Liverpool have Auba, Laca and Pepe started together for the first time this season. Why do you think they didn’t work as a trio?
For various 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 take turns and still be competitive on both sides. And sometimes because of the quality we have around the team and that connection that the team needs, so sometimes we have to do it differently.
Obviously they are very close to the field, would you expect them to have a bigger connection on the field because of that or is it completely different?
The connection comes with 11 players on the field and how they create that cohesion and fluidity. Against Liverpool it didn’t happen, but it’s not just because of the three of them, but because of all of us. It’s not good to just set up individuals.
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It is now 12 games without a clear goal for your team. You seemed to sort it out around the new year, but why has it come back in recent weeks?
It is true that in order to be much more stable we cannot concede the goals we have certainly scored in the last two games. It’s something that’s not a trend for us and we need to be better at it. We are trying to solve this.
HectorBellerinhe seems to have dropped out of the team recently. Is there any particular reason for this?
No, it’s because of the decisions we made. This season he has played a lot more than he has done in the last two seasons, that’s for sure. Sometimes we have to rest him, sometimes we want to give both Cedric and Calum a chance that in recent weeks he has been completely free to offer something different to the team and that’s it. But he is completely ready to play and run games.
You take criticism and guilt on your shoulders, but do the players feel that too?
Yes, the only thing is how we accept criticism. It is not good for me to receive criticism and feel guilty because that guilt will turn into fear. It’s about a sense of responsibility and that’s the key word for me. They have to feel responsible for what we do every day, for what we do on the field and the club we represent, and then act. Not too much talking, it’s time for acting.
They have to show reaction through this competition which now seems like a last chance, right?
That’s the only way we can do that because at the end of the day it’s about winning football games, competing in every competition we’re involved in and winning trophies. That’s why we’re here.
Emmanuel Petit said he feels the club looks like a resort for old players to go on holiday. What do you think about that assessment and do the players show enough passion?
I do not know. He said he knows the club really well and has been here in probably his most successful years. He has that opinion, I am here to change that opinion, I am here to give an assessment 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 that players show enough passion whether they feel it or not?
The show goes with the character. There are people who are much more introverted and extroverted who show body language differently than others, which doesn’t mean they haven’t hurt. Certainly, players who do not have those emotions, passion and dedication will not be in a football club.
We seem to talk every week about how this is the most important game of the season. Is that pretty exhausting for both you and the players?
I take it every week like that because I’m sure to join. I joined in the middle of the season and we didn’t have a break then and that was the deadline, always the deadline we had to bring with the player in the circumstances after the results of the competition. That is what it is at the moment and these are the requirements we have in this football club and that is the role we have to fulfill and manage. That’s it.
It is true that at the end of the season when you play for a big club and play in competitions you have a deadline. You have to perform because if you’re not out there you’re and that’s the reality.
You said after the Liverpool game that the players were more mentally tired than physically tired. How can you get them to start again?
It’s just getting that inner energy and passion because you have a chance to win something. That energy when you use it the right way is a big boost. We hope to be able to convey this to the players so that they are at the right time when they step on the field.
Can our thoughts surround the controversy about racism with Slavija and what do you think about the player who was banned from one match?
It’s completely up to UEFA. There’s an investigation and they certainly have all the evidence and it happened and I don’t think I can give a fair comment.
If the accusation is found to be proven, are you in favor of strong action against the players and the club?
Well, we are for stopping any racism and discrimination in this game. I think we are taking a lot of steps forward to make that happen. I think all the managers, players and staff strongly supported him.
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There were calls for Slavija to be expelled if it is proven. Would you support that in that case?
Again, this will depend on what happens in the investigation and the rules we have regarding the action you can take if they find that it has happened.