Rafa BenÝtez: Press Conference before Wolverhampton


You've had almost a week to reflect on last weekend's heavy defeat. What's been the main focus for you this week at Finch Farm?

The first thing was to analyse why, after going 2-1 up, we could concede in the way we did. So, we are thinking, where are the mistakes and how to change that, how to improve that. Apart from that, it's been about starting to work on these issues.

You seemed to miss Abdoulaye Doucoure in midfield. What's the update on his progress?

The reality is that we are missing some players, some important players - nearly from the beginning [of the season] and the team was coping with it quite well. But Doucoure was doing really well in the middle of the pitch and then to lose him for these games, it's always important for any team. You talk about even the top sides who have bigger squads, if you lose some key players, you suffer a little bit. So, Doucoure is getting better. It seems that he is progressing well. I cannot say how long exactly but at least a couple of weeks, so, with the international break, hopefully after that he will be fine. Yes - it's a big miss for us but, at the same time, it's an opportunity for other players to show their level.

How do you restore belief and confidence following that type of defeat? It sort of saps morale, doesn't it?

The main thing is to be sure that we stick together as a team. That we are compact. Then, the easiest way will be winning the next game - it's as simple as that. I'm not sure Wolves will agree with me so we'll try to be sure that we are as competitive as we've been in the rest of the season.

And what about you personally, Rafa? Did you feel a little more pressure hearing those fans at the final whistle? There were quite a few boos around the stadium at Goodison last weekend.

Football is very emotional, so you can understand the frustration. I was really disappointed after the game, so you can understand the frustration of the fans. Then, what we have to do - my job - is to be sure that we analyse what was going on and we try to find the solutions. We are working on that. It's part of the job and after so many years, I'm used to doing it.

One question about Richarlison... He was introduced as a substitute last weekend - is he ready to start now? He seems the type of player you really need at the moment?

He's been getting better. He's been training well during the week. Still, we have a couple of training sessions and we will see how much he can improve but in terms of his mentality - yes... In terms of his fitness - it will not be at 100 per cent, but he's getting better. I have confidence that maybe he can start and confidence, for sure, that he'll give us something.

What do you think Richarlison brings to this Everton team?

If you think about the top scorers here last year - he was one of them. He's someone who can play well, he has the ability to beat players and he can score goals. They are all things that are good for any team. It's good for any team to have players who can score goals. When you have a player who did so well last year and was a key player - and was good for us at the beginning of the season... You can miss him, or if he's coming back he can be a big boost for the team by scoring goals like the other day.

Wolves have taken 10 points from 12. They've won three of the last four. How dangerous do you think they are as a team? How would you describe their style under Bruno Lage?

I think they are maybe coming back to two years ago, with the way that they were playing under Nuno. They have pace, they have ability, they have a system that they know quite well and they have some good players. I think that they will be quite dangerous. As you say, they've done well in their last games but they were also doing well in terms of their performances and creating chances in the first games as well. They were not scoring and losing some games but still they were quite dangerous. Now, they have better balance and they are doing well so they'll be very dangerous for sure.

Might you have to change your system? A lot of teams play with a back three. Is that in your thinking?

No - we have been working on four at the back, at the moment. With this idea, we have been working during the week. You never know before the game and we still have two more training sessions but, at the moment, we are working with this idea.

It'll be your 350th game as a Premier League manager. Only Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho have been in charge more times in the Premier League. Have you got any thoughts on that?

I didn't know. I don't count the games but someone will always count the games you have been in charge - not just in the Premier League but overall, so a lot of them. It's fine. It's good to have some good numbers but I will be happier if we can celebrate with three points.

Four goals in 15 minutes conceded last week and it was chaotic. How do you go about the restoration of the defensive solidity you've had for much of the season? Was it a lack of discipline? Was it more than that?

I said before I was frustrated because we were not expecting that. You can make a mistake and lose a game, like against West Ham because the other team is good at set pieces. Fine. You have your chances, you couldn't take your chances... They have a chance, they take their chance. But in this case, we were winning. After scoring the second goal, with Richarlison coming back, with the fans behind the team - everything was positive. To concede in the way that we did is what I said in my first answer. We try to analyse what is going on, you explain to your players and be sure that it will not happen again but, still, it's difficult because you don't have time. We have had this situation this season. You go half-time, team talk and then more or less you adjust things but you don't have time in this case - it was too soon. We need to take some experience after that and be sure it cannot happen again.

Two goals conceded from set pieces last week. I know you've always been an advocate of zonal marking... How difficult is it zonally when players are standing still to defend a player who are attacking a ball?

When I came [to England] in 2004, we were doing zonal marking and people were criticising the system, then the year after and two years after, we were the best team at defending set pieces with the zonal marking. It's just how you do it. As you said, if a player is coming running against you then you have to react. The main thing for us is that we attack the ball and we show some character when you have to challenge. We were not doing that. It's not just the zonal marking because if it's man to man, they block your defender and there could be a man free and that can mean more chances and more space. I think it's a question of how to defend, how to show character and the aggression that you have to show in these situations to defend a corner or free-kick.

Anthony Gordon put in a really good performance last weekend. I know you said he doesn't have the physical capacity to be playing 90 minutes - how close is he to getting to that? How long will it take?

Don't forget that he was on loan last year and I decided to keep him here because I could see the potential. I was the first one who explained to the boy. I'm really pleased with his attitude and commitment in every training session and in the games. Apart from that, you have to make decisions and I thought that could be a good option and that's it. We put Richarlison on the pitch and he scored the second goal. It's not about individuals - it's about the team. Anthony is working hard and getting better. If you ask him, he will say that he is fine and that he can play 90 minutes, for sure this is what he has to say because he's a Premier League player. I'm really pleased with him and hopefully he can play 90 minutes in a lot of games between now and the end of the season, but my job is to be sure that he will play well in a lot of games, not just put him on the pitch and see what happens. I want to be sure that he is improving, he is progressing. He will be a much better player at the end of the season.

You said your job was to find a solution to last week. What did your analysis tell you?

That we did really bad. Why is very clear - we didn't win the tackles, we were in bad positions, we didn't attack the ball when we had to defend. Too many things when you put them together. We were in a bad position when we conceded the second goal and then, after that, we were in bad positions - two or three players who were in situations that we cannot be exposed to. It's something the players can understand and maybe it's not the most difficult thing to do correct. It's more difficult to correct the position when the ball is in movement and you have to tackle, then you have to be sure you are strong enough. It depends on each player and the characteristic of each player but there are some principles that we have to do well and we have to go back to the basics. To be fair, we did it really well in a lot of games because we were reacting against Southampton and Burnley and games like that. The team has shown character. We played against Manchester United and the team was showing the right mentality that the fans love but, last weekend, we made too many mistakes in a row and we conceded too many goals.

Are you expecting to have any players back from injury this weekend?

Still we have two sessions, so some of them are just nearly coming back, but I think it is too early to say who will be there. We are waiting for some medical assessments and after we will see if someone else can come back.