English League 2

Baker to raid Knill contacts

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Wed, 20 Feb 2013 17:53:00

Lyon manager Remi Garde has leapt to the defence of Arsene Wenger by claiming that the under-fire Arsenal boss deserves more respect.

Arsenal's eight-year trophy drought looks set to continue after they suffered a 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League second round match on Tuesday night.

The Gunners sit fifth in the Premier League and Wenger's popularity with Arsenal fans has also been dented by FA Cup and League Cup exits after defeats to Blackburn and Bradford respectively.

But Garde - the first man the Gunners boss signed for the club in 1996 - believes his compatriot is not being judged fairly after his years of hard work at Arsenal.

"I think that Arsene Wenger is still a top-class manager," Garde said ahead of Lyon's Europa League last 32 second leg clash against Tottenham at the Stade de Gerland.

"He has spent so many years at this club, he has brought so much to this club.

"I can testify because I used to be one of his players. He brought so much to the club, even if he didn't win so many trophies.

"I think he deserves more respect than what he is getting at the moment. Of course we know football is a business that is judged on results, but I think he deserves more respect and he is still a world-class manager."

Tottenham hold a 2-1 first-leg lead over Lyon after two superb goals from Gareth Bale at White Hart Lane, but Garde feels Samuel Umtiti's thunderbolt strike for his side could prove crucial on Thursday night.

"We know the away goal is very important," he said.

"We need to be patient. We have 90 minutes to qualify. It will be difficult but we can try to close them down and try to cut out their speed.

"To be able to qualify in front of the home fans would be exciting. We won (4-0 against Bordeaux) last weekend so we have a better mentality now."

The Reds' recent form in the Premier League has been positive - illustrated by a 5-0 hammering of Swansea on Sunday - but Rodgers' first campaign at Anfield has generally been one of inconsistency and frustration.

Tempering the recent run of good results has been a shock loss to League One Oldham in the FA Cup, a disappointing reverse at home to West Brom and defeat at Zenit St Petersburg last Thursday.

That 2-0 loss in Russia has left the Merseysiders facing an uphill struggle in the return leg of their Europa League last-32 tie at Anfield this week.

Rodgers believes that deficit can be overcome, an achievement which would further his side's development.

He said: "The development of the group since I came in - it was never going to be a bolt of lightning. It was never going to be immediate, sudden impact.

"It was going to be over a little period.

"What I have learned from the group is that process of learning has taken place.

"We have obviously shot ourselves in the foot a number of times but it doesn't mean there hasn't been development.

"We are making progress and this would certainly help that appetite going forward.

"We will put everything into the game to win and get through. If we can do that it would be a great tonic for us."

Liverpool produced a positive performance in St Petersburg but paid the price for squandering a number of chances as Hulk and Sergei Semak struck in the space of three minutes midway through the second half.

Rodgers said: "If you look at the game last week, it was a game that was near on perfect until 69 minutes and then two lapses of concentration cost us.

"It has made our job much more harder than we wanted it to be.

"But we also showed enough on the other side, that we can create chances.

"I have quiet confidence we can go about our work well.

"It gives us a great chance. The important factor isn't an early goal - the important factor is the first goal.

"If we can get the first goal that can set us up."

Rodgers has often been frustrated by his side's inability to score when dominating teams this season, the prolific Luis Suarez mostly excepted.

That situation has started to change following the signing of Daniel Sturridge last month, with the former Chelsea man both in good form and facilitating a change of approach.

But Sturridge will be missing against Zenit as he is not eligible for the competition and, with Fabio Borini injured, Suarez will carry the burden of the attack.

The goalscoring issue was raised as Rodgers met press to preview the clash but Rodgers is unlikely to follow up one Russian journalist's suggestion that he takes his squad to church.

He said: "We haven't had luck, the team has been very unlucky.

"As time goes on, hopefully, that luck changes and we get the victories we deserve.

"Unfortunately there is no magic formula. You can pray and do many things, but it is just hard work.

"It is just looking towards the next game. You can never dwell too much in sport, especially at elite level. You have to get over disappointments quickly.

"The great thing for me this week was the response after Zenit.

"That is what I was looking for, that determination to want to do better.

"They put in a terrific performance in the next game and won.

"We will need that again, that mentality. Hopefully we will be able to find that winning formula."

One positive aspect to emerge from this season, Rodgers believes, is the exposure he has been able to give younger players to top-level action.

Teenagers Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom and Suso have been among those to feature regularly this term.

Rodgers said: "I think the young players have been brilliant this year.

"All the young players have probably played more games than they could have hoped they would play.

"I made a mistake, on reflection, in the FA Cup game. I probably had too much trust in the young players and picked too many of them at one time, and we got punished for that.

"But of course, they know I am with them all the way and that is why I demand so much from them and give them that trust.

"If Raheem Sterling never kicked another ball for the rest of the season, he has had a good season."

Baker, whose side are now just five points clear of the relegation zone, has also confirmed that the Gulls may look to utilise the loan market.

"He (Knill) has very good contacts and during his time with Bury, he built up a good relationship with Manchester United and Everton," Baker told the club's official website. "It would be no surprise to see some loan players come in to help us out.

"He is an experienced League Two manager and the board will do everything we can to keep this club in the Football League.

"Alan knows that and he has our support to do whatever is required, which will include new loan signings if necessary. Alan will pick the team for Saturday's game with Port Vale."

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