Arsenal HAVEN'T bottled the Premier League title race, suggesting so completely misses the point
| Last updated
Right, let's just get this out the way shall we? Arsenal have not 'bottled' the Premier League title.
A quick glance at social media would tell you that a side who were not fancied by anyone to achieve anything this season prior to a ball being kicked this season have somehow blown their chance. And you'd be under the impression that Arsenal will never get another chance to be in title contention ever again.
The truth ultimately lies somewhere in between Mikel Arteta's side bottling the league and this being what everyone expected to unfold.
They will reflect on missed opportunities, not least the 3-3 draw to Southampton on Friday night which Arsenal fans will lament as the moment the title slipped away from them. Last night's 4-1 drubbing at the Etihad Stadium had been very much on the cards and at a time when City found their very best level, Arsenal were found out.
City have been here so many times before and that experience told in a brutal fashion last night. They were savvier, far more disciplined and more ruthless than Arsenal - but that should not detract from how close Arteta and his players have run a team of such quality this season.
On the evidence of last night, it would have been bordering on a miracle had Arsenal somehow seen off a team who could go on to be regarded the best this league has ever seen. In Erling Haaland, they have a striker who has blitzed every goalscoring record in sight. In Kevin De Bruyne, they have arguably the best midfielder the Premier League has ever seen and in Pep Guardiola, they have a manager who may yet go down as the best ever. And the elephant in the room remains that they have come up against a club who still have a charge looming owing to around 100 breaches of financial fair play rules. If anything, City not winning the title with a squad of such quality would have been a better description of 'bottling'.
Arsenal's progress this season has been unexpected and while rival fans will relish the opportunity to taunt the Gunners over what looks set to be a trophyless campaign, it hardly speaks volumes for the rest of the league that they are not even in the conversation when it comes to rivalling City for the title.
There was an air of resignation among the Arsenal fanbase ahead of kick-off because they knew what lay in wait. The idea that has also been floated around on social media that all Arsenal fans were confident they would win the league is nonsensical. The modern-day trend is to take one person's viewpoint and make it representative of an entire fanbase and that viewpoint will always tend to be the more controversial one.
Those pundits and fans who wrote off Arsenal's chances of finishing in the top four are now accusing the same group of not taking an opportunity no-one gave them a chance of being anywhere near in the first place. Expectations shift during the course of a season and Arsenal fans will rightly be disappointed that more could not be done in the January transfer window to bolster the squad, that injuries have bitten at key stages of the campaign and that they have timed their worst run of form all season at such a critical juncture.
And yet the reality is this Arsenal team is at the start of a journey that City are already much further along the way on.
They look far better equipped than hapless London rivals Chelsea, despite their endless riches, and a pitiful Tottenham side to continue pushing City and at least make the title race competitive once more. They may not come this close again and may well live to regret what could have been a key moment in Arteta's tenure but there seems to be a consensus that they cannot replicate this season's efforts again, which seems bizarre given the trajectory and age profiles of a number of players in that squad. The likes of Ben White, William Saliba, Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli - all key pillars of this team - will only get better.
It would be naive to suggest they will be City's only challengers, however. Newcastle United will improve again if they secure a top-four finish and Manchester United are probably the great unknown of those clubs likely to finish in the Champions League places, with their potential takeover a significant factor in their continued evolution under Erik ten Hag. Liverpool's potential failure to qualify for Europe's elite competition could cripple them financially.
A lot of the narrative around Arsenal is still ultimately linked to previously-held beliefs. That they have run City so close suggests they are no longer the soft touch they have been rightly described as for so many years.
It's also bizarre to think Arsenal are still top of the table despite the disappointment of last night's defeat. City are red-hot favourites to win all of their remaining games but they still have to do that and for that to be the case heading into the start of May is not a situation many, if any envisaged, at any point of this season.
Last night spoke as much about City's level - and just how good they are - as Arsenal's. They have lost four games all season in the league, no team has lost fewer. Two of those came against City and one against fourth-placed (at time of writing) United. The defeat to Everton was an undisputed black mark and the draws have been most harmful of all, Liverpool's narrow misses in title challenges with City are testament to that.
The red side of Merseyside might be the only fanbase with a degree of sympathy for Arsenal given how close they have run City down the years. The fact they failed to win a title with a 97-point tally is, frankly, absurd.
But that's what City demand of you. The standards and levels they have set require near absolute perfection to surpass and while Arsenal are a blossoming young team full of potential, they have come up against an immovable object. They would have been the youngest-ever team to win the Premier League and while that youthfulness has been integral to their title challenge, it may also prove their undoing when the final standings are in.
The safe bet is that City go on to win multiple Premier League titles in the coming years as they look lightyears ahead of all of their competitors. The treble is eminently possible for them this season to cement their place as the best in Premier League history.
It's why the word 'bottle' feels unfair. An eight-point lead, as it got to at one stage, was probably half of what the Gunners needed to truly press home their advantage over a team who at this stage of the season rack up win after win purely through muscle memory.
They just haven't had quite enough - as everyone expected.