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Maybe that's why he only lasted eight games: Martin O'Neill blasts Alan Shearer over scathing Christie criticism

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Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill.

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill.

Brian Lawless / PA

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill.

Martin O'Neill has slammed Alan Shearer's criticism of Republic of Ireland full-back Cyrus Christie.

He was singled out by the pundit on Match of the Day 2 on Sunday evening after Arsenal beat Christie's Fulham 5-1. A montage of Arsenal chances highlighted the trouble caused down Fulham's right side, where Christie was playing wide midfield in a 3-4-3 formation.

"(The formation) didn't work. They were terrible," said Shearer.

"Arsenal identified this weakness, which was down Fulham's right side, particularly Christie. Time and time again, whether it was Iwobi, Welbeck, got into those areas and dominated in that position. Christie (was) constantly going forward, not worried about defending. Watch Christie here, he's walking. His team are in trouble here.

"His thought has to be get back and help. Look at him on the half-way line there, he jogs, Monreal's away and all of a sudden he realises, it's too late. Ball into the box, first goal, punished because you're not thinking defensively. It was so alarming.

"I don't want to pick on him but that was the side Arsenal looked at and that was the side that Arsenal dominated."

However, O'Neill has taken exception to the comments and launched a defence of his player, revealing his initial suspicions that Christie may have been acting out instructions from Fulham boss Slavis Jokanovic, which were confirmed on speaking with the player himself.

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"I've asked Cyrus and this was the first thing I thought of when Alan Shearer was having a go," said the RoI boss. "(Shearer) should have prefaced things by saying, 'I don't know what the manager has said', because at the end of the day, the manager has asked him to stay up the pitch and not worry about getting back.

"So if you're asking a wing-back to go up the pitch, be really high up the pitch, hoping that you receive the ball up there - you're depending on people to get you the ball - but you're up there and then ask them to get 50 yards back when it's broken down? Usain Bolt couldn't get back there in time, he wouldn't be able to get back. The communication has to be there with the right centre-back.

"I think the criticism was tough considering that you haven't put in the possibility that the manager has told you to stay up the pitch. I don't think the severe criticism was as warranted. I don't think everything was down to him and the first thing I thought about when Shearer was saying those things is, 'You should be asking the question'.

"Maybe that's why he only managed eight games, that might be something to do with it," said O'Neill, with a withering reference to Shearer's aborted attempt to escape relegation with Newcastle at the end of the 2008/'09 season.


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