They’ve absolutely f***ed it. Well, not really, they’ve been beaten to the title by quite possibly the best team ever to grace the Premier League and it’s a bloody miracle Arsenal are such close challengers. A brilliant season from a very good football team who are also a bunch of bottle jobs. We don’t make the rules.
We’ve ranked the Gunners from least to biggest bottler. Any player who’s started more than seven games this season is deemed capable of being “one of the bottle”, as Jose Mourinho would put it, excluding William Saliba, because he’s been injured for the collapse, though his absence is not the cause of it.
12) Martin Odegaard
Odegaard was thoroughly put in his place by Kevin De Bruyne in the clash with Manchester City, as the Belgian appeared to take suggestions that Odegaard was the superior playmaker as some sort of personal affront. Odegaard clearly isn’t on De Bruyne’s level – no-one is – but he’s probably next best (although another lad in Manchester also has a claim to second place).
Other than the game against City, in which Odegaard was as absent as the rest of his teammates, the Arsenal captain’s form hasn’t wavered, with five of his 15 Premier League goals coming in their last six games, during which his composure in the final third has proved vital when agitation has set in among those around him.
11) Gabriel Jesus
His finishing sucks but then it has done all season. His hold-up play against Brighton wasn’t great, but that game was an exception to a rule which has seen the Brazilian continue to flourish as the diminutive but imposing target man for Arsenal.
Five of his ten Premier League goals have come since the start of April, in the midst of Arsenal’s slump.
10) Granit Xhaka
He must be well aware of the club’s desperation to sign Declan Rice from West Ham, and reports insisting it’s his position in the Arsenal team that’s under threat. He was – and probably still is – the obvious casualty in Arteta’s quest to evolve, but he must currently be looking at Thomas Partey alongside him and wonder just how sh*t the Ghanaian would have to be for Rice to take his spot instead.
Xhaka may well be off at the end of the season, but will leave an Arsenal hero less than four years after telling the Gunners faithful to f*** off. His is an extraordinary redemption story.
9) Eddie Nketiah
Nketiah’s not scored since his brace against Manchester United in January but avoids the depths of the Arsenal bottle as he’s featured for just 45 minutes in their last 11 Premier League games. Perhaps he should have played more, but also, probably not.
8) Gabriel Martinelli
If we’re to assess forwards purely on their goal contributions, and we absolutely are in this case, and further simplify that assessment by suggesting those forwards are bottling it when they’re not scoring or assisting, Martinelli bottled it from New Year’s Day to mid-February, unbottled it up until the Southampton game, and is now thoroughly bottling it again.
7) Ben White
Arsenal fans are very protective of White, who’s done as good a job as any centre-back playing at right-back could be expected to do. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, that’s exactly what it is.
Kauro Mitoma gave him hell against Brighton, but superior full-backs have similarly tried and failed to cope with the Japan international, so that’s no particular evidence of his bottleability. He’s been as good recently as he’s been all season. There’s that damning with faint praise again.
6) Leandro Trossard
His face was quite the picture after his mistake led to old team Brighton’s third goal at the Emirates on Sunday. After an astonishing run of seven assists in six games, Trossard’s managed just one in his last seven, the big bottley bottler.
5) Gabriel Magalhaes
A lot has been made of William Saliba’s injury, but Jamie Carragher debunked that particular myth, so maybe Gabriel – the stalwart in a now fragile defence – is actually the problem? Maybe not, but he’s definitely got a rick in him as his “rash” challenge against West Ham illustrated, and he’s certainly benefited from the raggedness of his central defensive partner taking the heat off him in recent weeks.
There was no way Erling Haaland was going to battle with Gabriel when Rob Holding was standing right there, so the Brazilian got away with that one. And Jakub Kiwior was at the centre of pundit slams for going down without losing a foot against Brighton. Gabriel was really poor in both of those games.
4) Oleksandr Zinchenko
A winner in the sense that he was at Manchester City when they were winning stuff, much like Scott Carson. Zinchenko never started more than 15 Premier League games in any of his seasons at Manchester City, which ironically is the same number of games away from the end of this Premier League season that he was “tooting his horn“.
The left-back cried on the bench having been nutmegged by Trent Alexander-Arnold before having a shocker in the 3-3 draw with Southampton, clearly failing to heed the advice he gave his teammates in the team huddle.
3) Bukayo Saka
We’re so sorry Bukayo, we love you but the numbers don’t look great. The loveliest man in football was for a while vying for the Player of the Year gong, becoming the first player to reach double figures for goals and assists in the Premier League this season after his two goals and an assist against Crystal Palace in mid-March.
But those hopes have now gone after just one further goal and assist, both against Southampton, in the eight games since, with Erling Haaland seemingly absorbing the England international’s excellence to make himself stronger. Expecto Patronum, you footballing Dementor.
2) Aaron Ramsdale
The second best team in the Premier League probably shouldn’t have the 14th best goalkeeper, and his form of late has seen him steadily drop down the list. He conceded three from an xG of 1.8 against Brighton and the saves he should make but isn’t now seem to outweigh the outrageous ones he was pulling off at the start of the campaign.
1) Thomas Partey
Any claims Partey had been rested rather than dropped after he was torn a new one by De Bruyne against Manchester City have since been rubbished with the 29-year-old starting on the bench in Arsenal’s last three games, coming on to look immediately knackered. He looks as though he’s aged about four years in the space of three months.
For a long while it was thought Rice would be signed to play alongside Partey, but Mikel Arteta is now said to have funds for Rice and Moises Caicedo, and that decision has coincided with the Ghanaian’s alarming drop in form. Having been key to an Arsenal title charge for much of this season, Partey may well need to be replaced if they’re to go again next season.