Rafa BenÝtez: Press Conference before Brentford


Latest on Demarai Gray?

He was doing a light training session today so we will see if he can be available, but maybe we don’t have too much time. He was okay but it was less than what we were expecting.

Yerry Mina, Doucoure and Calvert-Lewin update?

Yerry is doing well but still not ready. Dominic [Calvert-Lewin] not yet, but I would say talking about that is we are bringing back some players. The problem is that some of the key players we are missing already, it seems that they are more important because we are not winning. The reality is that we have less injuries and we are getting better in this department.

What do you need from your players to get on a positive run, especially as it could start against a team like Brentford?

I think that what we did at the beginning of the season for so many games. If you remember the games against Brighton or Manchester United or the games at home. We did so well that everybody was expecting that we could continue at this level. We were missing players through injuries and then it was affecting us maybe too much. We need to be sure we have these players coming back and then we have the group with the same attitude and mentality that we had at the beginning [of the season]. It's a question of time that you can win the first game then hopefully the next one and then the confidence comes back.

Importance of this game added to the fact that Brentford can go above Everton in the table with a win?

I think for us it is important to win any game, but this is the first one we have [to start a winning run with]. It's a team that are doing well in the Premier League now, but we are close in the table. If you think about just winning one game, we could be really close to the top six. That is the situation in the table now, there a lot of teams that are very close and one game can change everything. Hopefully this game will change everything for us and we will be higher in the table and with more confidence for the next ones.

Thoughts on how Brentford have settled into the Premier League?

I think that they are doing really well. They started really well with a lot of confidence, with intensity, playing well. They got some points [at the start of the season]. Now, it is more difficult because little by little everybody knows you better and then it's more difficult to surprise anyone. But in terms of these kind of teams, they have the advantage that they have been working the same way for a while. They know exactly what the manager wants, and the players know each other really well so that is the main strength of this team and they are doing well.

Did you work with Ivan Toney at Newcastle and what do you think of him as a player now?

One of the things they (the media) have been talking about, but I didn’t meet Ivan Toney at any time [at Newcastle]. I didn't coach him any day, so I didn’t talk with him when I was there because he was on loan. All the reports that I had when I was asking for players for the first team, nobody was telling me that he was an option, and he was on loan and they sold him so I don't have any contact with Ivan Toney and I didn't have any contact him. He is doing really well so I was following him last year and this year. He’s doing really well, I cannot argue about that. But some people say ‘oh Rafa didn’t use him’, I didn’t see the player, I didn’t talk with the player at any time because he was on loan for the time that I was there. I wasn’t aware of anything about him until he was doing really well in the Championship and he’s doing really well now in the Premier League.

Who is likely to come in to replace Richarlison who is suspended?

At the moment we have two experienced players, Tosun and Rondon available, and a young player (Ellis Simms) that was injured and is coming back. Normally for these kind of games, it is for people with experience so they have more chances the two senior players ahead of the young player.

Change of style vs. Brentford...

We had four of five chances on the counter (against Man City) and it was a pity that we didn’t have the determination to put the defenders of Man City under pressure. It is clear this is a different kind of game. We are playing against a good team at their home but we still have to compete with them and push them to get the three points.

No win since September. How frustrating is that?

We have been quite close in some of these games. We have lost or drawn but we want to win. We are really disappointed that we haven’t been able to do it. The game against Tottenham at home was a reaction of the team after how we had played in the past. We have been very close. The reality is one win with three points will see us in a much better position because the table is very tight.

Richarlison’s yellow card record, can you talk about that?

He knows. It is too early in the season to have five yellow cards. He has to realise he can’t react and stay more calm in the game. He has to be more aware of his frustrations and focus on the game. He is a very good player and is an important one for us. He is a threat for defenders if he stays focused.

Injuries affecting January plans…

The key for the injuries isn't the number - it is the fact we have key players out. If you analyse now, we are doing much better in terms of injuries when you look at a player like (Fabian) Delph. In the past, he was injured a lot. Now he is training every day and available. JP was injured for a couple of years but now he is training every day, and the same for Tosun and Simms. We are brining players back but the problem we have is that we’ve had key players injured. That has been affecting results.

Players back on Sunday?

The one who was unexpected because it was a metatarsal injury as Doucoure, he has been training today, so he is one who could be available from the players I said before;
We have four or five. We could not control the injury of Tom Davies because it was a knee problem. The others are getting close but still not available. I think Doucoure has a chance.

How careful do you need to be with Doucoure?

Because it is a metatarsal issue, if it is fine, it is fine. It is not a muscle problem where you have to be careful and say you cannot overload. We have to be sure he goes to the game fine if he is available and everything is healed and the player is confident. It is always a risk when you come back from injury but it is not a risk.

Young players in contention?

We used to have the same problem in every country and club. We think to be young is to be good enough. Anthony Gordon is a young player and people were asking for him to play. After two or three weeks he was mentally ready. He is a player with quality and he is playing. When the players are good enough and mentally ready they can play. But in some positions you don’t have these players, or the young players have potential but not the experience and mentality at this time when it is  difficult situation. Some of them will need more time. If you have top-class players, Rooney at 17, I had Raul at Real Madrid, they can play. But not too many players can play when they are still young. Some people will say we have to give them an opportunity Young players doesn’t mean good players. It means young players. Some will need more time than others.

How is Gbamin getting on?

It is complicated after two years, to play against Wolves, a team passing the ball, was not easy for him or the team. We had to make a decision against Tottenham.
With 15 minutes to go, I put Holgate on in this position, it was not great, it didn’t work. But you have to make these kinds of decisions And players have to accept sometimes it is like that. You have to perform even if you are not ready. If not, the only way to change the next decision is to work harder. Gbamin has been training well today and I am happy with that. Hopefully he can understand sometimes you have to make decisions and that is your job.