RAFA ON WIGAN, TORRES AND ROTATION
Rafa Benitez takes five minutes out of his pre-match preparations to chat to Liverpoolfc.tv ahead of our Premier League clash with Wigan Athletic.
Rafa, after a frustrating week which saw us draw three matches, how important was it to beat Reading and boost the squad's confidence?
You always go into each game wanting to win and it is especially important in a cup competition as it means you progress and maintain a chance of winning a trophy.
It was good for the team spirit as we not only won but also showed great character.
With two months gone what's your overall assessment of your start to the season?
I think that in general it has been good. The only thing that has disappointed me has been the timing of fixtures.
After the international break we had to play an early kick-off away to Portsmouth and ended up with a draw. It wasn't the best result but in the circumstances it isn't a bad one either.
It is not ideal to play so many games in a row in such a short period of time but it must be like this if you are a top side.
You expected a lot of Fernando Torres. What did you think of his performance against Reading?
I was really pleased. People forget that we signed Fernando Torres so we already knew his quality and we have confidence in him. For me the key is that we have many good strikers and we need to decide which two will be the best choice for each game.
I was sure that Torres could be good for us against Reading away. You don't need to use all your strikers throughout the season and for me the key against Birmingham wasn't Torres.
People say I don't want to say it was a mistake, but it wasn't just about starting with Torres. Other players were not playing at their usual level.
Has his hat-trick guaranteed him a place in the team to face Wigan?
I am not stupid. I know if a player is playing well and is fit, and I don't have a player better than him or at the same level, then I must use that player.
But I don't want to say yes, because Kuyt and Voronin are playing really well, Crouch is playing well also, so why do I need to say this one must play because he has scored three goals?
Voronin scored one goal in the Champions League then was not playing and Kuyt was the same.
The situation for me is similar. We are creating chances for all the strikers and they are scoring goals. For me all of them are similar and I need to decide which one is better for each game.
Do you get bored of all the talk about rotation?
At Valencia it was the same. I was there three years and I remember in my first season we were 13 games unbeaten and they were saying maybe he will be sacked. Even after 13 games without losing.
I was rotating the players and then in one particular game against Espanyol they said if he loses he will get the sack.
We were losing 2-0 at half-time and I took off (Pablo) Aimar, who was the star of the team and then we won 3-2 and people said I was lucky! You need to take these decisions and when you analyse your squad you know that during the season you will make some mistakes.
But you must look at the big picture and maybe with one mistake you have prepared the team for 10 other games.
Torres was talking about having fresh legs but if you use him against Birmingham and then against Reading maybe he will not be ready for playing against Wigan and Marseille.
In this case I am sure 100 per cent certain that I made the right decision.
Torres may have grabbed the headlines but it was also good to see Benayoun score his first for the club at Reading.
I was really pleased with Yossi. He scored a great goal, worked hard and played really well. I think Sebastian Leto and Lucas Leiva also did well.
It is my idea that you have a strong squad so that when you play in the Carling Cup you can change six or seven players and still win. If you cannot then you do not have enough power in your squad to play in three or four competitions.
Last season we won 4-0 at Wigan but they have invested heavily in their squad and have appointed a new manager. Are you expecting a tougher game today?
They have players with experience and they will remember that it was 0-4 and they will try to work really hard to change the result.
For us it will be the same idea as any other game, try to work hard, play well and try to win.
In the Premier League if you are at the top of the table and you want to stay there you need to win almost every game.
Chris Hutchings was the number two at Wigan last season but now he's the boss. What are the main differences when you make that transition from coach to manager?
The differences are that assistant managers can be friendly and close to the players.
With managers you make tough decisions. So, for example if I say to Torres you are not playing in the next game after he has scored three goals, he will not be happy.
But as a professional you must make these decisions and sometimes the players don't understand.
You must do what's right for the team.
Given recent events at Chelsea, how important do think a Pro Licence is to manage in the Premier League, especially when you consider Avram Grant does have a lot of experience.
If someone has the experience they still have to do the paperwork. I think it is important to have both things.
But the experience as a coach is the key. If you talk about five, six or seven years at a club you have enough experience, you know about the press, the players, the owners, the supporters and about the game. So for me it is then just about getting some paper work which is something simple.
Alvaro Arbeloa is one player who you have not rotated this season. What qualities does he have that has seen him play every minute so far?
Arbeloa has been playing because we didn't have too many options in this position.
But now we have Aurelio fit and Riise fit again, he will fight with Finnan and we will see if he can play fewer games.
People are talking about letting players play a lot of games now. They can do it.
I don't say that they cannot, they can play 20, 25 games, 30 games in a row if you want, no problem, everybody can do it.
The problem is at the end of the season after 30 games, after 40 games.
It is in the last 10 to 15 matches when you are playing for trophies, that you must be fresh.
If you don't do something now you cannot change it later. If you play against a club that has 24 players in the squad and they are changing the players, the last 10 to 15 games they will be ready, they will be fit and you will not be ready because you cannot change the physical condition of a player in one week.
You need months and if you cannot change it then maybe you will play for trophies and you will lose.
So it's all about looking at the big picture?
We are playing for finals. We want to play the last game of the season in the Champions League final.
You cannot play the last games, the FA Cup and the two Champions League finals that we have been in, without the team being fit, without changing players. That is clear.
When you are playing to win trophies, you need to analyse everything. The last 10 to 15 games I need Fernando Torres fit. I don't need Fernando Torres fit for playing against Birmingham now if I have Kuyt, Voronin and Crouch.
I need maybe the speed of Fernando Torres in the last game of the season, in the final of the Champions League or to win the Premier League.
These are the decision the manager needs to take.