Post-mortem: Long ball comment from Wenger angers O'Neill, really

It would be easy to focus on the comments made by Arsene Wenger and the reaction from Martin O'Neill but I would simply be digging myself a hole as I agree with Mr Wenger; we do play long ball football. Okay, you can call it counter attacking football if you want, but it is long ball football nevertheless.

Arsene Wenger is also not the first manager to comment on this about our team. Zico talked about it last season as did Tony Mowbray when he was at West Brom. Football pundits have also called us one dimensional and well, turning to a faithful friend, the statistics don't lie either.

Arsenal made 350 passes last night and we made 288. We were unsuccessful with 74 while Arsenal we unsuccessful with 77. Now, don't get me wrong, these numbers are better than it has been this season, but our game does very much focus on everyone working hard, closing down other teams, then on the counter attack, hitting the ball long. You don't need to have worked in football for 15 years to see this.

It is what we have got and what we accept and it is what O'Neill did at Leicester and to some extent Celtic too - it is his style and we can call it something else if we want, but it is what it is.

What the Papers Say

Stuart James, The Guardian
Arsenal had been unable to settle into their rhythm and dominate midfield with their intricate passing game as Villa worked assiduously to close them down while at the same time peppering the visitors' penalty area with crosses. For that Martin O'Neill's side deserve credit rather than criticism.
James Nursey, Mirror Football
Last night Arsenal played their customary slick football but could find no way past Villa keeper Brad Friedel - nor the woodwork. And they had a major let-off when Villa’s England winger Stewart Downing twice failed to hit the target from close-range.

The Manager

Martin O'Neill
I thought we played splendidly in the game. Their goalkeeper made a great save from Gabby early on and I thought that set the tone. I thought Ashley put in some incredible balls that just needed a glance from someone to get in on the end of them.

Man of the Match

Webcam has listened and for that he should be recognised and I think he has been by getting the man of the match vote. The falling over after getting touched up has stopped. The always having an injury has staying down stopped and dare I say it I think he has been working on his crossing as they did look a little better last night, although there is room for improvement, as there is with everything.

He got just under 50% of the vote and well, hats off.

If he keeps this going and we can get a better player to play in between the midfielder and the main striker - he'll create a lot more goals too and he will get better for it. Behaviour breed behaviour and he just keeps need to doing this and he'll be in Brazil in 2014 with a big smile on his face and there is an outside chance he'll be off to South Africa this year too.

The Players and Some Stats

Brad Friedel, Luke Young, Ricardo Dunne, King Carlos Cuellar, James Collins, Stewart Downing, Webcam Young, James Milner, Stan Petrov, Gabby Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey (Fabian Delph on 78).

The main stats are above, but I do think it important to point out that Martin O'Neill does appear to be trying to make things better as we have seen a few games this season where the passing number has increased but the focus really does seem to be on hit it long and hope we can create something and there is nothing wrong with that, it is one way to do it and it has been successful for teams in the past.

Final Analysis

A point against Arsenal is acceptable. Where we find ourselves in the table is a little worrying. After 22 games last season we had 44 points and were fourth (we moved up to third after 23 games), today we have 37 points and we are seventh.

Now, I should be looking at the results against the same teams last season, but that takes too much work so I'll leave that for someone else. But, a point against Arsenal, as I've said, is acceptable.

We have an important game at the weekend and it won't be easy. We have to focus again, look at the positives from last night and keep working on them as they will come good, we know they will. We also have to factor in the FA Cup and the League Cup final - it really should be a case of prioritising now as silverware will make this season a success - finishing sixth without silverware won't be and sixth is looking tough right now.

I'm hoping for a signing or two and I'm also hoping that we don't lose any more players.