Mikel Arteta has backed his Arsenal side to embrace Anfield’s “jungle” atmosphere and end their 11-year wait for a win there.
Arsenal face Liverpool on Sunday looking to maintain their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League over Manchester City. The Gunners have a miserable record at Anfield, though, and in seven away games against Liverpool in the League since Jurgen Klopp was appointed eight years ago, Arsenal have lost by an aggregate score of 25-7.
To cope with Anfield’s famous atmosphere last season, Arteta made his squad train listening to ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ only to lose 4-0 on the night. The Spaniard has no regrets over that decision and insists it was necessary to help prepare his side.
“It depends, if you want to isolate only a context that is about an atmosphere you’re going to live in, then they should not shoot on goal,” he said. “Because if they have to shoot on goal on Sunday, don’t shoot on goal on Thursday just in case you miss.
“You have to prepare the players; you have to tell them what they’re going to be facing and you have to recognise that. And an error and a mistake becomes after an opportunity to do that and develop yourself. You have to expose yourself; you cannot train the players in the zoo and then go to the jungle on Sunday. It’s impossible.”
Arteta came in for ridicule after the All or Nothing documentary revealed the failed ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ experiment. Asked if he ever has public reaction at the back of his mind, Arteta said, “No, because if I have to think what people are going to think each week, I will do something else. I do my best, my best for the team. That’s all I can do.
“But as well people told me: ‘You did that, it was incredible’. It’s incredible if you win. If you lose it’s terrible. Tomorrow if you play with a back six, if we win: ‘Ha-ha, magician’. If not: ‘What the hell are you doing? Why did you change things?’ The results.”
Arsenal are closing in on their first title since 2004 and they are just nine games from the finishing line, having led the way for near enough the whole season, and the squad believes they can get over the line.
“I think they do,” he said. “When you listen to them and what they have been saying internally and publicly, they certainly do. But it is something that we see signs of every single day. The chemistry they have, the understanding between them, the enjoyment they are playing with each other, has made a really positive contribution in that eagerness and as well in that belief that they can go out and there and beat any team. This is crucial before doing it.”
- The Evening Standard report