There is no doubt that we have talked much over the years of the negativity of Arsenal fans to some players when things are not going our way. Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka have been recent victims of abuse from our own fans, and the well-documented racial abuse from all quarters have also been an issue of course.
But now that the games after the restart are going to be Behind Closed Doors, with no annoying fans to put pressure our players, perhaps they can relax and play with more freedom knowing they won’t be punished by every mistake they make. And of course in away games, having 50,000 home fans supporting your opponents can also be extremely intimidating, especially at grounds like Liverpool and Man City for example.
Watford’s Ben Foster certainly thinks the lack of a crowd will make a big difference to some players. “It’s going to be so topsy-turvy,” he said in the Guardian. “I know for a fact that there are players that do feel massive pressure when they know they have 30-, 40-, 50,000 people watching them. I’ve seen it all through my career. You see a footballer on a Monday or Tuesday and then it’s all free and easy, they’re nice and chatty, but then once you get later on in the week, once you get to Thursday and Friday, especially a Saturday, you see the pressure, you can just see it getting into their head and getting into their body and just see that they just want to go into their own world. You can see that pressure really does play on them a lot. And not having the crowd there will, without doubt, benefit some people.
“You’re going to get players coming into form that haven’t been in form all season or low in confidence and then suddenly thriving. Whereas on the other side of the coin, you’ve got players that need the crowd, you need the buzz, you need the adrenaline and you’re not going to have the same sort of buzz.”
One player who certainly would have benefited in the past was our now Youth Team Coach Per Mertesacker, who has gone on record saying how he used to get physically sick in the build up to big games, and I’m thinking that for Arsenal right now, it will be the youngsters that have been promoted from the youth sides that could improve the most with less pressure.
It will certainly be another factor which could make for an interesting game at the Etihad tomorrow night. Will it make a big enough difference to see us beat Pep Guardiola’s side? We shall have to wait and see….