Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill has echoed Chelsea counterpart Luiz Felipe Scolari’s view that defeating the ‘rest’ is every bit as important as beating the ‘best’ in the Premier League.
Scolari was recently quoted as saying that accumulating the required amount of points is more crucial in the competition for the championship than which opponents they are accrued against.
The Brazilian coach would much rather be lifting the Premier League trophy next May than basking in the glow of any solitary Chelsea victories over their ‘Big Four’ contemporaries.
Similarly, O’Neill is anxious not to read too much into Villa’s progress simply from this season’s results against Chelsea, Liverpool, and more recently Manchester United and Arsenal.
Villa have remained unbeaten against three of the established elite, beating Arsenal, drawing with United and Liverpool and losing to Chelsea, who are the only top four team to breach their defence.
However, the Villa manager is not getting carried away by the results and insists victories over the league’s lesser lights like Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Saturday’s opponents Fulham are just as important.
O’Neill points to his experience in the Scottish Premier League where he felt Old Firm games between Celtic and Rangers assumed too much significance over the more routine fixtures.
“I also take Scolari’s viewpoint,” said O’Neill. “He said it might take 85, 87 or 89 points to win the Premier League.
“As long as they arrive at the number of points it wouldn’t bother him if they didn’t beat any of the top three other sides during that time – and that’s right.
“It’s a bit like when we were at Celtic and Rangers. Chances are that to win the league in the SPL you would probably have had to have beaten your main rivals at least twice in the season.
“Mathematically it might not have been certain. You might have lost all four games and still been able to win it.
“That’s the way Scolari’s looking at it and I think that’s a decent way.
“From our viewpoint now, because we’ve not been in the top four then people are going to look at our results against the top four.
“I can’t stop it and I think it’s probably not a bad point for discussion.
“People are going to see how you perform against the big sides to see whether you are actually making progress.”
Meanwhile O’Neill believes Wayne Routledge will benefit from a two-month loan spell at Cardiff City despite the manager’s reluctance to part with him.
O’Neill would have preferred to have kept Routledge on board at Villa’s Bodymoor Heath training complex during a congested fixture programme.
However the prospect of competitive football has proved too important for the former Tottenham winger whose first team opportunities have been limited.
“He should benefit from this,” said O’Neill. “This is what he’s been crying out for. He wants to play games.
“He would have been involved with us at least in the European matches and therefore I’ve got a degree of reluctance in sending him out because we haven’t got a major squad.
“But we have the ability to recall him in 28 days, even though it’s a two-month loan, and he will have played some of the games.
“This is an opportunity for him to get fitness and play for a cause. It’s important for him to actually play first team games and I think it will be very beneficial.”
n?Aston Villa reserves’ hopes of notching up their sixth win in their last seven matches were ruined last night by a late equaliser at Fulham in their Premier Reserve League South match.
In a game of several chances, it took until the 64th minute before the deadlock was broken.
Wiemann was brought down inside the penalty box and Scottish striker Barry Bannan put the ball past former West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbuhler from the spot.
And despite missing further chances, it looked like the Villa youngsters would hang on for victory until in injury time, home striker Lewis Smith thrashed the ball past Taylor in the visitors’ goal to earn Fulham a point.
Villa will be disappointed not to have come away with all three points after Nathan Delfouneso and Zoltan Stieber missed good chances.