LONDON: Rafael Benitez has told today’s opponents Manchester City to forget about signing Peter Crouch next month.
The 6’ 7” in striker and his Liverpool team-mate Momo Sissoko are both known to be unhappy at Anfield with the transfer window about to open.
Boss Benitez is no stranger to wheeling and dealing but rarely lets his big players go in mid-season when replacements are hard to come by.
And he insists the same will apply this year – unless a club weighs in with an offer of around £40mil for one of his stars.
Benitez believes the rest of Liverpool’s league campaign will have to be almost perfect if they are to win the title so needs all his options open.
City are one of the clubs who have been linked with Crouch but Benitez said: “We are not thinking about selling any player because we will play in the FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League and we want to be close to the top of the table.
“You don’t know if you will have more injuries so you must try to keep the players that you have – we are happy with them.
“If someone comes in and makes an offer of £40mil then maybe we need to consider it.
“But the problem is when you sell a player you need to have another one if you want to keep your squad strong.
“It’s not easy to say we will do this or we will do that. But right now we don’t want to sell anyone.”
The likes of Djibril Cisse, Fernando Morientes and Craig Bellamy have been forced to bide their time and wait for a summer move in the past.
And it appears Crouch and midfielder Sissoko may have to do likewise and be patient as the Reds are still chasing glory on three fronts.
Benitez, 47, said: “They are professionals and they need to understand they are at a top side fighting for trophies.
“If someone wanted to go they need to understand we need all the players now.
“Every situation is different but summer would be easier because you have more time.
“Right now we will try to say no. I like to be calm and analyse the big picture.
“There is no need for me to put myself or my players under pressure if we have made a mistake in a game.” Benitez knows there is little room for error if his team are to win the league and they face a stiff task at Eastlands.
City dropped home points for the first time against Blackburn on Thursday.
But the Reds boss has been delighted with the response to the 1-0 defeat against United this month and still feels the title is a possibility.
He added: “Everybody was saying we were out of the race after that defeat yet two games later we are closer.
“We need to use all the experience we have, say every game will be different and see again after another two, three or four games if we are closer still. You know you must do almost everything perfect.”
Liverpool have relied heavily on goals from skipper Steven Gerrard and record £21.5mil signing Fernando Torres in recent weeks.
Yet Benitez is confident the rest of his team will start chipping in soon enough.
He said: “It’s not that long ago Ryan Babel, Andriy Voronin and Dirk Kuyt were all scoring.
“Hopefully we will see Xabi Alonso score some goals. We have enough quality players to score goals regularly.
“I’m sure they will do it in the not too distant future. But if you say Torres or Gerrard will score the winner in every game, I won’t complain.”
BERLIN: Germany coach Joachim Loew has insisted Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann speaks to Gunners boss Arsene Wenger about the German shot-stopper’s lack of first-team action at the north London club.
With Germany preparing for their Euro 2008 campaign in Austria and Switzerland next June, Loew will speak to Lehmann over the Christmas period about the situation at Arsenal where Spaniard Manuel Almunia is first choice goalkeeper.
But Loew has also insisted Lehmann sit down with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger first to ascertain the chances of the 38-year-old German winning back his place in the Arsenal side with the European Championship now looming.
“Wenger and Jens are both people who have done a great deal for Arsenal,” Loew told German sports agency SID.
“They should be able to discuss the matter and get a better understanding of the situation.
“It is crucial Jens has a concrete understanding of what is going on and is not trying to guess.”
After suffering an elbow and Achilles tendon injury in September, Lehmann has been out of the Arsenal first-team for the last three months, making just three appearances this season.
With both Lehmann and German second-choice goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand, who plays at Valencia, struggling for first-team football, Loew is concerned about Lehmann’s lack of football at Arsenal.
“Naturally, it is important a player has regular games, so he can stay sharp and get into a rhythm.”
With the Bundesliga set to enter the winter break on Saturday, VfL Wolfsburg have expressed an interest in signing Lehmann, but the German has given no clear indication he wants to leave Arsenal. – AFP
LIVERPOOL (AFP) - - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised his players' character after they returned to the top of the Premier League table following a 4-1 victory over Everton here at Goodison Park. The London club will start 2008 two points ahead of nearest rivals Manchester United at the summit following a gripping game.
Both teams finished with 10 men while Everton manager David Moyes said Arsenal's second goal should not have been allowed.
However, Wenger insisted his players deserved to be where they are and that they had it in them to win the English title for the first time since 2004.
"We have a great spirit in the dressing room as we have shown here," said Wenger. "We have shown that we can cope with all kinds of problems that come our way," the Frenchman added.
"We started slowly and looked nervous. We gave the ball away too much in the first half but I was pleased with the response after half time.
"If you don't win then people start questioning you and the way that you play. But we have worked hard for this win.
"Everton stopped us from playing our normal game and they played well. The turning point was that we made the most of our set-pieces in the second half. It was important we didn't concede after we went down to 10 men. But when we scored another goal and Everton had a player sent off then I knew we would win.
"Last season Everton played a very physical game when we lost here 1-0. I'm not surprised that they played that way again."
Everton were on course for their third straight home league win over Arsenal when Australia international midfielder Tim Cahill scored for the third time in as many games.
That gave Moyes's side a deserved lead at the break but Arsenal were level inside two minutes of the second-half when Eduardo took advantage of some slack defending. And the 24-year-old Brazilian scored again to give his side the lead although Moyes insisted he used his hand to control the ball.
Substitutes Emmanuel Adebayor and Tomas Rosicky rounded off the scoring in the dying stages to give Arsenal a stylish victory.
But the game was marred by two red cards. Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner, who had already been booked, was sent-off for an ugly challenge on Everton substitute Andy Johnson.
Everton also finished with 10 men when Mikel Arteta was dismissed after an incident that saw him appear to elbow fellow Spaniard Cesc Fabregas.
Moyes said the final result was not a fair reflection of the game. "I don't think we deserved to lose by the scoreline that we did. But I have got to say that Arsenal defended well.
"I couldn't see that scoreline coming at half-time," the Everton manager added. "Overall I thought we were the better team and the best team lost.
"We passed the ball better than Arsenal. It was route one Arsenal and we couldn't cope."
The Blues' are in fine form at the moment. Their form has seen them climb to 6th in the league, and they currently sit just three points outside the all important fourth and final Champions League spot, currently occupied by local rivals Liverpool.
Everton's run of 4 wins in the last 6 Premiership matches has seen only Manchester United walk away from a game with them with all 3 points.
While some might say Arsenal's form has been poor this month, they have three wins in their last 6 Premiership games. Those wins were against a Chelsea team that had lost only one game under Avram Grant, a Tottenham team that has found belif and something resembling form under Juande Ramos and an Aston Villa side that beat Chelsea 2-0 earlier in the season.
The pressure is on Arsenal to get a result after losing top spot to Manchester United on Boxing Day. The Gunners could be four ponits behind United if they win at West Ham earlier in the day.
However, if things were to go Arsenal's way then they could be back on top of the Premiership com dinner time. Vital Quotes: Everton boss David Moyes spoke of the need to get results against all teams, not just the top 4. He told Everton TV: 'Everybody says you will be judged with how you get on against Manchester United and Arsenal - I do think you have to do well against them but I still think you have got to beat your other teams. The teams at the top are very hard to beat even when they are not playing well.
'I have to say Arsenal have looked a really good team - they have hardly had a blip all season and have been really consistent. That shows how well Manchester United have played.
'It will be tight but I think Liverpool and Chelsea will be there come the end of the season but there is a long way to go until the Championship is decided.'
Arsene Wenger says he is pleased with Arsenal's start to the season, but thinks that Arsenal will need to up their points average in the second half of the season to win the League: 'We have 44 points from 19 games in total.If you multiply that we would have 88. It`s not bad.
'I don`t know if 88 would be enough to win the title. At the moment it doesn`t look like it.
'But we are one point short of Manchester United and have lost once in 19 games. So it is down to who is the most consistent now. Even Chelsea and Liverpool can come back into it.
'[In pre-season] everybody seemed to be predicting we would be in the second half of the table. I feel we are on schedule now but we can do better and that is what we want to achieve.' Everton Team News: Leon Osman, Alan Stubbs and Leighton Baines are all out of action for The Blues.
Thomas Graveson is also doubtful with a knee injury. Manager David Moyes is yet to make a decision on former Man United utility player Phill Neville who is suffering from a stomach bug. Player to watch: Yakubu The Nigerian striker has been in and out of form this season. He has had games where he's been totally out of his league, but there's also been times when he's been outstanding.
He's in a purple patch at the moment and has hit 11 goals in all this season. Arsenal Team News: Robin Van Persie is still out with an injury described by Arsenal only as 'a muscular problem.'
Theo Walcott is still a doubt with flu, while Denilson is still suspended after his red card agaisnt Everton.
William Gallas is fit to play, despite picking up a foot injury at Portsmouth on boxing day. Player to watch: Cesc Fabregas Arsenal's very own little matador has suffered a dip in form by his own high standards. I think he's due an outstanding performance and a goal.
Ref Watch: Arsenal's referee for Saturday hails from Yorkshire. Martin Atkinson will officiate his 14th game of the season. In his 13 matches so far this season he has dished out 41 yellow cards and just 1 red. Match Prediction: I'm going to have to go for an Everton win. They are in fantastic form and I think their over-physical game will be too much for an Arsenal team that must be getting tired. 2-1 Everton.