Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta played the Liverpool anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, at the club’s training grounds in north London in a bid to prepare his players for a visit to Anfield.
The bizarre preparation is just one of the offbeat methods Arteta has employed to focus his young team’s spirit ahead of tough encounters.
In other unconventional moves, the Gunners manager asked players to hold hands to feel the energy of their teammates and brought in the club’s photographer to speak to the team.
Mikel Arteta stood out for using a range of unconventional coaching methods in All or Nothing
The new approaches were revealed in the Amazon Prime docu-series, All of Nothing, which will begin airing on Thursday.
The Spaniard isn’t afraid to try something new and even admits to having ‘crazy ideas’. But some of them have yielded results.
Arsenal traveled to Liverpool on November 20 last year, having survived a disastrous start to the season and following an eight-game unbeaten run.
In the documentary, Arteta is filmed telling his players that the trip to Anfield will be crucial to the outcome of their campaign. Arsenal’s squad last season was the youngest in the Premier League and a number of players had yet to experience the cauldron that is Anfield.
He said ‘You’ll never walk alone’ to his players in training ahead of their trip to Liverpool
Arteta has done it several times and revealed he struggled there.
“The most important thing with Anfield is that emotionally you are in the best condition to compete there,” he told the team as they gathered at the base. London Colney training the week before the match.
“You have to know what Anfield is and it is, believe me, very different from any ground I have known in the Premier League.”
Arteta clearly has enormous respect for Liverpool’s fanbase and the impact they have on opponents. A former Gunners and Everton player, Arteta knows what he’s talking about. He won at Anfield twice with Arsenal, the last time a 2-0 win in 2012, and he remembers the following season craving the same.
The Spaniard was named Arsenal manager in 2019 and nearly reached the top four last season
However, in a typically candid passage from the intriguing documentary, Arteta admits his visit to the famous old stadium in February 2014 was a disaster.
The coach tells Prime Video cameras that when his team capitulated to a 5-1 defeat, he suffered “pajara”, a Spanish term generally used in cycling to describe a sudden loss of energy suffered by a runner.
“I had it once at Anfield,” reveals Arteta, who made 110 Premier League appearances for the north London club.
“Suddenly all I could see was red shirts flying. The game is going all over me. I can’t react. People think what is he doing? I can’t do it, emotionally, physically… I can’t cope, everything is going too fast.
“I’ve only had that feeling once in my career and that was at Anfield.”
Thus, Arteta was determined to prepare his team for this eventuality. He erected loudspeakers all around the London Colney training ground the week before the match in an attempt to recreate the atmosphere.
Arteta admitted Anfield was one of the hardest stadiums to visit during his playing career
“Boys, mentally we’re starting to play the game now,” he roared. “OK, we’re at Anfield.”
And with that, Gerry and the Pacemakers exploded over the speakers, accompanied by the Kop at the top of their voices.
In a bizarre scene, Arteta walks around the pitch shouting instructions to the players, competing with Gerry and the group, who walk with hope in their hearts as an assistant turns the volume knob.
But Arteta is focused on the challenge.
‘They [the fans] play every match point with the team and you can feel it, he says.
The boss seems satisfied with the session. In the Anfield dressing room, he returned to the theme, revealing the worst night of his career, the night he suffered the “pajara”.
He said: “You have to know what Anfield is. It’s very different from any terrain I’ve known’
‘When I had this shirt on and I was there [sitting in the dressing room]. I came here, for a long time we didn’t win here, but we won two years in a row here.
“The following year I was ready to come here and I believed we could win. Do you know what happened? We are starting to lose the game. And they were all over us.
“And you know what I did myself?” I hid and gave up on the ground. We lost 5-1. I will never forget for the rest of my career what I did here.
“Don’t leave anything on this fucking ground because I regret it. I let the team down and I let myself down. And I don’t want you to go through this. So get out and play with some fucking courage and be ourselves today on this court. Do me this favor.
But nothing could prepare Arteta or the players for what lay ahead. Liverpool used physical play, upsetting the young Gunners, with Sadio Mane appearing to catch Takehiro Tomiyasu in the face with an elbow, in an incident that did not lead to a red card.
Arteta exploded in fury on the touchline. He and Jurgen Klopp got into a furious argument, shouting and gesturing and they were only separated by the fourth official.
Bukayo Saka continued to develop his game and became Arsenal’s star talent last season
The scene inflamed the crowd and Arsenal, after a regular half, relented and conceded Mane the opening goal six minutes before half-time.
“Believe until the last minute,” the coach implored his players at halftime.
Arsenal didn’t hide, but they were put apart, collapsing to a four-nil loss with Nuno Tavares committing two errors that led to Liverpool goals.
While Liverpool’s experiment failed, an even more peculiar method employed at Leicester City on October 30 was followed by a 2-0 victory.
“We’re going to do something, guys,” Arteta told his skeptical players, who had gathered in a wide circle in the spacious dressing room at King Power Stadium. “We are going to gather all the energy in this room.
“When I tell you I want you to start doing this,” he said, rubbing his palms together quickly. “I want you to close your eyes and I’ll tell you what’s going to happen in the game.
‘And after that you’re gonna take each other’s hand and we’re gonna create some energy in a bubble and we’re gonna play f****** over there [pointing towards the pitch]. Close your eyes.’
Alexandre Lacazette (left) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (right) have now left the Emirates
The players began vigorously rubbing their hands together with their eyes closed as Arteta shouted at them how ‘they were going to be aggressive in all high press situations’, how they were going to get the ball back and play towards the before.
After reminding them of their responsibilities, Arteta ordered, “Grab your hands now.”
To their credit, the players accepted it without any obvious sign of dissent, or even furtiveness, and didn’t even sneer when their manager roared, “Feel it in your body, who we are.” WHO WE ARE!’
Arsenal were sensational and swept past Leicester in a convincing 2-0 win, scoring twice in the opening 20 minutes.
However, viewers will be relieved that the players were waiting for their manager when he returned to the dressing room after the game.
“I wanted to say something, Mikel,” said a joker seriously. “Everyone, close your eyes…”
And to the cheers, the players started rubbing their hands, as Arteta burst out laughing. Anything that works….