Arsenal have bottled it. But no one will remember this sterile, dull Man City…

Editor F365
Haaland Man City

The Mailbox reacts to Manchester City tucking up Arsenal, with one Gooner breaking ranks to admit that, yes, they have bottled the title race. Also: Frank James Lampard OBE.

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Dull City
Not looking forward to all those city fans taking the piss tomorrow at work. Oh sorry scrap that, actually, I’ve never met one.

I’ll look back on this Arsenal season fondly. I assume more generous fans of other clubs will admire Arsenal in the way I have of Liverpool in these past seasons.

City’s sterile domination will continue to bore everyone senseless and rot the league from the top down. Empty, vacuous and unendingly dull.

Football should be chaos that gives you hope, City are relentless order that sucks your soul dry. What could be worse?

The media doesn’t know how to cover this team, they can’t keep talking about the money but that is literally all there is fuelling this. City is a team that has everything on the pitch and it’s unstoppable. But is also completely devoid of anything that makes football worth watching.

Remember city fans; nobody cares.
A tired, bored, Arsenal fan


…In response to Lee, his first point basically shoots himself in the foot when trying to justify Man City being great (without using money to justify it) . He says Pep doesn’t get credit for being decisive and “gets rid” of players. And Saint Jurgen is too faithful.

Pity other clubs can’t just keep chopping and changing players for millions each year when they don’t fit. Sometimes clubs have to stick and be faithful. If a club makes a mistake with a player, they might have to stay faithful and try make the most of the player that they can. If Man city make a mistake they will just buy another player in the next window for millions and the other quite good player will just add to their massive squad of players. Man City don’t have to be faithful because they have bags of money that faith means nothing to them.
Seems fair to me…

Ps. Nobody will remember the Man City era like any other clubs who win trophies in a couple of seasons in a row because most people believe Man City are cheating. Nothing anyone can do but at least most people will always have an ** alongside any trophy they or PSG win. Because it’s all fake.
Chris, Espanola


Bottled it
I’m going to try to make this as quick as possible.

We definitely botched this. It’s not the results in isolation – statistically and probabilistically speaking if you take the last 2 months in total (i.e. including the last 3 results) we likely did about as well as we could have hoped. If winning 7 and drawing 3 of 10 matches after a result that left you 2nd on GD is a slip in a title race then goddamn this City side is truly a machine. Just thinking about it in those terms – yes, this Pep City side might be better than either of the two dominant SAF squads of the 90s or the later oughties/early 10s.

My problem is how we lost those points. In an era where sports analysis and consumption have been particularly driven by quantitative analyses (e.g. the rise of advanced analytics in the last 20 years), we tend to lose sight of the good old-fashioned “eye-test” where an emphasis on the qualitative aspect reigns supreme.

You can’t drop points to an 87th-minute equalizer (it being Bobby Firmino was somehow a particularly bad omen IMO); an equalizer coming mere minutes after the Starboy of a country missed his first pen for club after making every single one previously against the traditional top 4 since that tragic Euros defeat for country and against a relegation-threatened West Ham at that; and then a totally random masterclass (relatively speaking) from the team bottom of the table (for the second time in this year including Everton). It was clearly leading to this.

That being said – detractors like Stewie will say “same old Arsenal” – and, again, Stewie is never totally wrong, his overarching points are just filled with bias and old tropes at the expense of analyzing the current situation, and for all those saying it was our only chance this year, that we’ll have it harder next year to stay at this level and we need to worry about other squads somehow not only closing the clear gap but surpassing us? Yeah, good luck.

This squad is far more advance than our non-City competitors and it will take some turnaround from Todd Boehly, a massive undertaking at Spurs and some squad/wage restructuring from Man U (I promise you guys that having Varane/Casemiro/plus a striker to yet be bought be the core of your spine will not age well; literally, and it will start to show next season) in order to overtake us.

Gooners should be proud. Yes, we did our myopic best to call this capitulation from the beginning of the season and may have created our own reality. But the reality already was we were competing with a team not just with far better access to resources but also already better-established assets than we had. That is a tough combo to overtake.
MAW, LA Gooner (What if Saliba doesn’t get injured though…alas)


…It’s half time and we’re 2 down. Could conceivably be 4 or 5 down. Haven’t laid a glove on City and are getting thoroughly bitch slapped.

Arteta has done a lot correctly this season but his tactical naivety tonight has already cost us. With this set up, in three successive games, we’ve conceded 7 goals and have looked disorganised and defensively hugely vulnerable. So to go to the best attacking team in the world, in a match which is ostensibly for the title, with the same set up meaning the weaknesses (Holding; Partey horribly out of form; Xhaka suffering; Zinchenko not being a orthodox left back) are horrendously exposed, was a bad call. And it was obviously a bad call before the game kicked off. This should have been a game to have some humility: aim to frustrate City for as long as possible and see how it pans out. But no, ego wins the day but seemingly loses the match.

Big half time. Be interesting to see what he does as an absolute pummelling will do a lot more damage and we could end up a very distant second, if not, whisper it, third….


Read more: 16 Conclusions on Man City 4-1 Arsenal: De Bruyne and Haaland run riot as Gunners fold

Here’s Stewie
A confession: before last night’s match, I placed a modest bet on Citeh to win 4-1. Made the same bet on a Whatsapp group also and cleaned up. I’m not claiming to be some clairvoyant, it was literally common sense: an Arsenal team that defends so abysmally, that they can concede Three goals at home to Southampton and Walcott, HAS to concede at the very least, 4 in an away game at Etihad. Citeh will always lose interest when they’re coasting, so they’re duty-bound to give Arsenal the customary consolation. 4-1 was an obvious scoreline

I am not paid millions of pounds to scout and recruit players, but many months before this game I wrote in to 365 and questioned Edu and Arteta’s January window, to much scorn and derision. My main criticism was that the defensive fragility had not been addressed, at all. The club knew that defensive midfield and CB protection was needed, but nothing happened. And in the biggest game of the season, Jorginho and Trossard weren’t trusted. But the main, obvious call I made was to question why Rob Holding was still an Arsenal player. There is literally Zero excuse for Holding remaining at Arsenal after that absolutely disastrous shitshow at Spurs to cost Arsenal Top 4 last season. It was as brainless and inept a display you could ever see. One of the great things about Pep is his ruthless ability to spot weakness and eradicate it. Holding, since coming into the team, has been part of an otherwise-solid Arsenal defence that has conceded 11 goals in 4 matches. Holding set the tone for Arsenal’s thrashing with his comical “defending” on Haaland. Seriously, you either foul the man and grab his shirt, or you get goalside and win the long header. 7 year-olds are taught this. Holding, STILL has not learned.

Speaking of Holding, is it any surprise that it is the last remnants of Arsene Wenger’s weak mentality that have come to haunt Arsenal? As I said as far back as 2010, until a Complete and total de-Wengerification of Arsenal FC takes place, you can forget this club ever shedding the tag of “bottlers”. As good a season he’s had, that must also include Xhaka, who must be upgraded.

Arteta generally, has had a good season. I have to go in hard on many sections of the Arsenal fanbase. Back in the heady days of 2006, I wrote in to 365 suggesting Wenger ought to be sacked because I could not fathom how, CL final or not, a season where the club wins nothing and is humiliated serially in the league, 20+ points off top…was acceptable for a “big c

lub”. Guess what? Here we are in 2023, and Arsenal fans are literally writing in to 365, almost 20 years without a sniff of a league title, to claim “I am happy with 2nd place”. This is literally a reprisal of the infamous Wenger “I would take 2nd place for the next twenty years”. Wenger’s thinking (swallowed whole by his army of Pyongyang acolytes) wad that “you cannot compete with oil money”. And Arsenal fans have been telling themselves this bollocks mantra ever since. It is almost impressive in its Trumpesque brainwashing capacity to accept facts: Arsenal fans have seen Leicester win a league title, Liverpool win a league title, etc – but will definitely try and convince you that this season “has been a success because nobody predicted us to finish top 15” (a variation of this).

Arsenal fans will choose to see this season as they wish but given the events of the last few weeks, an impartial mind would say that overall, given the position Arsenal found themselves in, they have failed. Of course, the failure is relative….but the problem is that the bar has been set so low, for so long at Arsenal. Liverpool fans saw their team finish a season with 97 points (more than the Invincibles) and were disgusted to finish runners-up to a Citeh team that has more wealth. Sure, some made excuses – but one thing I didn’t see, was the majority of them pretending that runner-up and 97 points was “a success”. A lot of Arsenal fans are forever redefining the definition of success and, until the club develops standards, the league title wait will last 50 years.

Arteta to be fair to him has done a lot to improve standards and expectations – but the fans have their part to play and many of them, overindulge the club. Let’s not bullshit here: the last few weeks of performance has been unacceptable. Arsenal have 100% choke. The shame is not losing at Citeh (although the ridiculous ineptitude of the defeat is another thing) – the shame is to crumble to the extent that come business end, the players are so petrified they are making Theo Walcott look like Ronaldinho. It is a weak mentality and as I said yonks ago, that weak mentality is passed from fans to the club.

There is no other way of explaining a fanbase that can see the unique position Arsenal found themselves in this season, with a January window to reinforce and boost essential areas…and with the money etc…for fans to see the club fall short, and then choke in the easiest of fixtures – and legislate for that? That is a lack of standards. Arsenal Never fail. Last season the Top 4 bottle-job wasn’t failure, it was “we weren’t expected to finish top 6”.

This season “not expected to win it”. What will it be next season? Oh yes. Oil money. Yes because it was oil money that means Ramsdale cannot save simple shots a kid would, that means you are conceding 3 at home to Saints, that means that Moyes’ abysmal West Ham side who were tonked 5-1 at home, gave you a chasing. Etc etc etc. Endless excuses for failure. It is the legacy of Arsene Wenger: a Specialist in Failure. Unfortunately, that ability to be contented with “relative failure” is the reason we will see Liverpool, Chelski, ManYoo or God Forbid, Newcastle; win a PL title before Arsenal next win one.

Anyhow. See you same place next year when the latest Arsenal fan excuse will be updated to “nobody expected us to be top 6 given Newcastle’s spending” – which will change to “it is a blessing in disguise to go out of the CL early so we can concentrate on the PL”, which will subsequently be updated to “I think we are at a disadvantage playing only one game a week because we lose rhythm. It isn’t fair, Citeh are always in 3 competitions come the business end”. Etc etc. Copy-pasting them here so just delete as appropriate for next season. Have a great summer all!
Stewie Griffin (Not even enjoying the vindication, it is just plain SAD at this point!)


Natural order
So. The better team won. The better team that has been racking up titles for half a decade or more won. The team that has experienced players with more titles than a royal won. The most expensively assembled team in football history won. The team with the best manager won. The team with the best players won.

This is not shocking. It’s not surprising. It’s not bottling no matter the hysterical reaction of some. It’s the balance of probability falling on the most obvious outcome.

Arsenal are the second best team in this league. I’m proud of that. Because plenty didn’t give us a hope of being fifth. We’re also the youngest team in this league. And yeah, it looked like men against boys out there at times tonight. Because it was. Thing is though. Boys grow up. We’ll be around for a few years more. We’re in a better position than most, all really, bar the state owned clubs. I’ll take that. And if you wouldn’t, well, it’ll be a long slog watching football for you.


…Ok, so the inevitable has happened. We asked Arsenal to be absolutely perfect in the title race and absolutely perfect in the matches v City. Arsenal were nearly perfect in the title race but sadly far from perfect in the games v City, whilst City were superb in both games v Arsenal. Arsenal with an U25 team who everyone thought would struggle to make top 4 or even top 6 have proven to be note quite perfect to win the league (probably). The fans will still be incredibly proud of what the team has done this season, and as a small aside the results in other games meant Arsenal did secure Champions League football for next season.

If you sit off City they can kill you with 1000 passes, if you press them they have the ability to pass it round you or even if you get your press nearly perfect they have the get out of jail ball long to Haaland who along with De Bruyne can kill you on a direct counter attack. Then if you do manage to get a counter attack of your own, Pep is now playing a back 4 that pretty much stays as a back 4 so you rarely get the numerical advantage.

Ultimately as everyone knew Arsenal needed our best 11 to stay fit all season, there just isn’t the depth and quality in the squad. We’ve missed Jesus for 3 months and badly, badly missed Saliba in this run in. The injury list had to be perfect and it wasn’t quite.
Arteta got it wrong tonight for me. I think it was obvious City would play long in to Haaland, they did it in both the other games we played them this season, he had to put more protection in front of the back 4 to win those 2nd balls.

So anyone writing in saying ‘I told you so’ really needs to have a word with yourself, predicting City would win this title isn’t anything to brag about. I understand football is very tribal but the support and joy for City winning the title is odd. In France do fans of teams not competing for the title want PSG to always win it, the same in Germany for Bayern? These teams are generally despised in their leagues by everyone because its not a level playing field.

You need to be perfect to win this league and perfect to beat City to the title, Arsenal haven’t been perfect and people can use that as a stick to beat them with but lets also remember the elephant in the room of the 100+ charges against this super team for essentially cheating their way to where they currently are. That is what you’re competing against. Absolutely fair play for Liverpool managing to do it for 1 unbelievable season where City only managed 82 points. It does need to be asked what the Premier League are going to do about this? Keep letting City hoover up all the titles until the case is heard? And when the case is heard it really is a seismic moment for the league, fail to make the charges stick and we may as well all pack up and go home as it is free reign for anyone to just spend an entire countries wealth on winning trophies. Make the charges stick but fail to produce an appropriate punishment then again we might as well pack up and go home.
Rich, AFC


All of your fawning articles tell a story.

Why lament the unfairness of the youngest team in the league who play brave, attacking football missing out on winning their club’s first league title in 20 years? Instead let’s be in awe of the relentless, oil-funded, annual march towards total league domination as if it’s something to be admired.

I’m intrigued how this editorial stance will play out in light of a) punishment for over 100 breaches of PL rules or b) The authorities brush everything under the rug and City continue to hoover up trophies against a sporadic veneer of competition.
James Outram, Wirral


Make mine a Treble
After last nights mauling of Arsenal I find myself getting excited by the prospect of winning the famous treble!!

De Bruyne and Haaland might just be the most lethal combination we’ve ever seen in the Premier League years! I feel like this is the most tactically versatile I’ve seen Pep be since coming to City. They can go short and still and suffocate teams with possession, or they can completely change the plan and go direct. So hard to stop when we’re in this kind of form and when there is multiple effective tactical options I just don’t see (outside of a really off day) who beats City right now.

Real Madrid is obviously the hardest test remaining for City this season, but I saw Chelsea (even this shell of a Chelsea team) carve open good opportunities against them. Gives me confidence that Haaland and co can really put them to the sword. I’m sure this last statement will age like warm milk come May 9th, but I’m daring to dream of that first Champions League.

The FA Cup final will be special as it’s a Manchester derby, and that could give Utd more impetus to come out and play as well as they can do under ETH, but I’d still fully expect City to win that game based off both teams current form.

Finally, Arsenal are a hell of a team, but a young one. If they do finish second to City this season I’d still consider it a good season for a team with the lowest average age in the league. Nobody really expected them to be up there fighting for the title, so to potentially finish the season with 90+ points is phenomenal. I fully expect them to be up near the top again next season. If this is a team of “bottlers” then so are Liverpool as they’ve also lost a title to the City juggernaut.
Jack (a cautiously optimistic City fan)


…It’s 3-0 at the 70th minute, the result is clear although the scoreline might change. I just wanted to call out how unbelievable this City team is. The work rate, the press, the technical ability, the tactics. We arent great tonight but they are making us look abysmal by simply being incredible without even going to top gear. With Haaland, they are quite literally the perfect team with too much ability and too many options. They should go on and win the treble and should be dissapointed if they don’t.

Rodri and De Bruyne (MoM) absolutely running the show, bossing Partey and Xhaka. Akanji has Saka in his back pocket. So many impressive performances.

The sheer level of this team is United Treble, Arsenal Incincible and Barca Prime levels. Amazing to watch, hate that we are the ones to suffer them this season.

As for us, we’ll be back next year. We are young and we are very good, excited to see what comes next.
Rob A (Akanji signing of the season?) AFC


Still not the greatest
Lee asks the question “Is Pep Guardiola the greatest PL manager ever?” and I wouldn’t normally feed the troll, but when he states that “Fergie tapped out” when Jose arrived, I do feel I have to respond as Lee completely ignores the fact that Fergie won FIVE titles after Mourinho arrived to the PL. (and a CL for good measure).

And to answer your question Lee: No. Pep is a great manager and his team might be more dominant, but you can only beat what’s in front of you, and to become the greatest PL manager, Pep has to win 13 titles. Simple as that.
Kim Johannesen (Are brackets still a thing?)


…I read Lee’s fawning over Pep and even though he made some valid points about Pep’s strengths one of his points was plain ridiculous “when Jose added a third challenger Fergie tapped out.”

Fergie not only won a title during Mourinho’s first reign at Chelsea, he won another 4 titles after that. Pep hasn’t even won 5 titles yet, Fergie won 13. Mourinho was an immovable object when he first joined Chelsea but Fergie proved he is the best PL manager of all time and still is by learning how to move him.

I guess Lee has to look up what tapping out really means as Fergie winning more titles than any other manager in PL history after he allegedly “tapped out” is quite impressive.
William, Leicester


Good old Arsenal
City fan here. Despite the ridiculous media hype, this was never a ‘title-decider.’ There are simply too many games to go with all that entails. Injuries, cards and so forth.

What you had, was the difference between a team that has experience of winning and one that doesn’t. But this is surely a very young Arsenal side gaining such experience. They’ve been top of the PL for a reason. Because they’ve been better than every other team for, pretty much, the whole season. They have been excellent.

Oh, and can I ask If ‘Andrew Gooner abroad’ has ever lived in England?

I ask as, a Gorton-born Manchester lad, I‘ve been in London for 30+ years and, in all those years have been constantly amazed at the number of the locals wearing both United and Liverpool shirts. Trust me when I tell you that very few had any kind of Northern accent. Quite the reverse.

I wonder why? Possibly their great, great, great uncles or aunts once got a train into, or through, the City of Manchester or Liverpool. Because it couldn’t possibly be the case that they grew up in the 80s (’Pool) or the 90s (Utd) and decided to follow the team that, at the time, were top dogs and winning everything? Well, of course not. Perish the thought.

The exception, for me, would be the Irish fans because of the huge Irish communities in both Merseyside and Manchester.

Thing is though, what I’m seeing with my fellow London parents is their kids’ insistence on buying Manchester City kits regardless of what their (mostly) London-club supporting dads would like.

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


And btw, if you don’t understand the distinction between the City of Manchester and the City of Salford, then the likes of ‘Andrew’ just prove my point.
Mark (Manchester City. ‘Bought’ the league (again) but those plucky underdogs Wrexham didn’t.) MCFC.

Lampard Chelsea

Once you pop
In my letter you published just last week, I suggested replacing Frank with either a hamster or packet of pringles for the remainder of the season, seems I wasn’t wrong.

Frank essentially picked the same team and formation he did against Real Madrid – very similar opposition to Brentford of course – picking the least attacking team possible to solve the problem that the team can’t score any goals – and were at home.

Frank then finally brought on two players with goal scoring potential at half time and still managed to illicit absolutely diddly squat.

I maintain that either the hamster or the packet of pringles would have had at least Mudryk on from the start, not played Kante at No10 and may have also considered blooding some youngsters ahead of next season.

But not Frank. Outthought by a hamster and a popular snack.

For the love of God, get him out of there.
Steve McBain, Singapore


…I genuinely want to know what reasons deluded Chelsea fans have as to why Lampard should stay in charge beyond this game.

A complete failure of a football manager. The worst manager Chelsea have had in living memory. It makes me sick to see him stay in the dug out while Potter received disgusting levels of hate for doing an objectively much better job.

Whatever club hires him next needs their hierarchy severally examined.
Will CFC (Not sure what’s worse, Boehly or the sycophantic Lampard apologists)


…Cmon, 5 defeats out of 5 means he has to be sacked, doesn’t it? Atleast levy doesn’t muck around when defeats are omnipresent…
Nitz (which club has sacked 5 managers in 1season-are we on to a new record here?)


…If I had a chance to go back to a job I was sacked at, would I go back and do my upmost to trash the place? Damn right!
Sarn Smith