Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has endured a tough 20 months as Arsenal manager.
The Spaniard has guided the Gunners to back-to-back eighth-placed Premier League finished a feat that had resulted in the north Londoners failing to qualify for Europe for the first time in 25 years.
One of the reasons why they struggled so much last term was their poor home form as they lost at the Emirates Stadium on seven occasions in the league, the most they have managed since moving stadiums in 2006.
And ahead of their highly-anticipated clash against London rivals Chelsea, Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe has claimed that much of this was down to the lack of fans in stadiums due to the pandemic.
“Frankly, the difference with an empty stadium is that the match feels a bit dead. You can hear each other on the pitch but it’s the fans that really bring that 12th man. That’s what everyone misses,” he said in Sunday’s matchday programme.
“To be honest I played in a lot of empty stadiums before I turned pro, so it didn’t surprise me that much – but there isn’t anything that’s better about playing in an empty stadium than a full one. For me, an empty stadium doesn’t have any positives.
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“I tried to play the same in an empty stadium as I do when there are fans, but for me when you hear the crowd sing – especially if they call your name – it’s really emotional.
“It shows you the fans really care about you and it makes you really feel part of the club. It pushes you and when you hear them singing your name, it gives you an extra push. It really makes you want to score a goal and return the favour.”
The Gunners will be hoping to continue their impressive record against the Blues, having won each of their last three encounters with the west London club.