MARTIN O’Neill believes fatigue will not be too much of a problem as his Aston Villa side prepares to play its 22nd game of the season at Arsenal this weekend.
However, as Villa face the prospect of a mounting schedule at the turn of the year with the FA Cup being added to their Uefa Cup and Premier League commitments, he has pledged to look at adding reinforcements to his squad in the transfer window.
As the fixtures pile up, O’Neill knows there will be an added strain on his playing resources but in the meantime he has urged his side to concentrate on getting back to winning ways in the league, starting at the Emirates Stadium.
“I don’t think fatigue is something we should get too anxious about at the moment,” he said. “The reason being that, yes, someone pointed out to me that we are going to have played 10 more games than we did last season by Christmas.
“That is a substantial amount of competitive games, but I would go back and say to you this is what we wanted to do, and if we can, the utilisation of the squad is something we would look at as well.
“I was obviously delighted with the effort of the team in Prague and we will try and see it out here until January. I am not saying that we are going to do an extreme amount of business in January but it is a normal cut-off point, or a point for people to think about what they might do.
“That is not to say that you go into January 1 and then think about what you are doing, of course you are making plans at the same time that may or may not materialise.
“At least January is a point where you can see what position you are in, see what is happening and if we are in the second stages of the Uefa Cup, which will be the last 32, and the FA Cup comes up, then you have a look at it.
“But the three games in a week is tough and it does take its toll. There is no question of that, but it is not really something that people look at afterwards and if people don’t really look at it then I don’t see there is any point in mentioning it,” he said.
Last week Villa played three times in seven days with Monday’s defeat at Newcastle United followed by victory in Prague on Thursday and then another reverse at home to Middlesbrough on Sunday, but O’Neill is not complaining about the work load as he knows a heavy fixture schedule is a symptom of success.
“This is where we want to be. We want to be playing European football after Christmas – we have given ourselves a great chance of that,” he added.
“We want to be striving in the Premier League, matching the top teams and surpassing our efforts from last season. We want to do all those things but it’s hard. You get knocked back a few times and then you have to raise yourself up again and really go for it. That’s the nature of the season.
“It’s an incredible league this time around. There’s three points separating 11 teams. We are nine points off the top and bottom – that’s an amazing fact.
We are sitting fifth in the league and have made a good start. You don’t want that to disintegrate. We need to apply ourselves and go again.
“The league table is so, so tight this season. My own view is that it will take a lot of points for a team to stay up but it will take less to finish in fifth position. The league table is that tight.”