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A History of “Bottling It” & Whether These Teams Did That


A History of “Bottling It” & Whether These Teams Did That

In football, the term “bottling it” is frequently used among football fans, particularly to mock their rivals' failures and shortcomings. A team has “bottled it” when they’ve thrown away a big lead or a win when on the front foot or losing the leading position in a spectacular or ridiculous manner.

With Arsenal’s potential capitulation in the Premier League title race, The Gunners are facing allegations that they’ve bottled the league. Is this true? And what are other examples of “bottling it”?

Arsenal: Premier League - 2022/23

Admittedly, any team forced to go up against the force of nature that is Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team is doomed to a potential bottling of the league.

The 3 - 0 loss to Brighton put the nail in the coffin for Arsenal’s title chances, letting their once eight-point lead go and allowing City to take the top spot with a four-point lead and another game in hand. But how did it happen?

The away trip to Anfield has always been a hard ask for Arsenal but Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus had given The Gunners a commanding 2 - 0 lead before the 30-minute mark. Mohamed Salah managed to claw one back before half time before Roberto Firmino caused a share of the points with his equaliser in the 87th minute. This throw away of the lead was the start of a run of games that would ultimately throw away Arsenal’s eight-point lead.

Another 2 - 0 lead was overturned at West Ham and Mikel Arteta’s men managed to grab a 90th-minute equaliser in the 3 - 3 draw with Southampton. Following this came the real test of Arsenal’s wills, as a trip to the Etihad was due. However, Arsenal were no match for City. Goals from Kevin de Bruyne, John Stones and Erling Haaland gave City a 4 - 1 win.

This run as well as the insane form City was in gave City the lead in the league. City and Arsenal were on the same par attacking-wise, with City scoring 39 goals since the 1st of February to Arsenal’s 38, but defence is where the differences become apparent. City conceded 11 goals since February 1st whereas Arsenal have conceded 26, collecting just 31 points from 17 games compared to City’s 40 points from 15 games.

It’s hard to pinpoint whether this is truly Arsenal bottling the league or whether City is too overpowered and their success was just inevitable. Guardiola’s side is a stacked roster with years of experience in winning whereas Arsenal are a young team with time ahead of them, meaning this season may just not have been theirs.

Tottenham Hotspur: Premier League - 2015/16

Tottenham’s 2015/16 season could’ve been an iconic one in their storied history, but instead birthed another footballing term. “Spursy” refers to throwing a lead away as well, but mainly refers to how Tottenham happen to do this regularly.

However, their most egregious example of being “Spursy” is the 2015/16 season where Tottenham finished third in a two-horse race. The title race between Leicester and Tottenham was close all season with the race seemingly being between the two clubs, until two important fixtures.

The “Battle of the Bridge” between Chelsea and Tottenham was one of the roughest matches without a red card with Chelsea fighting back to a 2 - 2 draw making Tottenham mathematically unable to win the league. The final nail in the coffin however, was the 5 - 1 loss to Newcastle - who had already been relegated - on the final day of the season. This allowed Arsenal to leapfrog Tottenham for second place and retained bragging rights in North London.

Barcelona: Champions League - 2018/19

Barcelona drew Liverpool in the Semi-finals of the 2018/19 Champions League completely unaware of what was to come. The first leg was routine for Barcelona, a goal from Luis Suarez and a brace from talisman Lionel Messi put the Spanish team in the driving seat going into the second leg.

However, an extraordinary set of events would occur. The second leg at Anfield would stun Barcelona as braces from Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum gave the Reds the lead to win 4 - 3 on aggregate.

The comfortable lead going into the second leg more than qualifies this capitulation that has become all too common for Barcelona in Europe as a “bottling”.

If it was any consolation to The Blaugrana, that Liverpool team did go on to win the entire competition that season with a 2 - 0 win over Tottenham in the Final, though Barcelona would’ve probably preferred their chances against Spurs.