When Liverpool defeated Arsenal two years ago, Mikel Arteta disregarded his own advise. The Gunners entered the game riding a 10-game winning streak, but their Merseyside rivals thoroughly outplayed them in a furious encounter at Anfield.
After 39 minutes, Sadio Mane gave Liverpool the lead with a header at the far post from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free kick. After the half, Diogo Jota took advantage of a mistake by Nuno Tavares to roll into an empty net, making things worse for Arsenal.
Arsenal was severely defeated 4-0 by goals from Mohamed Salah and Takumi Minamino, and they are now three points outside of the Premier League’s top four. As his team failed to establish a lead in the game, Arteta was clearly upset throughout, and moments before halftime, the tension reached a breaking point.
The match was ignited by a physical altercation between the Spaniard and Jurgen Klopp on the touchline, which prompted many assistant coaches from both sides to step in and mediate. Referee Michael Oliver issued bookings to both managers before it was discovered that Arteta had broken his own golden rule for the game, which ultimately damaged the Gunners.
The Arsenal boss made a point of trying to mentally prepare his players for the hostile atmosphere at Anfield, as seen in the All or Nothing documentary produced by Amazon. He emphasised the importance of staying calm by challenging his squad to keep their cool in a practice match with You’ll Never Walk Alone blaring through speakers on the training ground.
Arteta also recalled a previous game in which he failed to keep a lid on things while playing at Anfield, saying: “There is a word we use in Spain in cycling when a cyclist is going and looks amazing and, in one kilometre, he goes [down]. He looks stuck, and it’s a word called ‘bajar’.
“I had it once at Anfield. The game was going well and suddenly I could only see red shirts flying around, the game was passing all over me and I could not react. People were saying: ‘What is he doing?’, and I’m like: ‘I cannot do it’. I cannot emotionally, physically, I cannot cope. Everything was too fast. I only had that feeling in my career once and it was at Anfield.”
Arteta went on to ignore his own advice by engaging in the spat with Klopp, which riled up the Anfield crowd enough to power Liverpool to victory. The iconic stadium has long been known for its combative atmosphere, with Gary Neville saying earlier this year that winding up the home fans rarely ends well for the visiting team.
“There are some rules here, get through the first 25 minutes, play the ball forward and don’t let them press you early on,” said Neville on Sky Sports. “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.”