Liverpool was the first time Auba, Laca and Pepe started together this season. Why do you think they haven’t worked as a trio?
For different reasons. One of them because we have so many changes around the team, so many injuries and COVID and a lot of things happening with competitions that we have to alternate and still be competitive in both sides. And sometimes because the qualities we have around the team and that cohesion that the team needs so sometimes we need to do it in a different way.
They’re obviously very close off the pitch, would you expect them to have more of a connection on the pitch because of that or is it totally different?
The connection comes with 11 players on the pitch and how they create that cohesion that fluidity. Against Liverpool it didn’t happen but it’s not just because of them three, it’s because all of us. It’s not good just to put individuals up.
It’s now 12 games without a clean sheet for your team. You seemed to have it sorted around new year but why has it gone back in recent weeks?
It’s true that to be much more stable we cannot concede the amount of goals that we did certainly in the last two games. It’s something that’s not been a trend for us and we have to get better at that. We are trying to resolve that.
HectorBellerinseems to have dropped out of the team recently. Is there any particular reason for that?
No, it’s because of the decisions that we’ve made. He’s played a lot this season than he has done in the last two seasons that’s for sure. Sometimes we have to rest him, sometimes we want to give chances as well to Cedric and to Calum that in recent weeks he was completely free to offer something different to the team and that’s it. But he’s fully fit available and in contention to play and start games.
You take the criticism and the blame on your shoulders but do the players feel it too?
Yeah, it’s just about how we take the criticism. For me it’s not good to get the criticism and feel guilty because that guilt is going to turn into fear. It’s about feeling responsible and that’s for me the key word. They have to feel responsible for what we do every day, for what we do on the pitch and the club we represent and then act. Not too much talking it’s time for acting.
They have to show the reaction through this competition which feels like the last chance now don’t they?
It’s the only way we can do it because at the end of the day it’s about winning football matches, being competitive in every competition that we are involved in and winning trophies. That’s what we’re here for.
Emmanuel Petit said he feels the club looks like a retreat for old players to go on vacation. What do you make of that assessment and are the players showing enough passion?
I don’t know. He said that, he knows the club really well and was here in probably the most successful years. He’s got that opinion, I’m here to change that opinion, I’m here to give the evaluation of what I see every day and where we are. I know where we are and where we want to go and we have to respect that.
Do you feel the players show enough passion whether they feel it or not?
Showing it goes with the character. There are people that are much more introverted and extroverted that show the body language in different ways than others, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t hurt. For sure players that they don’t have that emotion, that passion and that commitment they won’t be in the football club.
It seems that every week we talk about how this is the most important game of the season. Is that quite exhausting for you and for the players as well?
I take it every week like that since I joined certainly. I joined in the middle of the season and then we haven’t had any breaks and it was a deadline, always a deadline we had to make a decision with a player with a circumstance after a result with a competition. It’s what it is and at this moment that’s the demands that we have in this football club and that’s the role we have to fulfil and manage. That’s it.
It’s true that at the end of the season when you play for a big club and you are playing in competitions you have a deadline. You have to perform because if not you are out and that’s the reality.
You said after the Liverpool game that the players were more mentally tired than physically tired. How can you can get them going again?
It’s just getting that inner energy and passion because you have the opportunity to win something. That energy when you use it in the right way is a big lift. Hopefully we can transmit that to the players so they are in the right moment when they step on to the pitch.
Can we have your thoughts surround the racism controversy with Slavia and what you think of the player being banned for one match?
That’s completely on UEFA. There’s an investigation there and they have for sure all the evidence and happened and I don’t think I can make a fair comment.
If the accusation is found to be proven then are you in favour of strong action against the player and the club?
Well, we are in favour of stopping any racism and discrimination out of this game. I think we are making a lot of steps forward for that to happen. I think we, all the managers and players and staff, have been very supportive of that.
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There were calls for Slavia to be thrown out if this is proven. Is that a course of action you would support in that event?
Again, it will depend on what happens on the investigation and the rules that we have with the action that you are able to take if they determine that that happened.