Benitez calls Anfield crisis meeting
Published 22:45 10/03/10 By David Maddock
Rafa Benitez has called a crisis meeting of his players in an attempt to stamp out the discord that threatens the very fabric of the club.
The Liverpool manager believes the next three months are crucial not just for his side’s season, but also for the long-term future of the club, given how much is at stake financially.
But in recent weeks, the Spanish coach has been dismayed by what he sees as “negative body language” from his players, which he reckons is sending out the wrong message at a time when they must all stick together.
The frustration amongst certain senior players has been visible in many matches this season, with the likes of skipper Steven Gerrard, star striker Fernando Torres, and senior pros Javier Mascherano, Pepe Reina and Jamie Carragher all venting their anger at poor performances at different times.
And while Benitez fully understands that frustration, he brought all his players together after the painful defeat at Wigan, to stress that the body language has to be much more positive as they strive to portray a united front.
“I don’t like players showing disappointment with body language, it’s not positive but each player is different. Now though, it is important to show leadership and bring people on board,” the Reds boss explained.
“It is important to show the right approach to your team-mates in this situation, and when we spoke we have said we want to improve this.
“Of course, it depends on each player and on the situation. Watching highlights yesterday I could see the keeper blaming the defenders and the defenders blaming the keeper, and sometimes that is part of the game.
“But if you see these things too much it means you are making too many mistakes, and we have said that we have to bring all the people on board.”
The in-fighting at Anfield is clearly a result of the turmoil that surrounds the club in what has been a desperately disappointing and difficult season.
Fingers have often been pointed in matches, with even a hint of a lack of trust between the players creeping in, and also a sign that the likes of Torres is beginning to feel a powerful sense of frustration in matches.
The Spanish striker was booked when his anger spilled over at the end of the Wigan game, and Gerrard too was booked when he lost his cool as the game looked to be slipping away.
But Benitez knows there is too much at stake for the players to start squabbling amongst themselves, and he has asked for calm as he looks at the bigger picture in what is a hugely important three months for Liverpool.
“Look, it is always easier when things are going well. Now we have made some mistakes, but if we cannot improve playing better football, then the only way you can win is by having everyone together,” he said.
“One thing we spoke about yesterday was committing fouls at the end of the game. We have to keep calm and play better football instead losing our cool and fouling.
“That is something we have to improve and the only way is to explain to them, analyse and try to control it for the next game.”
Benitez took his wounded side to France last night for a Europa League encounter with Lille that will determine whether they can secure a place in the quarter final.
And the manager accepts that the club has now entered a phase in its history where the developments both on and off the field will have a massive impact on the entire future.
New investment is desperately required, and if the team fails on the pitch then it will have huge financial implications in the search for that new funding, which will, in turn, affect outlay over the next few years.
Failure to qualify for the Champions League is almost inconceivable, and Benitez recognised this, when he said: “I agree this could be a crucial period that may determine the future of the club.
“We talk about investors, we talk about the new stadium; we talk about all these same things for maybe one or two years now. Everybody is waiting for something to happen and expecting something to happen. The main thing for me is to try and concentrate on the football and get the best out of the players.
“That's something I can do, and something I have to do for the fans and the club. Inside the club, at the top they have a responsibility and we will try to do out best – that is what we all must do now, in the best interests of the club.”
Benitez has an injury doubt over Yossi Benayoun, and the midfielder will face a late fitness test this afternoon, but Glen Johnson has come through unscathed and should make his first start in two months.