Benitez puts blame on board for débâcle

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The Independent Football

The inquest opened into Liverpool's humiliating Carling Cup defeat by Arsenal with manager Rafael Benitez blaming the Anfield board for a lack of investment in young players and the goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek excusing his own lamentable display on a lack of match sharpness. Between them, they passed the buck with more conviction than the team had passed the ball during the club's heaviest home defeat for 77 years.

Recriminations had commenced long before it was announced Luis Garcia would miss the rest of the season with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee - and for Dudek, out of contract in the summer, plus Lee Peltier and Danny Guthrie, Academy graduates for whom self-belief is essential at this stage in their development, the consequences may be far-reaching. As they could be for Liverpool's prospective new owners, Dubai International Capital, who might be in a position officially to commence their £400m takeover of the club from the chairman, David Moores, next week.

Until yesterday Benitez had kept in check his frustration at the board's inability and occasional reluctance to secure his primary transfer targets, but the Spaniard has never disguised his irritation at the production line at the Liverpool Academy or the club's failure to follow the Arsenal system of investing heavily in young talent from around the globe. It was a complaint he raised prior to the postponed Carling Cup quarter-final in December and will no doubt stress again to the representatives of DIC once they assume control, but it does not address the reasons for the excruciating end to Liverpool's domestic cup ambitions for this season.

Benitez, his hopes of a trophy this season now resting on a Champions' League date with Barcelona, insisted: "The conclusion that worries me is Arsenal could pick nine reserves and score six goals at Anfield.

"We had seven players with first-team experience and could not win. There is a lesson there for the whole of our club. If you want to compete at the top level you must be able to spend a lot of money not only on your first team, but on the young players and reserves. Arsenal spent £4m on [Abou] Diaby, £4m on Denilson, £8m on [Theo] Walcott and [Julio] Baptista is a £22m player.

"They have been working for 10 years to build a strong squad and we have been working for two," he added. "My scouting department has done an excellent job but sometimes we go too slowly as a club to make the signings we need and when we do there is not a lot of money.

"Today for example we are signing a young Italian goalkeeper on loan [Sampdoria's Daniele Padelli] with an option for later. We have also been working for many weeks to sign the young Scot, James McCarthy [from Hamilton Academicals]. These are the deals we are doing because we want to build for the future but without spending money it is difficult."

However, Benitez has been lavished with comparable funds to Arsène Wenger since his arrival in 2004 - swelled by the riches from his Champions' League triumph in 2005 while Arsenal were building a new stadium - and Liverpool were outclassed on Tuesday because their manager made nine changes to his side. The bottom line.

"I used Momo Sissoko in the Carling Cup at Birmingham and we lost him for four months. Now we have lost Garcia for the rest of the season and [Mark] Gonzalez and [Stephen] Warnock are also injured," he said. "What is more important? The Premiership, Champions' League or Carling Cup? If Arsenal can play nine reserves and score six at Anfield, people should be asking why is this. It's not because of one game, it's because of many reasons."

Dudek was also quick to defend his part in Liverpool's first six-goal reverse at Anfield since 1930. "I'm devastated," the stand-in goalkeeper admitted. "I've never had a game like that before. Almost every shot went in.

"I just wanted to take my opportunity and build some confidence," Dudek added, "but it is difficult. The last time I had played at Anfield until Saturday was in March. For a goalkeeper you can use experience, but you can't build confidence in training. It's very, very difficult."

Wenger determined to keep 'unhappy' Aliadière

After his young French compatriot's heroics at Anfield on Tuesday night, the Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said he wants to keep Jérémie Aliadière at the Emirates Stadium even though he is seeking a move in search of a regular game.

The progress of the 23-year-old forward, who scored one goal himself and set up three more in the 6-3 victory against Liverpool, has been hindered by a succession of injuries, and he has spent much of his time with the Gunners out on loan, but performances such as the one he managed on Tuesday night make it unlikely that the club will part with him.

"I don't like to lose Jérémie Aliadière," Wenger said after the game. "He doesn't play enough but... I persisted with him for the last month as I have seen signs in training that he has made a big step forward. He made an outstanding performance [against Liverpool] and I am not surprised as he puts in that kind of performance in training. He has not yet transferred that into the Premier League. He is not happy because he does not play enough, but we will try to keep him."

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