Thursday, October 29, 2009

Critics Have Made Me Stronger, Says Liverpool Fall Guy Lucas

Kop fall-guy Lucas claims the flak he has taken has made him stronger.

Lucas has borne the brunt of supporters' frustrations during Liverpool's rollercoaster start to the season.

The Brazilian has been given the unenviable task of trying to replace fans' favourite Xabi Alonso at the heart of midfield and has been singled out for criticism by supporters.

Lucas answered his doubters in the stands with one of his best performances in a Liverpool shirt in Sunday's massive 2-0 win over Manchester United.

He says that energetic display has given him a huge boost and he thanked Rafa Benitez for sticking by him.

"I'm still young. The criticism just makes me stronger and more determined to keep working and keep focused, because those are the only things that can help me improve," he said.

"I've heard a lot of things said about me, but I don't really read the newspapers. Maybe I should when people start writing good things about me! But I'm just trying to be focused on my game.

"I feel I'm growing in confidence this season. I'm a totally different player to the one who arrived at Liverpool.

"I have confidence from Rafa. He is really important for me at the moment and he's given me my chance.

"On Sunday, it wasn't just about me showing quality, it was about the whole team showing it. I still have to improve a lot, but hopefully I can keep progressing."

Lucas' performance against United could not have been better timed with Alberto Aquilani finally ready to make his first-team bow.

The £20million Italian international could be on the bench for tonight's Carling Cup tie at the Emirates and is expected to take Lucas' place when he is fully fit.

Lucas, 22, is refusing to worry about Aquilani's return and is focused on beating Arsene Wenger's young Guns to keep alive Liverpool's hopes of Carling Cup glory.

"We want to be in the final of all the competitions," said the Brazil international. "We don't know what Rafa will do with his team selection. Maybe he will make changes as we have a lot of important games at the moment. But we want to progress as far as we can in the Carling Cup.

"We know it will be a difficult game as Arsenal are playing some really good football. They can pass the ball really well, they are creating a lot of chances and scoring a lot of goals.

"We want to get through and we know we have to produce another good performance like we did against United. With the confidence we have now, we can show more quality than maybe we were doing when we were losing games."

Liverpool have never won at the Emirates and were mauled 6-3 by Wenger's kids when they last met in the competition in the quarter-finals in 2007.

But Lucas claims beating United has given them the belief that they can defeat Arsenal.

"Sunday was a perfect day for us after four defeats in a row," he said. "We played really good football in beating a really good team. We still have to improve a lot, but this victory can give us confidence to go on to Arsenal and win through in the Carling Cup.

"We have just to keep on going now. We've shown character and quality against United and if we can play like that in all the games, then it will be really difficult to beat us."

David Ngog, who scored Liverpool's second against United, has been tipped by Ian Rush to become a star at Anfield.

Rushie feels the French Under-21 star, who has netted three times in six appearances this season, has the potential to be a prolific goalscorer and will lead the Reds' attack against Arsenal.

Legendary marksman Rush said: "David's still rough around the edges, but the Anfield coaching staff are clearly working hard on him and he has undoubted potential.

"The experience of scoring a winning goal against United will only help his development."

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