Predicting five Arsenal bottlejobs from 2022/23 (and Declan Rice) primed to bottle it again in 2023/24

Will Ford
Arsenal saka gabriel rice
Who will be the chief Arsenal bottlejob of 2023/24?

After the resounding defeat to Aston Villa in the Premier League, Arsenal limped out of the Champions League with barely a whimper and Mikel Arteta and his players are again faced with the very real possibility of ending the season potless.

We may have to wait for defeat against Wolves before the bottlejob chat can properly begin in earnest, but in preparation we’ve looked back at last season’s chief title race bottlers for you to keep an eye on this time around.

Thomas Partey and Aaron Ramsdale were 1) and 2) in the 2022/23 ranking, but don’t make the cut (because they’ll barely be involved) in this selection of five players vying to be crowned king Gunners bottlejob in 2023/24, with Declan Rice included as an alternate as he’s looked particularly partial to a bottling in recent weeks.

We’ve included each player’s position in the bottlejob ranking from last season in brackets.


Gabriel Magalhaes (5)
Far too much was made of the absence of Gabriel’s centre-back partner William Saliba in the Premier League run-in last season, and the Brazilian largely avoided criticism thanks to the far more blatant failings of whichever poor sap was selected alongside him.

Jakub Kiwior went down like a felled tree in the costly defeat to Brighton for no apparent reason and Rob Holding was torn a new one by Erling Haaland in their mauling by Manchester City. But Gabriel wasn’t great in either of those games and Rio Ferdinand wasn’t impressed by his “rash” display against West Ham.

To be clear, Gabriel and Saliba have been superb all season, but with the pressure now very much on, Gabriel finds himself in a situation where he’s the weak link in their central defensive rearguard. Ollie Watkins recognised that and Gabriel had a bit of a stinker against Aston Villa; he wasn’t great across the two legs vs Bayern either.


Gabriel Martinelli (8)
He wasn’t among the biggest bottlers last season, and he’s also made it difficult to count him as such this season, because the very essence of being a bottlejob requires a fall from grace and he’s not contributed all that much for a good while now.

Could we viably claim this whole season has been him bottling it after the high of 2022/23? We’ll go with that – a slow-burn bottling, but a bottling all the same.


Gabriel Jesus (11)
Jesus was one of the few Arsenal players at the end of last season to cope under the pressure, drawing on his title-chasing experience with Manchester City, scoring six of his 11 Premier League goals in the last ten games of the season and in general continuing to fluorish as the diminutive but imposing target man for Arsenal.

But he’s not scored since January and the gilt-edginess of the chances he’s missing feel as though they’re getting giltier and edgier, with the membership cards of the ‘Arsenal need a proper number nine’ club once again being brandished in his direction. He doesn’t look like a footballer full of confidence right now.


Oleksandr Zinchenko (4)
Another player with title-winning experience, but one who appeared to get more caught up in the Arsenal frenzy than anyone else last season.

Gary Neville called him out for “tooting his horn” after beating Bournemouth with 15 games to go and questioned the full-back’s impassioned speech in a team huddle in the 3-3 draw with Southampton when he himself had a shocker.

Perhaps fortunately for Arsenal, Zinchenko’s sway over his teammates now appears to have diminished significantly as it becomes ever clearer why Pep Guardiola allowed him to leave City for Arsenal – he’s just not quite good enough in a title race.


Bukayo Saka (3)
Saka has managed to forge – through no fault of his own – this narrative whereby whenever he has a bad game or even a bad run of games, the media immediately puts that down to him being overworked and exhausted.

While every other footballer can be in bad form for no reason other than them being in bad form, in Saka’s case, the caveat of fatigue is always offered up to explain it.

He’s 78th in the list of players to play the most minutes in Europe’s top five leagues; five of his Arsenal teammates – Kai Havertz, Martin Odegaard, William Saliba, Declan Rice and Gabriel Magalhaes – have played more for club and country than Saka this term.

Maybe he’s not tired, or injured. Maybe – as was the case at the crux of last season – he’s just not been that good.

Having reached double figures for goals and assists in the Premier League last season by mid-March he claimed just a further two goals (one in the 5-0 drubbing of Wolves on the final day) and one assist in the last ten games of the campaign.

He’s currently on a run of one goal and one assist in his last five Premier League games after nine contributions in the seven before that. Is it happening again?


Declan Rice
He’s in the prime bottling position of being brilliant all season, dealing with the pressure of his lofty price tag admirably, proving he was well worth the outlay, and for long periods looking as though he was the final piece of the puzzle in the Arteta ‘project’.

But having dominated opposition midfielders all season, Youri Tielemans and John McGinn comfortably got the better of him in the defeat to Aston Villa, before Rice reverted to the sideways-passing low-impact midfielder he was five or so years ago against Bayern Munich, when Arsenal really needed the progressive dynamo he’s been for the majority of the season.

Rice needs to snap out of whatever malaise he finds himself in, because having been so good he’s got an awfully long way to fall.