May 22, 2023 3:47 pm
winning only twice in their last eight Premier League games, Arsenal has fallen short of Manchester City in the title race, leaving many questioning if the Gunners have ‘bottled the league’.
After securing a 1-0 win against Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, Manchester City were crowned champions of the Premier League for the third consecutive season in a row.
Arsenal proved valiant contenders across the majority of the season; however, a late wobble in form has cost them dearly in their bid to overcome what seems to be an immovable object at the top of the Premier League every season.
However, many Premier League fans do not believe that the downfall of Arsenal has any relation to ability; in fact, they attribute their recent run of results to mental fragility in the title run-in, believing that they have ‘bottled’ the league to Manchester City.
Did Arsenal bottle the league?
Being eight points clear of Pep Guardiola’s side in game week 29, albeit having played an extra game, Mikel Arteta will feel aggrieved that his side allowed City to wrap up the title before the last game of the season.
Three consecutive draws against Liverpool, West Ham United, and Southampton, followed by a heavy 4-1 defeat by Manchester City, are the key results that have ultimately led to them dropping out of the title race.
In isolation, each result can have reasoning as to why Arsenal was unable to win, but the elephant in the room is the timing of the dip in form.
With Guardiola’s relentless side breathing down their necks, Arsenal’s young squad felt the pressure caving in on them, controlling games with less authority than they have all season and uncharacteristically giving away sloppy possession in dangerous areas.
It is clear that Arsenal felt the pressure, but the big question that is being posed across social media is, “Did Arsenal bottle the league?”
Due to the nature of the way Arteta’s side has crumbled towards the back end of the season, it is easy to understand why many may believe that they bottled the league.
However, the context of the opposition that they have ultimately fallen short against must be factored in when discussing the term ‘bottling’.
It must be taken into account that Manchester City is a simply sensational football team and are probably the best side in the world at the moment, having won five of the last six Premier League titles, and are looking to match Sir Alex Ferguson’s incredible 1998/99 treble-winning team this season.
The Citizens are irresistible in playstyle and always become stone-cold, ruthless killers at the back end of the season, collecting a total of 43 points from the 45 available in their last 15 Premier League games and scoring 40 goals in the process. Guardiola’s side have barely put a foot wrong since losing to Tottenham Hotspur in January.
Despite performing beyond all expectations, it must be remembered that Arsenal have the joint youngest squad in the division alongside Southampton this season, and should not have been envisaged to continue the consistency that saw them elevate above City’s battle-hardened winners in the initial stages of the season.
City boss Pep Guardiola also gave his thoughts on the matter when questioned over whether he believed Arsenal ‘bottled’ the league, replying:
“Arsenal bring what they have been in the past. They have been like Liverpool in previous seasons. They bring us again to our limits, otherwise, we don’t bring this run of 12 games winning. After making 50 points in first leg, it would be impossible to catch them. They lost some points, we were there to push them.
“I don’t remember perfectly but we won a lot of games in a row to beat Liverpool in the past. They [Arsenal] have been similar. Liverpool arrived until the last game two or three times. In the first leg from Arsenal, they did 50 points. I had the feeling they’d done something special and they would have to drop points and it would be difficult. But they’ve played exceptionally. We were there and we didn’t give up.
“I’d not say it is more important. The first one was when we did 100 points. Every game was win win win, goal goal goal, and the Premier Leagues have been so tight so this is not more special than the others. Everyone is.”
Has this season been a success?
Being predicted to finish outside the top four by many and having challenged for the title this season is a major achievement for this Arsenal side.
Last season, Arteta’s men finished fifth; this season, they have not only comfortably qualified for the Champions League but have also pushed a great side all of the ways, taking the space of Klopp’s Liverpool team over the past years.
Due to the fanatical start that they made and the surprising consistency that they have displayed across the majority of the campaign, it is easy to lose sight of Arsenal’s achievements.
Not even the most loyal Arsenal fan would have told you that a title push was realistically on the horizon before a Premier League ball was kicked this season, therefore, it should be celebrated that they have managed to compete.
Of course, Arsenal are a mammoth English club, and success will ultimately be decided by the trophy collection, but having not lifted a title in North London since the 2003/04 season under Arsene Wenger, a second-place finish is something to build upon for Arteta and his squad.
With the lure of Champions League football and the riches that they have acquired through qualification, Arsenal have an opportunity to use this season as a platform to spring off.
Already possessing the young talents of Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, William Saliba, and Gabriel Martinelli bodes well for the future, and with a strategic transfer window ahead, Arsenal could transform back into a serious contender for trophies across the board for many seasons to come.
Although it must be done correctly, they must learn from this experience. If Arsenal do not replace the likes of Granit Xhaka and develop their squad to handle the hectic fixture list towards the back end of next season, both physically and mentally, then they will be left behind.
If they are to fade away next season, this could well be an opportunity missed for Arsenal; however, recently the Gunners’ have been excellent in the recruitment department, leaving them with a significant chance of silverware next season.
All things considered, it has been a fantastic season for Arsenal regardless of the silverware accrued, as they have progressed further forward than anyone thought, and with another leap forward again next season, that is when trophies will begin to become a vital measure of success.