Gary Neville has again warned Arsenal not to raise their “anxiety levels” by over-celebrating wins as they attempt to beat Liverpool and Manchester City to the Premier League title.
Arsenal drew criticism for their exuberant on-pitch reactions after beating the table-topping Reds 3-1 at Emirates Stadium on February 4, which they followed up with a 6-0 victory at West Ham to move three points behind Jurgen Klopp’s side.
“If you’re thinking about that level of excitement and anxiety, it just saps energy,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“It’s proven fact, not a Gary Neville thing. It happens. If you’re constantly at full tilt, you use up energy. They need to just remain focused and composed.”
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Former Manchester United defender Neville, who won the Premier League eight times during his career at Old Trafford, referenced Gunners defender Oleksandr Zinchenko’s celebration with supporters from his car after a last-gasp 3-2 win at home to Bournemouth last season, when Mikel Arteta’s players recovered from 2-0 behind.
Arsenal led the Premier League for all but eight matchdays in 2022/23 but drew three and lost three of their final nine matches as Pep Guardiola’s City, who are currently above them on goal difference with a game in hand, overtook them to win the title.
Arsenal must stay calm – Neville
Neville accused Arsenal of “immaturity” after beating Liverpool as part of a four-match winning run which has re-established them as contenders.
But Arteta and captain Martin Odegaard defended their celebrations, which came with 15 top-flight matches of their campaign remaining.
“When you absolutely ramp up your excitement and anxiety levels over a constant long period, like they did last season – I always go back to Zinchenko tooting his horn at the fans after Bournemouth,” said Neville.
“Last season, the young players did lose their legs a little bit in the run-in. They need to remain calm, determined and keep the players fit.”
Neville praised defender William Saliba and midfielder Declan Rice. “With Rice in the team, they’re a lot better,” he said.
“Saliba’s fit. Arsenal have a really good chance but they’re up against Klopp, they’re up against Guardiola.
“If Mikel Arteta was to drive a bus through those two and win the league this season, it would be a monumental achievement.”