Bottled it? B*llocks they have. The Premier League should be thanking Arsenal…

Editor F365
Martin Odegaard drinks from an Arsenal bottle during the defeat to Brighton.

The Mailbox is almost unanimous in crediting Arsenal for pushing football’s Lance Armstrong so far. Also: No Nagelsmann, no problem for Spurs; and a ‘told you so’ over Trent.

Get your views in to


Bottle bullsh*t
Honestly, after such an exciting season, who gives a flying f**k whether Arsenal bottled it or not. Some of you really need to get a life. Or get a better understanding of what life is about. The Premier League this season was bloody majestic. Great games, great stories, such a rollercoaster of emotions for pretty much every team from first to last. This is why we love football, for the thrill, the promise, the feeling of being f**king alive. You enjoy it while it lasts because it won’t always last.

Imagine being a miserable git like Stewie Griffin and getting precisely no joy out of football for over a decade (I’ve been reading his nonsense for 10 years now). What a sad existence.

Sharing opinions and talking about sport is part of what makes it enjoyable. But if we can’t take a breath and simply appreciate the talent, skill and high-level competition on display, then what the f**k are we doing here? If you can’t UNDERSTAND the joy of that Reiss Nelson thunderbastard, maybe you just don’t like sport? The HUMAN element of sport.

On some level I feel sorry for the the tribalists and edge-lord cynics who can’t enjoy what’s in front of them without constructing a fictitious “enemy” to argue against. Honestly, imagine FOLLOWING football, but not actually enjoying WATCHING the game. Seems like a waste of a life to me.

This was a great season with some f**king amazing football matches. A great effort by Arsenal. Amazing seasons by Brighton, Brentford, Aston Villa and Fulham. The quality of some of these “mid-table” teams is miles ahead of many “top-six” teams of the 2000s. Next year I hope for more of the same. Only one team can win it and unfortunately 3 have to leave us.
André E


…I really hate the term ‘bottling’. Not necessarily because I have anything against the word, but because it has become so overused. Any team that loses a title, cup final, match etc. is accused of bottling it, rather than just losing.

The Liverpool team in 13/14 is the prime example. It’s been said many times before, but in their last 14 games, that team won 12, drew 1 and lost 1. No one predicted them to win the league before the season began. In February they were 8 points behind leaders Arsenal, only 2 points ahead of Everton. They were closer to Moyes’s Man United than they were to the title. And yet, because of one match, against Champions League semi-finalists and 3rd place finishers Chelsea, they “bottled it”.

It is of course, an absurd notion and one only held by the most myopic fans who are unable to engage in a rational conversation about football. Compare that to Arsenal. 2-0 up against Liverpool. Drew. 2-0 up against West Ham. Drew. Playing at home to bottom team Southampton. Drew. Then lost 3-0 to Brighton at home. They’re currently 12th in the form table. That being said, I still agree with the fans saying they didn’t bottle it. Rather, they are a team that was punching slightly above their weight, and not helped by injuries, have just run of steam.

If we’re saying though that Arsenal didn’t bottle it and Liverpool didn’t bottle it, then who has? What does it even mean? How far ahead do you have to be and in what context do you have to lose points for it to be described as a bottle job? Not a rhetorical question, interested to hear what people think.
Mike, LFC, London


…Absolutist thinking is the best isn’t it? No it’s awful, fair enough, must be one or the other obviously as must everything in this crazy game we call football.

Arsenal must either be bottlers who have thrown away their one shot of winning the premier league this generation due to an outstanding concordance of circumstances, luck and fate or they have outperformed all expectations and even in leading the league until April could under no circumstances be expected to have maintained that form for the last 2 months of the season, that’s clearly impossible and anyone who suggests otherwise is a bitter twisted hater, fact.

As a Liverpool fan this absolutist, immature, biased, reductive, uninformed, one eyed, form of commentary has been utterly infuriating the past few years, and I’m sure for most sane Arsenal fans it is also.

The truth is Arsenal performed beyond expectations this year and deserve enormous credit for that. And due to their excellent management team, squad, age profile and record of signing and developing players again there is a good chance they will maintain this current high standard for the next few seasons.

However they also threw away a great chance to win the league this year. Conceding a two goal lead to Liverpool was a flesh wound and one that a league winning side would have bounced back and recovered from. Arsenal went on to draw the next two games to West Ham and Southampton and then pitifully surrender to Man City. Title challenge over.

Due to the competitive nature of the premier league, Man City’s dominance, a resurgent Liverpool and promising signs at United and Newcastle, Chelsea getting Pochettino on bird and Brighton as a new rising power, it would be naive to assume Arsenal will end up with as good a chance again in the coming years. They might, but it’s far from guaranteed.

For me Arsenal should be commended for the season they have had, but just like Rory McIlroy blowing his first masters, you just don’t know when the chance will come again but also and more importantly like Rory will this arsenal team continue to buckle when the pressure comes on and shine again as soon as the chance of winning has gone, see those commentators praising Arsenals character after winning at Newcastle, give me a break.
Dave LFC

Read more: Wright slams two players who cost Arsenal their title chance; Neville claims Gunners struggled ‘mentally’


Arsenal’s only chance?
In response to Vinny and our ever positive Arsenal fan Stewie, here are some counter points:-

What evidence is there that this is our ‘only’ chance to win the title? This is a young side (the youngest in the league) and is only going to get better, especially if we can add well in the summer. Chelsea are a mess, Spurs are Spurs, I’m not sure Howe is good enough to make Newcastle title challengers, and Utd and Liverpool both have work to do. No reason not to be positive

Everything going in our favour? Aside from, you know, key injuries and some very odd referee decisions. Has anyone else had an apology from PGMOL for the VAR mistake that cost us two points? (Brentford at home), I’m sure there are lots of others. We had two of our best defenders out for long periods as well as our best striker for 3 months

We lost our best central defender (Saliba), our back up RB/CB (Tomy) and Zinchenko for long periods this season. How many injuries have City had? I agree we need to upgrade Holding and Kiwior is still raw but most sides would struggle with those players out

Stewie, Brighton have a different model from us. We can’t go an sign 10 £1m players from South America as we cannot guarantee them the gametime – because we need established players to challenge. They can take chances on unknown players because they know they are good enough to stay up regardless. It is silly trying to compare.

You cannot deny Jesus was a good a signing. His finishing isn’t elite but it never has been. Arteta has a very specific pattern of play which he fits into. I would suggest you look at Saka, Martinelli and Ode’s goal output this season compared to the previous season. The change isn’t a co-incidence.
Tom, London, positive Gooner


…When the nonsense settles on Arsenal’s ‘bottle job’ the reality will tell – this was the 2nd youngest squad in the league, paying the 6th highest salary bill taking the best team, with the best coach, the most money and the deepest, most experienced squad, who added a 50 goal a year striker, nearly all the way.

At the same time, our rivals, so keen to crow, threw away another year of their aging superstars thrashing around in mid-table and ultimate forgettableness.

City will lose De Bruyne, Gundogan, Walker in the coming seasons and maybe even Pep too might look for a different challenge (if the Prem actually throw the book at City, he might even take the opportunity to waltz into the sunset with a treble).

Arsenal have most of their young, hungry, developing squad and manager locked down, a chip on the shoulder and an emerging track record of transfer success.

The idea that this was our ‘best chance’ is nonsense – quite the opposite, this was us outperforming our means – we will get better and there’s no guarantees anyone else can say the same with the same certainty.
Tom, Walthamstow


…How can Stewie Griffin write such an apt letter in response to the booing/monarchy issue and then fall so flat and tone-deaf on the subject of Arsenal? It’s something we’ve come to expect but never fails to take the breath away and illicit a long sigh.

I am not an Arsenal fan, but I love what this iteration tried to do this year. City is a juggernaut – a financially doped juggernaut – where that impacts so many areas that can’t be swatted away with the whiff of an arm. Yes, they are well run, but remember, they attracted the best because they are so financially strong; those that came over knew they were onto a winner – including Pep and Tixi.

Contrary to the idea City make fewer buying mistakes, the reality is that 1) they have made many –look at the defensive side of City, 2) they have the funds to recover from all their buying mistakes, unlike others, 3) always being in the CL and a likely EPL winner every year is an attractive option for most players and, 4) Pep himself is a draw card, and it will take a while before Arteta becomes that kind of draw – but it will happen. Was there any question, for example, if Haaland was going to City? Meanwhile, Jesus was the glue that brought this team together during the early part of the season, pushed Arsenal out front, and dropped off in intensity when he was out, just as Firmino was the key cog in Liverpool’s machine-like team.

The reality is that City has the depth of the squad because of their financial muscle, so they can stay strong through the entire season and end well. It’s sad but almost inevitable that Arenal would find it hard going into the run-in. But it is a young team and will get better. Of course, is there any question City will get stronger, replacing any weaker, older or out-of-contract players from the top of the tree?

Meanwhile, Brighton is the flavour of the week. Unfortunately, teams that get the stamp of approval for being the best run – for performing above their ‘weight’ – eventually become a cropper. Look at Southampton. The pressure to play at a slightly higher level eventually causes a breach in their ‘well-run protocols’, and they fail. Their ability to find inexpensive and ‘hidden’ talent becomes something others use. All the mid-table-ing teams blow up trying to jump the shark at some point. It all comes to a head before they can jump to a higher level – without an influx of funds a la Newcastle. And therein lies the rub.
Paul McDevitt


The stars aligned for Arsenal to win the league? This is another 90+ point season for Guardiola’s City – did the stars align for Liverpool to win the league in 2018, 2019 and 2022? A City side that can afford to have Stones, de Bruyne, Grealish, Silva and Phillips (£300 million in transfer fees!!) all on the bench against Everton, and City’s wage bill is double that of Arsenal’s. Finishing 2nd to a 90+ point Guardiola side which has spent 1.3 billion pounds on transfer fees alone in the last 8 years (not to mention the over-100 financial charges that are alleged…) is not bottling. In fact, this is Arteta’s 3rd full season at Arsenal and he has finished 8th, 5th and now (almost certainly) 2nd. That is remarkable progress that is impossible to refute.

Also, “no injuries?” It’s not like Arsenal were injury-ravaged, but significant injury spells to Tomiyasu, Saliba, Tierney, Zinchenko and Jesus (3 first-teamers and the 2 first-choice defensive reserves) is not insignificant, especially when Tomiyasu’s and Saliba’s injuries led to the wheels falling off with 3 draws and a loss in 4 games. Unlike City, the squad depth is not quite there at the moment to have an outstanding amount of £50-60 million pound defenders on the bench to call upon. The goal is for the squad depth to get there in the next 12-24 months, which can hopefully start in the upcoming transfer window with Arsenal already being linked with Rice, Caicedo, Zaha and Tielemans. A few sneaky free transfers and a bit more of splashing the cash (face it, it’s been nearly a decade since Leicester won the league, it doesn’t look possible anymore without considerable spending on transfer signings) and I can see Arsenal winning the league in the next 2 seasons. Confident times ahead!
Andrew M, AFC, Australia


…”Arsenal fans will 100% move goalposts from “we are title challengers” mode to “if you’d offered me 5th place at the start of the season I’d have bitten your hand off” – Stewie Griffin back in October to this very mailbox.

Our season wasn’t perfect – ultimately finishing runners up is a tad disappointing. But it’s relative. Fifth to second is a considerable improvement and this fan mentally of having to incredibly elated or severely depressed isn’t just stupid, it’s incredibly unhealthy.

Our players do deserve to be applauded off after the final home game of the season – anything less would be ungrateful. I’m glad we’re not a fanbase full of Stewie’s.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Vinnie taking the Pee
There’s a certain irony about a Liverpool fan mocking Arsenal with the words “You get 1 chance when the planets align – see Leicester, Spurs, Newcastle and if you don’t win it, you have to wait another 20 years.”

I had to double check that Vinnie Pee was a Liverpool fan, so I used a search engine and came upon these pearlers from Vinnie in the mailbox after the FA Cup final last year (remember the final was held before the end of the season) –
“Money wins titles, occasionally, the planets align and a team like Liverpool comes along to disrupt the trophligarchy.

The body of work this Liverpool team is the map for future football text-books”.

Planets aligning again, City winning the league again, but that last sentence is a whopper which grammatically makes no sense but we know the gist of it aged terribly. The map for future football text-books? Dear lord.
Garey Vance, MUFC


Thanks, Arsenal
There has understandably been a lot of talk about how the latter part of the season has played out for Arsenal, with my sense being that close to the majority are ‘glass-half-empty’ in nature in terms of them bottling it in some way. As a neutral, I’d like to offer a more glass half full take on it all.

We should not under-estimate the importance to fans of being in the mix.

This has been the first season for a fair while where Arsenal have had a reasonable chance of taking the title in the run-in and the buzz that gives fans is really important. I remember how I felt back in 2013/14 when a Suarez inspired Liverpool got my lot so close to taking the title, singing away on the terraces at Carrow Road as we somehow held onto a 3-2 away win despite the best efforts of Mignolet … just 3 games to go … could it be !? … argh …

The key point here is that even though it didn’t result in silverware it felt brilliant to be part of the crescendo of the season.

I hope that Arsenal fans are feeling the same way and can compartmentalise their disappointment about how the last cards appear to be playing out.

I see a few interesting parallels between our 2013/14 campaign and Arsenal’s current season.

Both managed by a young manager of minimal prem experience trying to get a youthful team to play attractive football.

Liverpool had the added ingredient of having the footballing brilliance of Suarez to help carry us along, but his predicted departure at the end of that season meant that we kind of knew that we wouldn’t get so close again for a little while.

It’s different for Arsenal – they won’t be a selling club this summer in terms of their top talent and will likely add quality of squad depth before next season – this means that there are far fewer reasons to expect a drop-off next season.

The experience of coming up short will no doubt hurt the younger players but if processed correctly it should thicken their skin and make them more resilient when faced with similar situations further down the line.

Will close by saying a neutrals thank you to Arsenal for keeping a goal-borg inspired Citeh honest in the league this season.

Celebrate the positives … address the negatives.
Sparky, LFC


Not having Nev
I’ve realised that we’re going to all suffer Gary Neville’s dose of ‘I was right all along’….’I always doubted it’ due to his heroic prediction that Man City would chew up Arsenal’s 5 point lead and beat them to the title. Wasn’t that the general thought most people had during the season? – I don’t know many Arsenal fans who thought that wouldn’t eventually happen. Although what most people didn’t think but Gary did was that Man U would comfortably finish above Arsenal in 2nd place. Neville also said last year that he just couldn’t see the strategy Arsenal were employing by filling clear gaps in the squad with mostly U23 players and many who had premier league experience already. Pipe down Gary, you’re like the gambler who brags about his wins but never tells you about the vast losses he racks up. I’d rather listen to Carragher every day of the week.
Rich, AFC


xG matters
Gabriel Jesus scored approx the same amount of goals in 6 years with Man City as Haaland has scored in one…all with basically the same service.

When Arsenal needed goals at the business end of the season, their £50m purchase from Man City came back and missed enough big chances in the drawn games to remove 4 odd points from the equation. It might not have mattered…but we don’t know.

At the other end of the table, Patrick Bamford missed a sitter in the final minutes against fellow strugglers Leicester and then missed a penalty last week that would have put Leeds 2-0 up.

Stats average out, but when it really matters, unfortunately, they tend to count.
Matthew (98 points,101 goals – the long road back, ITFC)


Lancing a boil
Kudos to Andrew M, Streatham for calling Man City “The Lance Armstrong of Football” as never has a more fitting sporting comparison been made. Sadly unlike Lance the authorities will never strip City of all the titles they won with their own special brand of doping. Football must be the most corrupt sport in the world these days…
William, Leicester

Alexander-Arnold on Liverpool

Told you so
Remember when I said trent moving to a creative midfield role would be a good thing and y’all laughed and said I didn’t know what I was talking about because Trent is just a sh*t right back?

Fight me. The stats are stacking up week after week proving I knew what I was talking about.

6 assists 1 goal in 8 games since moving to midfield.


What Spurs need
It’s pleasing to know that Matthew Stead was party to the discussions with Nagelsmann and Levy so he can now fill us all in because surely we’d have to be idiots, based on all the facts, to turn him down… Wait, sorry, you weren’t involved in the discussions Matthew? Oh ok, so your comments are in fact entirely irrelevant.

The club can phrase things however they like and frankly it isn’t even newsworthy. An ill-suited candidate has dropped away, that is all.

We almost certainly will have discussed the role with him. However, (and my sincere hope is) we’ve made the decision not to gamble on yet another maverick. Our club, more than ever, desperately needs stability. Someone steady to walk in and slowly but surely get things in order. From everything I’ve read (except your nonsense) he is not that man. But it’s not as fun to talk about Brendan Rodgers though, is it. Yawn.
Dave (Berkshire Spur)
P.s. If this season could please just end, that would be terrific.


Palace postcard
Didn’t watch Eurovision, but taking inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe never ends well for people.

*Crystal Palace v Bournemouth was a match between two teams with little to play for; Premier League safety is assured so it’s just a matter of pride and the chance to heap more banter on Chelsea by finishing above them.

This game didn’t quite match up to the scarcely believable 5-3 on the final day of 2018-19, from a Palace perspective, was still quite fun. It was another fine example of the latest iteration of Roy Hodgson’s tactics: the Eagles dominated possession, created heaps of chances (17, 5 on target) and in doing so, prevented the Cherries from having any shots on target.

*An injury to Jeffrey Schlupp meant that Will Hughes was included as Hodgson tweaked his formation to a 4-2-3-1, with Hughes alongside Cheick Doucoure in front of the defence and Eberechi Eze as a number ten instead of in a midfield three. Eze still had a fairly free role to move across the field, and was involved in a lot of Palace’s best moves.

*VAR corner: Crystal Palace should have had a penalty for a foul on Wilfried Zaha by Philip Billing. The Bournemouth man somehow managed to kick both of Zaha’s legs after a tangle and if he doesn’t do that, there are players waiting to receive a cross. There would have been little complaint if a penalty had been given.

Then came an incident involving Joachim Andersen and Jefferson Lerma. Lerma is a figure who attracts controversy – and yellow cards, however, he was undoubtedly the victim here. The two were grappling at a corner when Lerma hit the deck. Seeing the replays, and will all benefit of the doubt, Andersen’s main intention appears to be getting free and he attempts a sort of swim move NFL defensive lineman use to try to get to a quarterback. However, there is no denying he catches Lerma flush on the nose with his fist, which is a violent act.

Gary O’Neil pointed out after the match that Lerma had suffered a broken nose, and while I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the injury or suggest O’Neil is exaggerating, it does leave me with questions: I broke my nose when I was 9 years old, it can affect your ability to breathe while it heals, it can affect your vision, and there’s a real chance you’ll all suffer a concussion; if O’Neil was so concerned by the injuries his player suffered, why did he allow him to continue playing the full 90 minutes?

*After this, some moments of beauty. All goals count the same but there is something incredibly pleasing about Palace’s recent habit of scoring in marvellous style. Shortly before halftime, they broke the deadlock with a superb move. Receiving the ball in the penalty area, Zaha twists and turns past two defenders before passing to Jordan Ayew, whose backheeled flick found Eze dead centre and seven yards out, and he curled the ball home to the goalkeeper’s left.

*The fun continued in the second half: Hughes with a volley from the edge of the area and Michael Olise after dribbling past three defenders both looked like efforts to score the goal of the month. Then, just before the hour mark, Olise turned provider with a beautiful cross-field pass that moved the ball from the halfway line on the Palace right to the left edge of the Bournemouth penalty area. Eze takes the ball in stride, dribbles forwards then towards the D, past three defenders (plus one more standing off and one who can’t arrive in time) before firing home, again to the goalkeeper’s left. A special goal from an incredible player.

*It is over-simplistic to link Patrick Vieira’s failings at Selhurst Park with his inability to get the most out of Eze, even if Hodgson’s tactics and results make it seem that way. As far as Eze is concerned, the main difference is that Vieira was trying to make him into the new Conor Gallagher whereas Hodgson, perhaps seeing how that didn’t work, has found a way to let him play as the old Eze.

*This section is sponsored by Invicta 1000 IBU, because I’m from Kent and about to sound incredibly bitter talking about Brighton & Hove. Despite their current form, Palace are destined to never be a neutrals’ favourite all the while they’re in the same league as, and the natural enemies of, the actual neutrals’ favourites, Brighton & Hove. After all, why would people enjoy exciting football, skilful attackers and magnificent goals when they can stroke their chins approvingly at a team who, when they aren’t demanding written apologies over VAR decisions, spend their time collecting cards on the touchline and injuring opponents with snide fouls, like some sort of South Coast Watford?

*Next up for Palace is a trip across London to Fulham for the Osman Brothers derby. I’d expect the Cottagers to take that one, with the Eagles in end of season mode and Marco Silva’s men still in with a chance of besting their previous highest Premier League points total. After that, it’s the final game of the season where they host Nottingham Forest. The Garibaldi Reds might still need something to be safe, but it’s more likely the main thing at stake will be whether or not I, as someone who lives near Nottingham, will be able to leave my house all summer without getting bantered by someone.
Ed Quoththeraven


Man Utd sorted
There is an incredible amount of work to do to prepare Man United’s squad for progression next season. However, it could be possible to completely revamp the squad without spending much money. (Obviously this is a Football Manager-esque approach that would never happen in real life, but a man can dream!)

Firstly a squad clearout. The following players should be sold (ideally for the approximate price suggested)
McTominay – £25 mil
Maguire – £45 mil
Elanga – £20 mil
Brandon Williams – £10 mil
Van De beek – £25 mil?
Mengi – £5 mil
Telles – £10 mil
Bailly – £10 mil
Dean Henderson – £30 mil
Wan Bissaka – £30mil

This would result in approximately £210 million brought in.

Then get rid of players who have no future at the club – release Jones, Tuanzebe and Greenwood.
Promote from the Academy:
Bring back Amad from loan
Promote Alvaro Fernandez into the first team squad
Also include Iqbal and Mainoo in first team squad
Then, purchase the following:

Marcus Thuram – free transfer
Kudus – swap for VDB + 40 mil/straight purchase for £70 mil

Kephram Thuram – looks superb – £35 – 45 mil
Tielemans – free
Rabiot – free
Houssem Aouar – free
If Gravenbach was available for £30 mil that would be worth exploring

Frimpong or Dumfries – £40 mil
Min-jae – £50mil

Total net spend: £20 million or so

Again, obviously this amount of change would never happen in one transfer window and there’s no guarantee that the suggested players would come, but I think there are real bargains to be had, (especially in midfield) to increase the quality of the squad and give real strength in depth.
Jonny, Dundonald