their third consecutive win lifting Portsmouth level on points with Albion, Villa still enjoy an eight-point cushion above the bottom four. Despite their Highbury hammering, their fourth successive away defeat, they still boast a better goal difference than the teams below.

But, if Villa were to lose either or both of the derbies, they would be hauled right into the heat of the relegation battle.

"We now have two derby games coming up," said O'Leary. "Two hard games, but two winnable games and that's what we have to concentrate on."

O'Leary was quick to refute any suggestion that Villa were focused more on the next two Sundays than the match at Arsenal.

"We didn't come down to Highbury with a defeatist attitude. We came to be positive," he added.

"But anybody who was in the ground who saw some of the things Thierry Henry did just has to hold their hands up and say he's an exceptional player.

"We've been beaten by a team who could be champions of Europe and should, at the very least, be in the final. They can kill anybody with the players they have. They and Man United are the two teams who, when they're really flying, can hurt you. And that was class of the highest standard. As good as it gets.

"But it's the next two after this that are more important for our season. We've got to take care of business the best we can, roll our sleeves up, get to the end of the season, then see what happens."

O'Leary again hinted at a summer shopping list but was uncertain what buying power he might have.

"It was decided from Christmas onwards to just dig in and get on with it the best we can and that's what we have to do," O'Leary said. "I still can't say much. I'd love to but I can't. I've just got to hope that, come the summer, we might be able to do things.

"I'd love to stay within this country, but I've got my chief scout Ian Broomfield scouring the continent and we still don't know whether we've got 2p or two million to spend on any player."

Little consolation to his detractors. And those Villa fans, so vocal in their condemnation, may remember that following that similarly heavy defeat at Ewood Park eight years ago, manager Brian Little lasted just another 38 days in the job.