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By Tony Attwood
In 2017/18 Liverpool lost no games at Anfield. In 2018/19 it was the same – no home defeats. In 2019/20 they not only had no defeats they also had just one draw. The other 18 games were won.
But in 2020/21 it went wrong for them. They lost six games at home. But they recovered for 2021/22. No defeats at home. And through those five years they have been in the top four of the Premier League.
Now of course I know that is nothing compared with Wenger’s run in the top four, but still it is impressive. And beyond any doubt it has been caused in part by the attitude of many Liverpool supporters in the ground.
It is, in my view, an attitude which was the antithesis of the attitude expressed by many in Arsenal’s ground during the latter part of Wenger’s reign, during the Emery era, and even during the early part of Arteta’s management of the club as we transformed our playing style but sank to eighth in the league.
The attitude at Anfield is, in my view, (and of course it is just my view as one who has visited Liverpool numerous times) one of superiority – which is not a good way to see the world in my view, but that’s how it feels to me. A view that seems to me to say, “Liverpool will win because this is the club of Merseyside, and this is a part of the country that is superior in every way. It is famous for its football club, for its music, for its rail network,” and yes even I would say the rail system from the suburbs into Liverpool centre works very well – as least when I’ve been on it.
As for its river, for its central part in the slave trade, for the number of rough sleepers and beggars on its streets… Still a key part of Liverpool, but not quite what you want to boast about.
So the fact is that every time I’ve been to Liverpool either to watch a football match, or for a social visit, (or indeed to get married) I have felt a belief in the city and the football team that is not something I experience in other parts of the country. And it is easy to see (in my opinion and as a person who has earned his living for much of his life as a social scientist, although not as a sociologist) how much this helps the club. Arrogance may not be a particularly attractive personality trait, nor may crowd tribalism be a desirable social characteristic, but it gives Liverpool a huge benefit as a club.
Which brings us to Pep Guardiola’s response to his side’s defeat repeating the phrase over and over “This is Anfield” as he says he was “pelted with coins” according to the report.
His point was that things happen in that stadium which don’t happen elsewhere. The key thing that happens, as far as I have observed, is a significant level of support for the home team and antipathy for the away team – a level which goes beyond that in many other grounds.
And as a result of this anything goes attitude, Jurgen Klopp has been accused of “bringing shame on the boot-room of Anfield” with his abuse of a match official during the 1-0 defeat of Manchester City.
Quite why it is like this I don’t know, and sociological studies of the issue can get very tangled especially when the issue of Heysel Stadium is considered as part of the background. It was, as far as the evidence I know about shows, a disaster caused by Liverpool fans but which forced all English clubs out of Europe. Why so much more is written about the awfulness of the Hillsborough tragedy, than Heysel, I’m not sure. Is it really because of the numbers who died? And also we might wonder why beyond Bradford the Bradford stadium fire is largely ignored these days. Maybe because of the 39 deaths at Heysel, none were English. Maybe because the fire safety officers inspecting Bradford’s ground should never have given it a safety certificate.
Of course the phrase “This is Anfield” does resonate, and Liverpool do manage to have a very good home record. But they do go in for coin throwing at Anfield – and the answer to that point when I have on occasion tried to discuss it, is that it happens everywhere. Which is a bit like saying a murder took place in north London, but murders take place everywhere. Yes they do, but they should all be followed up, and the criminals dealt with.
That Liverpool don’t like Manchester City is clear – the reference by Klopp to the “state project” was well made and if there is such a thing as a well-placed insult that was right.
It has long been a theme of Untold Arsenal that there an extreme imbalance in the way the national media in England treat various clubs, and to see two of those who have been lauded by the media for so long at war with each other is rather amusing in a sense. But whether those in official positions will be able to hand out suitable punishments to either of those clubs remains in doubt. I don’t think they’ve been very good at it in the past.
What I do love however is the fact that at long last Arsenal is taking pride in its physical location. “North London Forever” really is our song associated with our area, unlike “You’ll never walk” and “Blue Moon”.
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