Bernd Leno says the players can feel the difference in belief amongst Arsenal supporters from the start of the season to last weekend’s draw with Liverpool.
Speaking to ESPN after the game, Leno reflected on the atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium. It was arguably the best it’s been since the home leg against Atletico Madrid last season, and the fans perhaps reacted to conceding even better than on that day in April.
“The atmosphere today is a very big atmosphere,” Leno said. “The supporters were pushing for 90 minutes, today I think was a good spectacle for every supporter, for them, for us, and also for football. It shows a bit the squad’s character right now, also of the fans.”
The German goalkeeper then compared the feeling around the ground at the start of the season to on Saturday, emphasising how much things have improved.
“I don’t know how things were in the past. But at the beginning of the season, you had the feeling the fans become very uneasy, but (against Liverpool) the fans immediately pushed us forward.
“Every player feels that, and there was this feeling after the 1-0 we could still win the match. We scored 10 minutes from time. Every player wanted to win it. It didn’t work, sadly. But the atmosphere and the character of the team right now is very good.”
That sort of belief, even when things go wrong, is something you have to have in the crowd if you want to achieve something. It makes the opposition players get nervous about protecting leads, the home players want to give their all to repay the fans, and it gives them the confidence to believe that the game isn’t lost.
There’s also the more cynical side of the impact of fan support. Against Liverpool, there was a fairly standard foul committed by Fabinho at one point, but the Arsenal fans all stood up in outrage and called for a booking. It didn’t come, but when the midfielder made his next foul the referee immediately reached for his yellow card.
Maybe he wouldn’t have given the same card at Anfield. The fans undoubtedly have their part to play in putting pressure on the officials, making them believe they owe Arsenal something, so when that 50/50 decision comes around they favour the home side.
Let’s hope for just as hostile an atmosphere for the two games at the Emirates this week, and to carry that through to the double North London derby in December.