Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ian Rush: Liverpool Lack Creativity

Following their goalless draw with West Ham, an Anfield legend has pointed out a few areas to work on for Benitez's team.

Ian Rush won quite a few trophies with Liverpool during his time with the club in the 1980s. At that time, the Reds swept all before them at home and, prior to the ban on English clubs after the Heysel disaster, in Europe.

Rush, an instinctive and prolific goalscorer, played a huge role in that success, so it's fair to say that he has a good idea about how teams go about winning things. When he points out that Rafa Benitez's current Liverpool side lack creativity, people should probably listen to him.

Speaking today after Monday night's draw with West Ham United, Rush was fairly clear as to where he feels Liverpool's problems lie.

"Liverpool may have gone top of the league last night but it was another very disappointing display and it’s clear there are problems with the team just at the moment," he said.

"There wasn’t enough urgency and certainly not enough creativity on show.

"And that’s why despite overtaking Chelsea, there are concerns and criticisms around from quite a few people and pundits today.

"The Reds struggled to find the cohesion and flair which was on display earlier this season – and again we failed to break down a team we were expected to beat without too much fuss."

And although Rush gave West Ham credit for their defensive performance, he also felt that Liverpool should have exploited the opportunities that did come their way. After all, the Hammers didn't line up like Stoke City and play entirely defensively at Anfield.

"You get chances to play your football against a team like West Ham – but we played in fits and starts on Monday night," Rush continued.

"We had spells and I know we could well have scored from some of the opportunities, but there was never really the belief out there or a real confidence that we were going to outfox them and break them down."

Rush was also baffled as to why Benitez didn't change his tactics when his original plan clearly wasn't working.

"Another frustration was that when Plan A wasn’t working," said the former Welsh international, "we didn’t seem to have a Plan B to unlock West Ham. A couple of changes were made with Ngog and Babel coming on, but that night it didn’t really seem to have the impact we were all hoping to see."

Rush was not pessimistic though, and rather urged Benitez and his squad to show character and pull together through the rough patch. After all, they are still top of the table, despite Manchester United slowly gaining ground on them.

"It’s when things aren’t going well that you learn most about your players," Rush added.

"You see those who refuse to shrink and stand up to the challenge. So we’ll find out now who the big men and big characters really are in this squad. And let’s hope that’s all of them.

"Liverpool are top but no one’s happy. That’s because we are better than this – the team has proved it with other results and performances this season."

And Rush ended with a rallying cry for the Reds:

"Forget Monday night now. There are important games coming up and points to be won so let’s go out and start getting them, instead of letting them slip."

Rafa Ready To Use Youngster

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is pondering including Adam Hammill in his first-team plans when he returns from his loan spell at Blackpool.

Hammill's loan spell at Bloomfield Road expires in the New Year after Benitez decided to farm out the winger in the summer so that he could gain valuable first-team experience.

The 20-year-old is highly-regarded by the Liverpool coaching staff and he was rewarded with a new three-year deal before he was sent out on loan to Blackpool.

Hammill, who helped Liverpool win the FA Youth Cup in 2006, has impressed at Blackpool and Benitez has been keeping tabs on his progress at the Championship outfit.

Benitez is now thought to believe Hammill is ready to make the step up to the first-team upon his return to Anfield feeling he has matured from his loan spells at Dunfermline, Southampton and Blackpool.

The Reds boss has admitted he is concerned with Liverpool's lack of goals in recent matches and he could see Hammill's creativity as something that could bolster his attacking options in the second half of the season.

Liverpool have struggled to solve their problematic right-sided position with Dirk Kuyt filling in there, but Hammill could be an option to help provide the ammunition for the likes of Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane.

Steven Gerrard: Liverpool Must Cope With Title Pressure

Steven Gerrard admits Liverpool must learn to cope with the pressure of being top of the Premier League if they are to end their championship drought.

Rafael Benitez’s side moved clear at the summit with a goalless draw at home to West Ham United on Monday night.

But a second successive Anfield stalemate brought jeers from sections of the crowd frustrated at Liverpool’s indifferent recent form.

Since initially going top with victory at Chelsea in October, the Anfield outfit have won only three of their subsequent six Premier League games.

And Gerrard believes Liverpool need to come to terms with the unique demands of being front-runners as they aim for a first title since 1990.

“We’re up against some fantastic teams in Chelsea, Arsenal, United and Villa, and other teams are putting pressure on the top four,” he said.

“There’s so much pressure week-in, week-out to deliver results and we need to learn to handle that pressure, and we need to learn to deal with being at the top.

“There’s a different pressure being at the top to being second or third, and that’s where we need to learn to relax and keep doing the things we’ve done that got us to the top.”

Gerrard added: “I think as captain it’s important to dampen down expectations – there’s no point getting carried away in December, there’s still an awful long way to go.

“But there’s a belief in the dressing room that we can be contenders and we can be in the title race. It’s easy for me to say that, we’ve got to go and prove that with performances.”

Jamie Carragher has urged Liverpool to overcome the absence of Fernando Torres and rediscover their goal-scoring touch.

Liverpool have netted just 13 in their last 11 outings, a period during which hamstring problems have meant Torres has started just three games. And with the Spaniard expected to be sidelined for at least another fortnight, Carragher admits the rest of the Liverpool team must start contributing in front of goal.

“We all need to step up,” he said. “Sami Hyypia had the best chances against West Ham. It’s important we spread it around, it’s something we have got to do, we can’t just rely on the strikers to score.

“You have to defend as a team but you also have to attack as one. Even if you win games two or three-nil you’re still going to miss Fernando Torres.

“Scoring goals is something we all have to sort out together. We are going through a bad spell and have to keep showing character.”

Liverpool Focusing On Positives To Keep Title Bid On Course

Had any Liverpool fan been offered the chance of their team leading the Premier League and through to the last 16 of the Champions League in the first week of December, they’d have snatched it with both hands.

Yet given the reaction of some sections of the support at Anfield and over the airwaves to Monday night’s goalless draw at home to West Ham United, anyone listening would have presumed Rafael Benitez’s side had dropped into the relegation zone and not moved a point clear at the top.

Such is life at Liverpool right now, where the desperation for a first title in 19 years means any setback is greeted with the kind of over-reaction normally reserved for failed X-Factor contestants.

Certainly, Benitez will hope his players are more adept at coping with the weight of expectation than some of their supporters.

Anyone requiring a reality check need only see what position Liverpool were in 12 months ago.

In their 15th league game, Benitez’s side lost their unbeaten record at Reading to stay in fourth place, seven points behind leaders Arsenal.

The manager had played a weakened team at the Madejski ahead of a must-win Champions League decider in Marseille in which defeat would have most likely cost the Spaniard his job.

And an upbeat Jamie Carragher believes supporters must keep concentrating on the positives at present.

“When you play at home and you draw its two points lost, there’s no doubt about that,” he says. “It’s obvious we’re all disappointed we didn’t win.

I’m sure our fans will realise as well as anyone that we’re not playing well at the moment but we’ve gone top of the league.

“Chelsea are probably going through a little bit of a rough patch themselves over the last three or four games and that’s something that’s happening to us as well.

“But while Chelsea got beat in the Champions League and have still to qualify and went down a place in the league after losing to Arsenal, the good thing is that we’ve not been playing well but have qualified from our Champions League group and have just gone top of the league.

“Don’t get me wrong, we would love to have gone three points clear, but I’m going to stay positive and say I’m delighted with where we are.

“We’re going for the league and in the knockout stages of the Champions League despite not playing well so they’re positives you have to take.”

Liverpool have struggled to make home advantage count in recent games, but Carragher has dismissed suggestions the team are feeling the pressure at Anfield while accepting their performances must improve.

“I love playing at Anfield and I’m sure we’re going to have more great nights here but we have got to do more,” says the centre-back.

“It’s not as if we don’t want to play at Anfield. We have just got to overcome this spell now but it’s probably a full season now since we’ve been beaten at home, our record at home has been very good over the last 12 to 18 months but we’ve got to start turning these draws into wins.”

Of Monday’s stalemate – their third of the season at Anfield after earlier goalless draws with Stoke City and Fulham – Carragher adds: “I don’t think we did enough to win the game. It was pretty similar to the Fulham game where they were a little bit dangerous on the break.

“We had a few chances but probably not what you’d call sitters. Maybe with a bit better finishing or a great goal we could have done it, but credit to them for keeping us out. We obviously have to do more.

Liverpool travel to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday – the Ewood Park outfit have the Premier League’s worst home record with just one win in seven – and then entertain promoted Hull City before the visit to Arsenal on December 21.

And Carragher says: “We won’t be thinking about Hull when we go to Blackburn. I’ve been here 10 years now and all everyone says is, ‘Oh, you’re next few games you can win’, it’s the biggest load of nonsense I’ve ever heard. You go out to win the next game, that’s it.

“People saying that you’ve got a run of four or five games that you should win, it’s nonsense. People that look that far ahead are just stupid.

“It’s stupid even talking like that, you never know what’s round the corner. You might get a load of injuries in two or three games’ time. The next game is always the one.”

Reina Reckons Liverpool Team-mate Xabi Alonso In World's Elite

As a summer of transfer controversy raged on, few would have predicted that, come the start of the season, Xabi Alonso would still be at Liverpool and Gareth Barry at Aston Villa.

Midfielder Alonso looked set for Serie A giants Juventus, while Liverpool wanted Barry to replace him at Anfield.

However, it all fizzled out and both players ended up staying put.

Now, Alonso in particular has made a stunning start to the season, playing a flexible role that requires creativity, strength and stints of screening the Reds' defence.

And as Liverpool ride high atop the Premier League pile, Alonso has put the summer behind him, committing himself to the club.

Now, goalkeeper Pepe Reina has hailed the 27-year-old as one of the best in the game at the moment.

He told the club's official website: "He has been amazing for these past four months. The character he has shown has been really good.

"He is a quiet person and a lovely guy; a good teammate. I don't need to talk about him as a player - people know how good he is.

"He has got everything - class, great passing, good in the air. He is one of the most complete midfielders in the world."

Meanwhile, Reina is eyeing the captain's armband, after Steven Gerrard tipped him for the role.

"It would be an honour, obviously," gushed the Spaniard. "The Liverpool armband is a great thing - we've always had great captains.

"Still, I think Stevie will be captain for a long time."

Liverpool & Manchester United After Franco Zuculini

The giants of England's North West are set to duke it out for the Argie warrior being touted as 'the new Mascherano'.

According to the Daily Mail, both Liverpool and Manchester United are keeping close watch on Franco Zuculini, the Racing Club de Avellaneda midfielder.

The 18-year-old has been hugely impressive in his short professional career of 20-odd games, so much so that Argentina coach Diego Maradona has dubbed him "one of the stars at the next World Cup".

Indeed, Zuculini has been strongly likened to one of Anfield's current favourites - although the original version is only 24 himself, everyone is raving about 'the new Javier Mascherano'.

'El Jefecito' arrived on Merseyside early last year after an ill-fated stint at West Ham United, and has since come to be recognised as arguably the best defensive midfielder in world football.

The former River Plate man signed on permanently for the Reds this January, so it is unlikely they will be seeking an immediate upgrade.

However, with questions being raised over whether Lucas Leiva can cut it in the Premier League, Rafael Benitez may look to ship out the Brazilian youngster and draft in a new understudy to Mascherano and Xabi Alonso.

Meanwhile, at Old Trafford, there are concerns over Owen Hargreaves' long-term future after he underwent surgery recently on a tendonitis problem that has plagued his career.

The Canadian-born England star has played just 25 league games since moving from Bayern Munich last year, and it has been whispered that Sir Alex Ferguson is keeping an eye out for a worthy replacement.

But Liverpool and Man United would not only be battling each other for Zuculini, as it is thought that Juventus are leading the race for his signature.

The Old Lady attempted to lure Mascherano himself to Turin last winter, but the €21 million price-tag was well out of their reach and they opted for the out-of-favour Mohamed Sissoko instead.

But Momo and his midfielder partner, Christian Poulsen, have disappointed all too regularly this term, and Juve are reportedly ready to upgrade when the transfer window reopens next month.

Udinese had a €2.5 million bid rejected by Racing, who are demanding €10 million for their young superstar-in-the-making. However, financial problems mean the Argentine club should settle for around €7 million.

Voronin Wants Hertha Stay

Andriy Voronin can't seem to make his mind up as to whether he wants to be in Berlin or Liverpool come next season.

Ukrainian striker Andriy Voronin insists that he would be more than happy to continue his career at Hertha Berlin despite being officially on loan to the club from Liverpool.

Since making the temporary move in the summer the 29-year-old has given off mixed messages as to where he hopes to be once the season-long loan is through, slagging off life in Liverpool in one interview and then virtually writing an ode to the Merseyside club in another.

Now, in a recent interview with, Voronin has made it clear that he sees the German capital as a good long-term proposition for him.

"I feel very much at home in Berlin and Hertha is a very professionally run club. I'm more than ready to sit down and have talks," he said.

"Liverpool made it perfectly clear to me that once they had bought Robbie Keane, I wouldn't get very much playing time - and with Keane, [Fernando] Torres, [Dirk] Kuyt and [Ryan] Babel there were certainly some big names that I would have been in competition with. The most important thing for me was to be playing, and when Hertha came along at the right time, I didn't think twice."

Voronin opted for a diplomatic answer when asked which of the Bundesliga or Premier League was superior in his eyes.

"The English league is described as the strongest league in Europe. The tempo there is very high and everything goes incredibly quickly there. I think that the Bundesliga is also of a very high standard, and I'm very pleased to be able to play in the Bundesliga again," he said, before giving his thoughts on Ukraine's chances of qualifying for the next World Cup.

"It's difficult to say at the moment, since we have a lot of young players in the squad and the team is being rebuilt. I think that the team has a bright future ahead of it but that it needs a little more time.

"Of course we're hoping to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa. At the moment we have a game in hand which should end with us getting another three points. We'll fight right up until the final match."

Dossena Vows To Fill The Void At Liverpool As Benitez Rules Out January Move For Owen

Rafael Benitez maintains that new contracts for himself and his players come before possible January arrivals in his thinking but it appears that any funds that are made available in the new year will not be spent on bringing Michael Owen back to Anfield.

Owen's Newcastle contract expires in the summer, when he will be available on a free transfer, and one area where Benitez clearly needs extra options is attack, an issue that has been brought into sharp focus by Fernando Torres' injury problems.

Benitez now prefers to use Dirk Kuyt on the right flank, while Robbie Keane has struggled for goals and looked uncomfortable at the top of a 4-2-3-1 since arriving for £20.3 million from Tottenham in the summer and French youngster David Ngog is not ready to start in the Premier League on a regular basis.

The Spaniard attempted to sign Owen, who has fallen out of favour with England coach Fabio Capello, when he returned from Real Madrid in the summer of 2005 but was only able to offer around half of the £16 million Newcastle were prepared to pay.

Given his contractual situation, Owen, 28, would be available at a fraction of that fee - possibly even £2 million - but he will have to look elsewhere to kick-start his career as Benitez has no interest in taking him to Liverpool in the new year.

New strikers remain a strong possibility but Andrea Dossena remains determined to prove that Benitez does not need another to bring in another left-back.

That has been an area that Benitez has always struggled to fill and he had hoped that finally dedicating significant money would solve the problem when he paid Udinese £7 million for the Italian Dossena, 27, in the summer.

Dossena, however, has failed to convince and had lost his place to Fabio Aurelio before the Brazilian suffered a hamstring problem in last week's 1-0 Champions League victory over Marseille. But Dossena is adamant he can adapt to the English game and prove a success at Liverpool.

He said: 'I am very happy at Liverpool. At the start of the season I found it very difficult because never before had I played so many games in such a short space of time. But now I talk regularly with the boss and with the physios and I am doing some things differently to try and improve my level.

'There are different demands on me here than I have ever had anywhere else. At Udinese, my place in the team was secure but at Liverpool there is so much quality in the squad that this cannot be the case. But I remain happy here and I will fight for my place.'

Sami Hyypia Joins Liverpool Elite

Finnish stopper Sami Hyypia filled in for Daniel Agger at the heart of the Liverpool defence on Monday evening and helped the Reds to keep a clean sheet. Unfortunately for Rafa Benitez's troops the night didn't end well, as they couldn't score themselves and Hyypia missed a couple of good headed chances from set pieces.

Still, Hyypia's start was a landmark appearance, for it moves him into Liverpool's all-time top 20 appearances list, as affirmed by the club's official website.

It was the 25-year-old defender's 454th appearance for the Reds - a sensational achievement for a player who only joined when he was 26, having previously played for MyPa and Willem II. He will soon surpass Ron Yeats' tally.

In terms of the current squad, arguably the strongest in many years, only 'Pool lifers Steven Gerrard (459) and Jamie Carragher (546) have more.

The website states: "Hyypia's 454 games include 309 in the Premier League, 67 in the Champions League, 28 FA Cup, 25 UEFA Cup, 19 in the League Cup and two each in the FA Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup and World Club Championships."

Premier League newcomers Stoke City wanted the towering centre-back in the summer, but he'll be glad to have entered the top 20 list by staying put, even if he's not an automatic choice for Benitez these days.

Although Hyypia will be hoping to rack up further appearances, I'm not going to end with 'Here's to 454 more!'

AC Milan Target Liverpool's Daniel Agger

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger has been linked with a move to AC Milan after talks regarding a new contract at Anfield reportedly stalled.

Agger, who has also attracted interest from Real Madrid, is demanding a 100 per cent pay increase, going from £35,000-a-week to £70,000.

However, Liverpool are reluctant to offer such an inflated salary, despite the fact his current deal is set to run out in 18 months time.

If a compromise cannot be reached, Liverpool will sell the Denmark international in January, rather than risk losing him for a cut-price fee at the end of the season.

Milan are in desperate need of defensive reinforcements due to their ageing backline.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti has been promised funds to bring in new, younger players in the January transfer window, and 23-year-old Agger is seen as potentially obtainable, especially as he is not guaranteed to be a first-choice starter at Anfield when Martin Skrtel returns from injury.

Milan believe they can bring Agger to the San Siro for around £8 million, which would give Liverpool a £3m profit on the £5m they paid in signing him from Brondy two years ago.

However, Milan will have a fight on their hands from Real for Agger's signature. The Spanish champions have long courted the Dane and the Mirror reports they could offer manager Rafa Benitez Gabriel Heinze in a player-plus-cash deal.

Fernando Torres Wins Local Heroes Award

It was a night in which unsung heroes were celebrated alongside some of the biggest names from the worlds of football and showbiz.

The annual Local Heroes awards at Liverpool’s Royal Court theatre saw honours being given to Sir Paul McCartney and Liverpool FC striker Fernando Torres, as well as ordinary members of the public who had each done something extraordinary over the past year.

Among those present last night were the city’s two Premiership managers, Rafael Benitez and David Moyes, players Fernando Torres, Jamie Carragher and Mikel Arteta, and TV stars such as Jeremy Kyle, Terri Dwyer and Sheree Murphy.

They were joined by performers including Lemar and last year’s X Factor finalist Leon Jackson.

Sir Paul sent a video message to express his thanks for receiving the Outstanding Contribution to Music award, which followed his concert at Anfield stadium in the summer.

Torres flew in especially from Spain to receive his award for contribution to sport from manager Benitez.

Speaking afterwards, Benitez said: “When you bring a foreign player here, it’s often difficult for them to settle down in the Premier League.

“For Torres to score 33 goals in his first season shows that he has real character and quality.

“For him it was important to be here tonight, and it was also important for me as a manager.”

Among the other awards, James Barton – who founded Liverpool superclub Cream in 1992 and went on to develop it as a worldwide brand – received the Business Person of the Year award.

He said: “I love the fact that we took this business all round the world. We always make sure that people know this is a Liverpool thing.

“We never set out with a plan or a blueprint or a million pounds to invest, we set out to try and be the best, and at the back of our minds we always knew that if we were the best, the rewards would follow.”

Liverpool super- heavyweight amateur boxer David Price – who won bronze at this year’s Beijing Olympics – was presented with a special award for his achievements by Jamie Carragher.

Price, who promised to make an announcement in January about whether he intended to turn professional, said: “It was always a dream of mine to go to the Olympics. This city is full of champions in every sport, and in every walk of life.”

But alongside the famous names were those unsung members of the public who had each done something to inspire and support others.

These included Kirkby lorry driver Bernie Butler, who saved the life of a fellow lorry driver following a horrific crash on the M6.

Also honoured was eight-year-old Faye Lafferty, from Huyton, who lost her fight against a rare blood disorder in July but helped to raise awareness of the need for bone marrow donors, and 20-year-old cancer sufferer Helen Minnett, who has raised more than £8,000 for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

The Local Heroes awards were organised by Radio City 96.7 and sponsored by Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank.

Liverpool's Jermaine Pennant Targetted By Ram Raiders

Ram-raiders are believed to have struck at the home of Liverpool player Jermaine Pennant.

The Reds star was at his home in Hale, near Speke, in the early hours of yesterday morning when the raiders struck.

The 25-year-old said he was woken by a huge bang and went downstairs.

He found the front gates of the four-bedroom home smashed.

It is thought that a stolen Land Rover, found burnt out in a nearby field, had been used by the raiders who fled after Pennant heard them.

It is suspected that they were after Pennant’s sportscar collection.

Pennant, who lives there with his fiancĂ©e Amii Grove, said: “It was scary. We were woken up by a huge bang and went downstairs and they were trying to get in.

“We’re just glad we are ok.”

The couple only got engaged last month after dating for two years.

A spokeswoman for Cheshire police, said: “We can confirm that at 1.40am there was an incident of criminal damage at an address in Hale.”

Pennant is the ninth member of the Liverpool team to be targeted by criminals in the past two years.

Just last month, the Woolton home of Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva was ransacked while he was playing at Anfield against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

The 21-year-old returned home to find raiders had stolen an Olympic bronze medal he won in the summer as well as a collection of Brazil and Liverpool shirts.

Three people have since appeared in court charged in connection with the burglary.

Captain Steven Gerrard, forwards Dirk Kuyt and Robbie Keane, goalkeeper Pepe Reina, defender Daniel Agger and former players Peter Crouch and Jerzy Dudek have all previously been burgled.

Ince And Dalla Valle Put Liverpool Through

His dad may be looking to put a dent in Liverpool’s title charge this weekend, but Tom Ince helped the Anfield’s club youth side through to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup last night.

The 16-year-old forward, son of former Liverpool captain and Blackburn manager Paul, struck a spectacular opener, with Finnish striker Lauri Dalla Valle also on target in a 2-1 third-round win over Leeds United at Elland Road last night.

Victory means Hugh McAuley’s side now go into their final two matches in the Premier Academy League before the Christmas break safe in the knowledge they will have a fourth round tie to look forward to in January.

Liverpool, back-to-back winners of the prestigious youth tournament in 2006 and 2007, started brightly and dominated for much of the match.

Despite creating numerous openings they were level midway through the second half, before eventually winning through.

They could easily have been ahead in the opening minutes. Ince, who has been in fine form down the left wing in the league this season but was partnering Dalla Valle up front, just failed to connect with David Amoo’s flick.

From then on it was all Liverpool but Leeds defended well.

Dalla Valle fired wide when through on goal, and Ince was denied by home keeper Ryan Jones with a low 25-yard drive.

Ince, though, did break the deadlock after 14 minutes when he superbly curled home a 25-yard free-kick into the top corner.

Leeds keeper Jones also denied both German full-back Christopher Buchtmann and right-winger Amoo as Liverpool continued to dominate.

But Leeds drew level midway through the first-half with virtually their first attack when Michael Whitwell headed home at the far post from a left-wing corner.

Dalla Valle almost restored the lead 10 minutes later, but after a one-two with Ince the Finnish striker was off target with his shot after going around the keeper.

In the second half Liverpool were in the ascendancy again and Spanish centre-back Daniel Ayala could only head straight at keeper Jones from a header, while Dalla Valle also saw another header from Buchtmann’s cross well held.

Dalla Valle was not to be denied and finally found the net on the hour mark as the 17-year-old added the finishing touches to Adam Pepper’s corner for what turned out to be the winner.

Swedish midfielder Alex Kacaniklic miss-hit a shot after being teed up by Ince as McAuley’s side looked to make the game safe.

Late on Sam Jerome went close to an equaliser, but the Liverpool defence held firm to book their place in the fourth round.

Robbie Keane Can Come Through The Crisis

Rafael Benitez admits Robbie Keane has yet to produce the form that prompted Liverpool to pay nearly £20million for his services.

But the Anfield manager is confident the under-fire striker can overcome his crisis in form.

Keane has struggled to make an impression at Anfield since his much-lauded summer arrival from Tottenham Hotspur.

He was substituted for the 15th time in 18 starts this season during Liverpool’s goalless draw at home to West Ham United on Monday night.

Keane momentarily held his head in his hands when it emerged he was to be substituted, the Republic of Ireland international replaced by young French striker David Ngog.

The forward has netted only four goals in 22 appearances, and completed 90 minutes on just three occasions.

And Benitez said: “Robbie is a better player than the one we are seeing now.

“We know what kind of player Robbie Keane is. He needs people around him to pass the ball well.

“I believe he will be okay, he will score more if we create chances for him.

“But if that does not happen we have to use players with different qualities to open up the game.”

Of Keane’s reaction to being substituted, Benitez added: “Robbie does get disappointed when things are not going his way. He is a worker, but he can improve.

“It is a question of confidence. If we score first in this type of game then we will grow and win. Some players may be lacking in confidence, but if we keep creating chances we will be okay.

“Robbie, when he came off, was disappointed. But players always want to be out on the pitch for 90 minutes, but we were thinking of different solutions and Ngog did well when he came on, holding the ball up.”