Arsenal

Mikel Arteta can’t afford to repeat Pep Guardiola error again as major Liverpool advantage clear

Not only is Liverpool under pressure to deliver against Arsenal this weekend, but the Anfield crowd will be under scrutiny as well. It should easily be able to get up for a game like this, but it needs to play its part.

The Reds of course have the chance to move back to the top of the Premier League table in time for Christmas when they take on the Gunners. Curiously though, a lot of the pre-match attention hasn’t been on the players who could miss out, or what the game could mean for this season’s title race.

Instead, the Anfield faithful has taken center stage. Gary Neville began the conversation by branding the atmosphere as the ‘worst’ he’d ever seen at the ground during the drab goalless draw with Manchester United. Far from defending the club’s supporters, Jürgen Klopp then doubled down on the criticism following the Carabao Cup win over West Ham.

 

It was a long time ago now, but I have to say I was not overly happy with the atmosphere behind me. I asked people what do they want?” Klopp said (via the ECHO). “We changed a lot of things and we dominated West Ham like crazy and missed chances. If I was in the stands I would be on my toes, 1,000 per cent. I don’t know if the Manchester United game was that bad that we have to say sorry we didn’t smash them. We need Anfield on Saturday.

Arsenal didn’t play this week, they prepared for this game and anyone who knows anything about them knows they will be prepared. So we need Anfield on their toes from the first second, without me having an argument with the opposition coach or whatever. We need you from the first second.

If it is too much football in December, I’m sorry, we have to play as well. If you are not in the right shape, give your ticket to somebody else. It was not negativity, it was just not the excitement I felt the performance deserved.”

Klopp’s comments have divided opinion among supporters. He clarified that he ‘loved’ Anfield in Friday’s press conference and was only wanting everyone on their toes for the weekend. The comments did appear to be a tad harsh after the win over West Ham, in which the atmosphere was much improved from that against United.

Where the Liverpool boss is right though is in his insistence that fans will need to be at ‘1,000 per cent’ from the off against Arsenal. After all, the Gunners will surely not be naïve enough to fall into the same trap for a third season in a row.

Mikel Arteta was guilty of waking the Anfield crowd up with an outburst on the touchline two years ago. That seemed to spark the Reds into life, with Sadio Mané opening the scoring shortly after, and it was one-way traffic from there.

Arteta isn’t the only manager to make that mistake. His former Manchester City mentor Pep Guardiola was equally guilty of losing his cool and effectively confirming Liverpool had his side rattled when he infamously screamed ‘twice’ and held two fingers up to the sky.

The Arsenal boss seemed to learn his lesson last season, remaining much calmer in the dugout. He seemingly forgot to pass the message on to his players though.

With the Gunners 2-0 up back in April and seemingly cruising, Granit Xhaka inexplicably decided he wanted to pick a fight with Trent Alexander-Arnold. Cue the Anfield crowd instantly turning up the heat, and it was enough to spur Liverpool on to a dramatic 2-2 draw, with Alexander-Arnold playing a starring role.

“Arsenal played brilliantly in the first 40 minutes and then they just got the crowd up,” Neville said on his Sky Sports podcast after the game. “I’m not pointing directly at the Xhaka incident where he got involved but there is a rule when you play here and it didn’t help.

“There are some rules here: get through the first 25 minutes, play the ball forward and don’t let them press you early on, if the crowd are sleepy, leave it that way. Don’t wind the crowd up or give a stupid free-kick away. Don’t get involved in a fight because they want the fire here.

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