MANAGER Rafael Benitez will continue to shoulder the burden of criticism for his faltering Liverpool team as he has absolute faith in the methods which he expects his players to follow.
Sunday’s defeat to Arsenal, having taken a first-half lead, was their sixth of the season and left them five points adrift of the Champions League places.
However, Benitez is prepared to “guarantee” the club will finish in the top four this season as he believes only minor changes need to be made.
This is undoubtedly the most difficult period of his five-year reign, Liverpool having won the Champions League and FA Cup in his first two seasons.
But the Spaniard insists the critics will not force him to deviate from his beliefs.
“I think it is very important for any manager, but especially here in England, to be strong,” he said.
“You have to show you have an idea, you have your own people that you can talk with and analyse things and say ‘This is the way to do things’ and we have to keep going.
“For five years I think we were doing well so we have to keep going in the same way because the club is stronger now in everything: the squad, the value of the club is better than five years ago.
“Yes it is a bad moment but I still think we can improve. You cannot be negative. You have to think about the positives. The manager has to be positive and I am positive.”
Liverpool face Wigan at home tonight, having won just three of the last 15 matches, and know only a victory will stop the pressure reaching unbearable levels.
Vice-captain Jamie Carragher was only slightly joking on Tuesday when he said he prayed every night that the club win the Europa League or FA Cup and finish in the top four.
Benitez, however, is not the spiritual type and firmly believes there is plenty of room for improvement and his side should not be judged until May.
“I think Carra was using an expression...trying to say something that we know — that we have to work harder and have to stick together,” said the Liverpool boss.
“The best way to do things is to try to do your best every single day.
“I think it is a question of keeping things how they were in the first half (against Arsenal) then it will be easier to win games.
“We are so close to doing well. If we had won against Arsenal people would be talking about Arsenal today.”
Liverpool have won just once at Anfield – admittedly against arch-rivals Manchester United – since September 26.
Benitez knows they have to start stringing results together if they are not to lose further ground on the likes of Aston Villa, Tottenham and Manchester City who are all currently contenders for Champions League qualification.
But he refuses to look beyond the next match.
“Every game for us is a game we have to win. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t,” said the Spaniard.
“Everything can be improved and if we make mistakes we keep going. There are still 22 games to play so we know we have to change our target.
“Now it is to get three points against Wigan and then start thinking about Portsmouth (at the weekend).
“I have to have confidence in my team and I am sure we can do it because I know we are better than the team you are seeing on the pitch.
“I can guarantee we will finish in the top four.”
Meanwhile Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is relishing the prospect of visiting Anfield.
“Anfield will always be a tough place to visit,” he said.
“But it is also a glamorous place. You should look forward to playing against a team like Liverpool and I feel we are ready to do ourselves justice.”
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