Paul Stafford discusses the importance of fan power in football and references the role the Anfield crowd played in Liverpool’s dramatic 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League last season.
We can all agree that playing at Anfield is special.
Cast our minds back to García’s ghost goal vs Chelsea in the Champions League. Even the then Chelsea manager José Mourinho recognised the significance of the Anfield faithful.
“I felt the power of Anfield, it was magnificent.”
Former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier spoke of the “goose pimples” the crowd at Anfield gives you, an additional energy you do not find in too many other places.
With the plethora of magical moments this club has witnessed over the years, it came to me as somewhat of a surprise when Klopp took charge that the Anfield crowd were so very flat and silent. Carragher commented on the Anfield atmosphere after West Brom at home last season, stating that the “atmosphere has not been great for 18 months, mainly because performances have not been that good.”
Since then, results and performances have tried to dispel this idea. We are currently the highest scoring team in the league and are sat joint second on goal difference with Spurs. Thus, it is fair to say it is a good time to be a Liverpool fan right now.
Despite this, however, why is it that the fans have been so reluctant to rally behind the team in so many games at Anfield this season?
Looking back to that now famous night against Dortmund, the fans were encouraged by the lads’ refusal to give up, roaring them onto victory. Granted, this game was building up to be a classic even before a ball was kicked, but the role the fans played during the game epitomises everything spectacular about being at Anfield. I was there and I can honestly say I have never heard an atmosphere quite like it before, or likely to ever again. The sheer roar of the fans was not silenced by Mkhitaryan’s early goal (although granted it did get a bit quiet when Dortmund scored the second). Yet we encouraged the lads on to what was a remarkable win.
This game showed just how special playing at Anfield can be, and how much of an influence the twelfth man can have on the player’s performance.
I think it is fair to say that since the arrival of our charismatic German, a lot has changed on the pitch. Earlier on in the season especially, we were outstanding, playing a fluid high-tempo attacking game outscoring the opposition for fun. We still inject a similar level of intensity into our games, but the free-scoring Liverpool we all became accustomed to seeing seems to have hit a snag. By and large, teams come to Anfield happy to take a point, deciding on keeping tight and defensive throughout the game. It’s understandable why teams are doing this. They have seen the way we dispatched Leicester, Watford and Stoke, for example, thus to try and match our intensity would be foolish on their part.
Thus, we have the difficult task of breaking teams down, which leads to added nerves amongst the fans, whose silence doesn’t exactly offer much encouragement to the players on the pitch. Because of this slight lull in form, the fans seem to have reverted back to their old self before Klopp’s arrival. Rather than create a wall of noise to will the team on to get that all-important goal, the crowd seem far more hushed. We’ve gone from anticipating who will score the next goal to anxiously hoping we break the deadlock.
I don’t know why the crowd seems so quiet these days, especially now Anfield’s capacity has increased to 54,074. Klopp was keen to stress how with an extra 8,000 more fans in the stadium, “it’s more power we should use”. Yet for whatever reason, this just hasn’t been the case.
Put yourself in the opposition’s shoes, you’re playing at Anfield, defending in front of the Kop, and you are surrounded by a wall of noise bellowing from the stands. With the fans encouraging the team forward, surely it is more likely you are going to make a mistake sooner or later.
Some argue that effect of playing at Anfield can have can be overstated in recent times, but to me, there’s no denying it still is and always will be spectacular.
It is an amazing feeling being inside Anfield, roaring the players on to victory by creating so much noise it sounds to the opposition that a goal is imminent. This is the impact I believe the fans can have on a game, and this is what we must get back to.