Is Martin O'Neill conceding fourth place to Arsenal?

I'm a cynical old fool at times but one of the things I've decided to not do on this new site, mostly because life is too short, is go out and look for a fight - something I used to do quite a bit at times on the old one and it was mostly Bill Howell or the people that run the official club site. It won't be happening any more, not unless they do something really stupid.

But people that are still open for a bit of a grilling are the players, Martin O'Neill and Randy Lerner. Today, not really getting a grilling, more a pep talk, is Martin O'Neill, because it reads to me like he's given up on top four and conceded the place to Arsenal and it sort of worries me.

You would have to say now there won't be much of a threat from us to Arsenal's position. It's no fluke that the top four are where they are and we are in a dip right now.

We are not as strong as those four clubs. I have said it many times before and I will say it again - we still have a lot of catching up to do. It is still reachable as Arsenal have many tough games to come. But they are getting some of their injured players back and it's going to be very, very tough.
Martin O'Neill, March 22nd 2009

Now, it's not that Martin O'Neill isn't entitled to his opinion - we all are, but last week he as wound a few up by drumming down expectations, when it's mostly the club setting them and he even criticised the new found supporters - which, I think was a bit harsh, seeing as I don't think there are any 'new found supporters'.

The new-found Villa fan that we have, who obviously wasn’t supporting the side a couple of years ago, has turned up now and has decided that winning supposedly mediocre games in the Premiership is a fait accompli.
Martin O'Neill, March 19th 2009

Now, basically, Martin O'Neill built our expectations of fourth place when he threw in the towel in Moscow, decided to rest most of the team and fly them off to Dubai for a break so they could concentrate on the league. Exactly how many points have we picked up since that rest and the towel throwing incident in Moscow?

We're told to 'keep the faith' and we're asked for 'support' and we're told a lot of things, by fellow supporters and the club, but last week you've still got Arsene Wenger claiming they can still win the league when they are ten points off United with only 24 to play, but when we are three points off Arsenal with the same amount of points to play for, we're told, maybe not directly, that we're not going to finish in the top four.

Behaviour breeds behaviour. The club started to build our expectations and they were successful and it's also a footballing philosophy, in so much that Martin O'Neill has often referred to just needing a win, to get out of the slump, but while the headlines are all 'tough to catch Arsenal now' and not really throwing in the towel, it's not a positive one.

How many of us really expected we'd get something yesterday? How many expect we'll get something against United? Even in the middle of our good run, the most I'd have given us was a point out of six and as it stands now, that is still possible.

I can't believe I'm going to say this as most will think I'm a mad man, but I believe fourth is still possible, but we've got to change this attitude that there isn't going to be much of a threat from us. It's in our hands. All we can do is win our matches and put pressure on Arsenal. If we win, we are a threat and we have to win, we can not simply give up now and start looking at Everton.

Yesterday was us playing a Liverpool team at the pinnacle of that behaviour breeds behaviour bit. After scoring four against Real Madrid and Manchester United, they believe, at the moment, they could beat anyone. We have to change our attitude and not give up on top four, because we're playing Manchester United next and if we look at the behaviour story again, they've just conceded six in two - when was the last time that happened?

Right, positive Damian is now going to go do some real work, but the fat lady isn't singing yet, hell, she's not even getting warmed up - there is plenty to play for.