BRENDAN RODGERS has challenged his players to dispel doubts about their mental strength as Liverpool prepare for a vital Premier League double-header.
The Reds head for Arsenal tomorrow night looking to put last week-end’s humilia-ting FA Cup exit to Oldham behind them.
With a trip to Manchester City coming up on Sunday, this is a week which could make or break their hopes of competing for a Champions League spot.
After the manner in which the timid Reds were out-fought by the Latics, Rodgers is demanding a show of character in the capital.
“There are certainly question marks about the mental strength and not just in this period,” he said.
“They have to step up to the demands and do it week in, week out. If they don’t they won’t be here and that goes for both youth and senior players. This is a great season of learning for me in terms of what we have here.
“What I’ve found from working with players is that plenty of people tell you they care. The greatest benchmark and way I assess it is what people do physically.
“People tell me: ‘I want to be in your team, I want to play and do this or that’. I say ‘okay’, but the minute they walk out the door I look to see what they do physically.
“What you do physically is your commitment mentally.
“If they are one of the last ones in in the morning and one of the first ones away in the afternoon, then really they don’t care.
“I’m trying to piece together here a group who are mentally on the same wavelength.”
Sunday’s defeat raised more doubts about whether Liverpool have the personnel to cope with combative opponents.
There’s an argument that the squad lacks both experience and aggression but Rodgers refutes suggestions that the signings he has made are too lightweight.
“We’ve been in many games where physical questions have been asked of us and we’ve come through that. We just have to be more consistent,” he added.
“Take Fabio Borini and Joe Allen, for example. If you ask people about Borini, they would say his biggest attribute is his physicality. His power and aggression – that’s what he’s renowned for.
“That’s where his qualities lie but that’s something he needs to improve on for us.
“As for Joe, I’ve seen him throw Yaya Toure to the ground in games last season. He has never been found wanting physically.
“For some players their power and strength is in their brain. Otherwise you would just have basketball players throughout your team.
“I don’t think that as a team we are physically light or short in anyway. I think it’s mental and that’s something we need to improve.”