O’Neil | ‘It was an incredible effort from everyone’

Despite Wolves’ defeat to Arsenal at Molineux, Gary O’Neil found plenty to be proud about as his team depleted by injuries gave the Gunners a run for their money.

With just 10 fit senior outfield players available, Wolves were more than a match for their Premier League title-chasing opponents and O’Neil praised the commitment from his side as they begun a run of three home matches in a positive manner, in spite of the result.

On taking pride from defeat

“It was an incredible performance and one of my favourites, considering how tough I thought it was going to be for us. For the lads to show the togetherness, the commitment and the workrate to push Arsenal as hard as we did, I thought it was an incredible effort from everyone.

“I’m very proud, although disappointed with the second goal, especially that it was really soft, and we didn’t deserve to lose 2-0. One-nil and not being able to score would probably have been the worst it could have been for us, but to lose the second one was really disappointing, but I’m really proud.

“It was an unbelievable performance and I can’t believe how well the lads did really with how short we are. Channy [Hwang] was just able to do more than 45, Mario [Lemina] came on as a number nine and did well as a nine, so it was an enjoyable evening which you don’t usually get if you lose, but I really enjoyed watching the lads, and I’m sure the supporters did as well.”

On not ‘parking the bus’

“We were quite aggressive and pressed Arsenal as high as we could. We obviously used moments to try and take a rest, and defend the goal in a lower block, but we aggressive when we could. We had some success with it and thought we disrupted their rhythm a little bit, but there is some risk when you go that high and aggressive against very good players, but the lads handled it well and had some success.

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough to get us a result, but I’m sure Arsenal knew they were in a game. I’d much rather us lose like that than just sit waiting to be beat in a low block for 90 minutes and Arsenal dominating possession.

“Although we were missing key players, we had plenty of energy and legs available to us in Bouba [Traore], Joao [Gomes] and Tawanda [Chirewa] and I thought we could use their energy to our advantage and we tried to.”

On trying to break Arsenal down

“We had a couple of good moments and of course they’re a tough team. You look at how they defend the goal and how compact they are, and if you do manage to get through them – which we did a couple of times – the two centre backs are incredible, in Gabriel and Saliba, they’re really good physically.

“We had some moments which we didn’t quite capitalise on, some crosses into good areas but managed to hit Raya with them, we had a good chance to go one up which would have been a big lift for us when we hit the post, but they’re a difficult team to create against, especially when virtually all of your attackers are injured. Trying to create against the best defence in the world with not many attackers is a tough task, but the lads gave it a very good go.”

On keeping standards high

“There are loads of things we need to improve, but the break and the pre-season will help us with that. But the aim when I was driving up to Wolverhampton in August was to make sure we stay in the Premier League, we knew it was going to be a tough task because of the small squad and we were able to put loads of points on the board early on when we had our key players available, but at the moment it’s not that.

“But it’s given me a good chance to take a look at the others and I still keep pushing them, I’m still trying to keep the standard high, and if we can produce that every week, I’ll be more than happy.

“I’m disappointed we couldn’t get any points on the board because it would have been a big achievement to have taken points off Arsenal tonight, but the next best thing is to put in a performance like that which the fans and the players could be proud of.”

On continuing to progress

“That was another progression tonight, it was a fantastic performance by Hugo [Bueno], and Tawanda’s incredible full debut against a very good side, Tommy Doyle another good performance, Santi Bueno another good performance, so although I’m sure all the Wolves fans, myself and the other players would love to have everyone else available, we would love to have our strongest squad, be flying, playing free-flowing football and pushing for the places above us, it’s not that at the moment.

“This is the situation that we’re in and we’ve made the most of it tonight. That was as good as we could produce and that is progression, so we’ll try to progress with everybody and see where we can get to.”