Rafa BenÝtez: Press Conference before Arsenal


Injury update for Yerry Mina and Rondon?

Yerry Mina today has done part of the training session, so he is getting closer. We will see how he reacts over the next couple of days to see if he is available or not. Rondón, we are assessing him, so we are waiting still. He is feeling better, but we need to wait for the scan and see how he is doing. André Gomes has been training. We are missing just Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tom Davies. Those are the players at the moment that are unavailable.

Any update on Calvert-Lewin return?

He is doing well. I was talking with the physio today alongside the fitness coach. He is getting better, but still a couple of weeks away minimum. We have to be very careful with him because he has had two injuries, so we want to be sure that he is getting stronger and that he is well. Now is the time to progress and he is doing really well. He is quite happy, but we have to be careful.

Message to fans after derby defeat?

We are really disappointed because we have been on a bad run. In terms of the game, it’s a derby and it’s more emotional. We are really disappointed in the way things are going at the moment.

At the same time, I have the numbers. That’s the advantage that I have. We were running more than Liverpool in every single department. Distance, fast runs, intensity, sprint, everything, but we conceded four goals. What does that mean? It means that they have very good players, and they punished our mistakes. We made mistakes, they punished us and it’s something that we already analysing. You cannot say all those things (about the team not working hard). I have the belief and I told them a lot of times that we will do well in the second part of the league. Now is a time for us to stick together and try to go to January in the best possible position that we can.

In terms of commitment, the players are working really hard. You cannot complain about that. You can complain about mistakes, quality, decisions or things like that, but not about commitment. It’s a little bit disappointing and it’s a frustrating time for us, but we have to keep going and have to work really hard. I have experience in situations like that, to fight for titles and to try to avoid the relegation. And my experience is telling me to stay calm, to keep working hard, try to correct the mistakes and then keep going. Stick together. That is really important and we appreciate that what we want is to stick together because that is crucial.

What pressure do you feel?

When you are in a bad run like we are in already, every game is a must win game. Why I am positive, why I still have the belief that we will do well is because we did it at the beginning [of the season]. You cannot be a bad manager or a good manager in one week, especially in my case with so many years. If I was great as a manager in the first games, if the team was really good, if we sign two wingers, everybody knew that we needed two wingers, and we were making crosses and we were making everything that we had to do, and everybody was happy.

We cannot be wrong after six weeks in everything, it’s not possible. The reason why is because we have important injuries, key players injured and then we had this bad run. Then you lose confidence and then you are waiting for these players to come back. Some games that we could maybe deserve more. We didn’t do it. Now, the Premier League is very complicated with teams so strong like Liverpool and Manchester City that if you play against them or Chelsea, you know that it’s very difficult to get something. Again, what I would say, we did really well at the beginning, so I am confident that we will do well at the end.

Everybody knew that the team was having issues in the last few years. But then when you are doing so well, they forget that. Later on, with the injuries, they are going back to the same problems. We know the same problems and we are working on the solutions.

Club going backwards instead of forwards?

My main thing to concentrate on is the football issues, the coaching of the team. Trying to analyse the crucial mistakes from the other night that cost us the game because the team was coming back with the goal that we scored. After we continue to make mistakes. I don’t want to blame anyone, any individual. We are talk about that we win or we lose as a group. We know the problems. I think that is the positive thing.

The Club has been changing managers for a while and it was not changing the situation. Now we know the problems and we are trying to find the solutions. It’s just the main thing for me on the pitch and at the same time from the Club.

What are the short-term solutions?

I will go back to the experience, and then you have to do the basic things well. Then, little by little, we can build on that. We have to be solid, we have to be strong, and we have to defend and work as a unit. After that - if you can get one or two results - we will have more confidence, and it will be easier. With some players coming back, we have more chances to be even more competitive. 

What do you think of the job your compatriot Mikel Arteta is doing at Arsenal?

I think he is doing well. He is an example of a new manager in a club who was under pressure last year and from the beginning of this season. Little by little, he has continued to work in the way he wants to work, and the team is getting better. It is clear they spent some money, but he is an example of a new manager at a club who needed time, and now he is collecting the price of that.

Arsenal away form not as good as their home form. Make the most of that?

We have to work really hard as a team and try to keep the ball better than we did against Liverpool. We can’t make mistakes. We were really strong at the beginning of the season. We had a solid defensive unit, and then we played good counter-attacking football from there. We need to go back to the principles and make sure we don’t make mistakes which will allow teams the chance to punish us.

Turning a corner…

Statistically it has to be like that. The team is working hard. I won’t say playing because when you play against Liverpool they are a top side in the world. To lose against them is worse because it is a derby, but in terms of effort you can’t complain. If we continue to do that then we will start winning.

Jordan Pickford v Aaron Ramsdale

I knew Jordan before, and he is doing well for his Club and country. He is a player we know is capable, and there is still time for him to improve. He is still young and can be better. We know with keepers that they can stand for a while and get better as they get older. He still has a lot of time to continue improving, and I think he is a good keeper at the moment. 

Money previously spent at Everton?

I try to concentrate on my job which is to improve the players we have. The fans and everyone in the business know the money has been spent, but we have to improve these players. I talk about injuries because I want people to realise we were doing well with the same group of players at the beginning. They have been a key factor for us. The owner and the board want to spend money and improve the team. It is really important we stick together, try to work as best as we can on the pitch and then go to January and try to improve things if we can.

January transfer plans?

We have been talking about that but it is time to concentrate on what we can do every week. We need to know how to prepare for the game against Arsenal and bring back injured players, how to improve the fitness of everyone and improve our game. I am working on that. At the same time, we are talking about January and working on options. But the main thing now is to have a good gameplan for Arsenal

What have you learnt about your players?

When something is wrong it is really important to show character and stay calm. When you are under pressure and anxiety is there, you make more mistakes Stay calm and keep working, work harder, if possible That is what I am trying to do with my staff and it is message for the players.

Today we were talking about that. You cannot complain about the effort, because the numbers are there. We have to analyse our mistakes and not repeat the same things. The only way is to analyse on video clips, individually and for groups, then go on the pitch and coach the players.

How are your players feeling?

Seamus Coleman, the captain, was desperate to do well, pushing the team in the past weeks to be sure everybody was giving everything. He was the first one giving everything.
Then he made a mistake and was so sorry, and I am sorry, because when you have someone so professional, who wants to do so well for this club, to make this kind of mistake is even worse for him and us. It is just to support him, which we did straightaway, and be sure the rest of the players copy his example in terms of mentality and approach and the hard work he puts in everyday.

Does the way Arsenal have overcome some tough times offer encouragement?

They were under pressure last year and this year at the beginning. Then they kept doing things in the right way and, little-by-little, you go through, and I am confident we can do the same.

Speculation over big players leaving – and how difficult to recruit on this run?

I don’t think it will affect us at the moment. Our market is clear, there are players you can get and others you can’t, that is the reality, the Champions League or playing in Europe, players from top sides, maybe, will not come now. But we need to know the players want to come.

In terms of whether our players can go, they can’t if we don’t want them to. We are happy with the situation in terms of contracts of some players. It depends on us. We don’t want to lose our players, if it is not necessary. If we sell players, it is because we want to sell players. If we don’t want to sell players, we don’t need to. I think the players appreciate we are trying to improve and that is what we will do until the end.