O'Neill: We can go to Arsenal and win

Last updated at 15:20 29 February 2008

Martin O'Neill believes the best is still to come from Aston Villa skipper

Gareth Barry who is approaching the tenth anniversary of his debut for the

midlands club.

Barry first wore the Villa shirt as a 17-year-old in May 1998 against Sheffield

Wednesday and since then has clocked up nearly 400 appearances in claret and


He has been a model professional who has led by example with his consistent

performances week in and week out which have finally earned regular England


But O'Neill is confident Barry can become an even better player as Villa

prepare for Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash at leaders Arsenal.

O'Neill said: "For the age Gareth is, just 27, the number of games he has

played, over 380 for Villa, is phenomenal. He has been superb for us ever since

I got here and for many years before I came to Villa.

"He was looking to leave that summer I arrived at Villa and it was a massive

lift to everyone when he decided to stay and sign a new four year contract.

"He has got his reward for his level of performance by becoming a regular part

of the England team this season - but I am sure that Gareth Barry will think

there is more to come from his game.

"I am sure he would not settle for what he has been doing - even though what

he has been doing is terrific. I would just get that impression he feels his

best years are still to come.

"He is vitally important to Aston Villa, a major player."

O'Neill believes that Barry is also improving as a captain - a role he was

handed in place of defender Olof Mellberg 18 months ago.

He said: "Gareth will feel himself that he is more a captain by example. They

tell me the former England rugby captain Martin Johnson was a phenomenal leader

- and when he did say a few words, they were worth listening to.

"You can have different types of captain and Gareth is definitely improving in

all aspects of captaincy."

O'Neill has pledged that Villa will take the game to the Gunners as they look

to bolster their chances of securing European football for next season.

They forced a 1-1 draw in the first ever game at the Emirates Stadium 18 months

ago but O'Neill believes Villa have developed into a better side.

He said: "I saw Arsenal play last weekend at Birmingham when the whole game

was affected by the horrific injury to Eduardo but they are a very fine side.

"They have great attacking options but, from our own viewpoint, we are going

into the game with loads of confidence. Our performance on Sunday at Reading was

excellent - and we are going to go and attack Arsenal.

"I know we are capable of going to Arsenal and winning the game. I genuinely

believe that. We have got ability in the side and pace in the side.

"We know Arsenal are very good and also very capable of beating us but we are

definitely going with a lot of confidence. We are going well.

"We are a much better team than we were 18 months ago. There is no question of


"I know we got a draw at their place last season but it was the first game at

the Emirates and these are different circumstances. Arsenal were just finding

their feet a bit as we were.

"We might get beaten Saturday but we are a much better side than we were


Mellberg scored the first ever goal at the Emirates and he is expected to come

back into contention for Saturday's game after recovering from an ankle injury

which kept him out of the 2-1 win at Reading.

Midfielder Patrik Berger is available after finally shaking off a hamstring

problem but the best he can hope for is a place on the substitute's bench.

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