Mikel Arteta in Arsenal training
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta during a training session at London Colney on March 30, 2023 | (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

I’ve been thinking about whether Arsenal really did bottle the title. My Arsenal mind keeps telling me, No, it was a successful season in which we surpassed expectations. But my critical mind insists, “Answer. The. Question. Asked! Nobody has asked about the success of the season; Did Arsenal bottle the title?”

I look for a better word because, like all Arsenal fans, I hate the word ‘bottling.’ So I find ‘Capitulate.’ It means ‘cease to resist an opponent or an unwelcome demand.’ Its synonym is ‘yield.’ Arsenal capitulated and yielded to Man City’s pressure on their own. Yield and capitulate sound a bit better than ‘bottle,’ right, fellow Arsenal fans? But they all have the same meaning.

So, Yes, Arsenal bottled the title.

It’s the hope that kills…

After being so long at the top and playing so well, a tear here and a brawl there are understandable. Sherehekea lakini usiniguze.

But that does not make the season a failure; far from it. We have had one of the best seasons in a long time. The atmosphere at the stadium, quality of play on the pitch, dominance in banter circles. For the first time in quite a while, opponents actually started fearing coming up against us. We had fallen into the abyss of mediocrity. I once said we had become a small team. Now I can confidently say we are crawling out of that hole. For people who are always peddling ‘live every day as if it were your last and enjoy every moment’ narratives to come and tell me that such a season was a failure is totally unacceptable.

I could take the ‘Mlishindwa, wacha kizungu mingi’ banter though!

Moving On…

You are as good as your last game, they say. 

It’s time for new worries and the bigger fish there are to fry. First, the last two games of the season. Arsenal has already sealed second position. Besides ‘we’re still in it mathematically, there really isn’t much motivation to win against Nottingham. Thankfully we play before City this weekend. I bet morale is pretty low in camp. Have you had the experience of putting together a team for the third-place playoff right after losing a semi-final? That must be it at the London Colney right now. But I really hope they can get that ‘finish strongly’ mentality.

Of more significant concern is the upcoming season. Everything gets harder from here. The last few weeks have exposed the frailties we have in multiple positions. I hear Arteta is allowed to break the bank, but is there enough quality available in the market to fill the voids? If there is, will he get his picks right? Remember we got 72 million Euros’ Nicholas Pepe. There are not so many Haalands remaining in the market, yet there are so many suitors looking for them. 

Even if Arteta does the best business, it will be difficult to get back into those top positions. Not just for him but for everyone else. Sometimes that vein of form comes almost out of nowhere. Everyone is brilliant and working hard, but luck just picks you out – just as bad luck sometimes does. In these top leagues, you blink once and you are left in a cloud of dust. See what happened to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man United team after coming second.

Rekindling the Mood

Another difficult thing will be getting the fans behind the team as they have been this term. The recent loss of momentum is like a broken rhythm in lovemaking. It will take more than just another go to bring it to the same level. Some people say that others are plastic or not real fans when they don’t get behind the team. I prefer to think of it as everyone supporting the team in their own way. After the season ends, Arteta outers will have a bolder voice. Those who just joined because of the good run might leave. Some will have doubts, fuelled by the taunts from rival fans that Arteta is not an elite manager. The measured voices will be drowned out. It is a whole uphill task getting the crowd going again. Competitiveness early in the season is key.

Some people predicted that Arsenal would win the league and then do a Leicester. Well, those were just rivals resigned to the possibility of an Arsenal win. They still want a drop, but that won’t happen either. Why? Because the teams and squads are entirely different. 

The Arsenal squad is comparably younger than the winning Foxes. It is also unlikely to disintegrate in a similar fashion. After that title, the likes of Ng’olo Kante and Riyad Mahrez left. The process has continued with the departures of Demarai Gray, Danny Drinkwater, Ben Chillwell, Leonardo Ulloa and Shinji Okazaki. Manager Claudio Ranieri left months after that win. None of this appears likely at Arsenal.

All said and done, football is a beautiful game. It tugs at our heartstrings often, but that is exactly why we love it! If only miracles could happen in the next two weeks!

Oh boy! What a season it has been for Arsenal! I loved it!

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