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Eriksson dismisses top 4 talk for City

sports Updated: Sep 17, 2007 18:41 IST
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Sven-Goran Eriksson has dismissed talk of Manchester City breaking into the top four next May despite his side moving second following the single-goal victory over Aston Villa on Sunday.

Michael Johnson's second half goal extended City's 100 percent home record under the new manager and moved Eriksson's side to within a single point of early league leaders Arsenal.

But the former England coach moved to play down the growing expectation surrounding the club, insisting the head of the Premiership table will carry a familiar look at the end of the campaign.

"I would be very happy if the league was finished now," said Eriksson, who denied reports he has been promised a 150 million pound transfer budget.

"I don't feel we should start talking about a top four finish. I think the four top places are for the four top clubs (Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool) but in football you never know.

"But I think the league will be tighter this year, even for the big four. A lot of teams have invested heavily and I don't think anyone will go through the season and lose just one or two games. It will be tight until 10th, 11th or 12th."

Eriksson hailed the display of Johnson, 19, who claimed his second match-winner of the season and insisted the teenager has the perfect midfield mentor in the experienced Dietmar Hamann.

"Michael Johnson is an all round midfielder," he added.

"You can't say he has one speciality, he is good at everything and it is rare you can say that about a young player. And how he took the goal today showed maturity.

"I never saw Manchester City live last season but when I came here he told me he played the last nine games and said he came into the team and saved them. He's very confident!

"It's gold to have a midfielder who can score goals. It's absolutely fantastic and the goals he has scored have been extremely important.

"I'm positively surprised by Hamann. He seems to be getting younger and younger. You expect him to tire in the second half but he is getting stronger and we need him because his football brain is better than anyone."

Eriksson omitted Stephen Ireland from his squad after the Republic of Ireland midfielder admitted last week he had lied about the death of both his grandmothers in a bid to secure his release from international duty but stated the youngster's club future is not in doubt.

"I'm quite sure Stephen Ireland will be the same player we had before he went on international duty when he starts training again," Eriksson added.

"He is young, and an extremely good footballer and we can't afford to lose him. When you are young you make mistakes and you pay for them. But life goes on, he will be ready for the next game I hope."

Villa manager Martin O'Neill admitted his frustration as his side failed to build on the impressive victory over Chelsea two weeks ago before the international break.

"We have no excuses because the break was the same for everyone," O'Neill said.

"But as a club manager, I wish we had had a game immediately after that. We have got plenty of work to do but that doesn't stop me being excited about the team.

"John Carew has played with a groin injury. But strikers benefit from scoring goals and I am sure he will get a great lift when he gets off the mark for us this season."