The Boot Room was a sacrosanct place to the identity and spirituality of the Liverpool FC. Eight years back I took the Anfield stadium tour where they showed what used to be the Boot Room. They would make you stand around it and passionately narrate its significance. In the Liverpool history and tradition, it is that dome where the Gods and their chosen men sat for the light to shine upon them before and after every match. Perhaps the temple where the warriors and their leaders went to speak with the immortals. They would not hide their angst that it does not exist any more. They would also look up to the Gods in repentance, seeking for liberation from the curse that the Gods have stuck them with, for demolishing it was a mistake, not a sin. Last season they thought that the Gods were forgave them. They hoped enough for the Reds to nip the Premier League from their new Manchester rivals. As I watched the final day match and the result thereon, I could not help but think of the Boot Room. Although they won the Champions league, but never the Premier League.
After my Anfield trip, I had the opportunity of taking the Emirates tour as well. They were definitely proud of how the Arsenal FC has naturally progressed through its steady successes of the late nineties. The stadium itself was a matter of pride and they felt that it commanded its position as the majestic marvel in this classical city of the world – London. But did it have the warmth and the coziness of the Marble halls from the East End of Highbury? The Gooners would take a moment of silence before they answered. The moment that the loyalists needed to convince themselves that progress and change are as organic as the nature itself . That moment they usually took to quickly relive and wipe out the memory of being the Invincibles in the history of the English Premier League. They also believed somewhere that they were juggling the jinx ever since they moved from Highbury to Emirates. Whilst at Emirates, the Gunners reached the finals many a times but never won anything more than a few FA Cups. Especially never the league.
What would they have in common, these two clubs, apart from their cycles of ups and downs, their jinx which still seems to have gripped them, their history, their legacy and their ingrained despise for Manchester United? They are not even territorial enemies, neither were they league contenders at the same point in recent history. There has not been any particular player swoop which would have antagonized one team’s fans with the other. What made Liverpool vs Arsenal (#LIVARS) a special fixture then?
One of the most entertaining footballing encounters from time immemorial has been Liverpool vs Arsenal – a fact that could be statistically backed. The only memories that one can vividly remember is the intensity of the game between these two clubs. You can almost never point out the exact year or the season. But you know it happened and how. Record goals scored per match and the highest number of hat-tricks are just a few attributes of this fixture. These clubs with their most animated matches may not have received its hype. Despite their positions and strengths in the league, #LIVARS has been a fiercely fought match with injury time goals, last minute penalties, sometimes three goals in three minutes, and sometimes a player scoring all four goals in a match. This is a match where a comeback could also face a backlash. An anti climax could also face an anti climax. No matter what the result, it usually tends to have its impact on the league table.
Liverpool lost only one match in the entire last season. Of course not to Arsenal. But it did have a draw with Arsenal at the Emirates, perhaps a couple of points that could have landed Liverpool a point above the title winners Manchester City. Who could have possibly known that Arsenal would have indirectly impacted Liverpool’s title chances. This match today would be one of those rare moments where Liverpool and Arsenal are the league leaders, after two matches. Well they are the only two teams to have won the two games out of the two played. Given how close was the title race as well as the top four finish, this game so early in the league has created its own importance. Any team with a clear win today could perhaps send a different kind of ripple effect down the colloquial “Top Six”. With Chelsea taking a drubbing at Old Trafford and Tottenham holding the fort against Manchester City, it is for Arsenal to upset the apple cart of the convenient rivalry between City and Liverpool for the title. Can Arsenal finally win three in a row at the start of a season (After the Invincibles season)? Can Liverpool hold its lead for this week? Can this fixture be a decider so early for the League winners?
Who knows. I don’t mean to jinx it.