Football: Did Arsenal Choke?

As the dust settles at the top of the Premier League with Manchester City claiming the title after Arsenal’s defeat away at Nottingham Forest, it is important to look at whether or not the Gunners choked.

Many fans have made comments such as, “Man City have the best team, so were expected to win” or “The goal was to get Champions League football for next year,” yet the truth is that they have choked.

Here’s a look at some of the key facts of this season
  • Arsenal led the way for 248 days of the 2022-23 season, the most without finishing first in English top-flight history.
  •  Man City beat Arsenal on all three occasions this season; 3-1 at the Emirates, 4-1 at the Etihad, and a 1-0 FA Cup win at the Etihad. 
  •  Arsenal had an eight-point lead over Man City on a couple of occasions. 
  •  Arsenal conceded 16 goals in their last eight games, dropping 13 points out of a possible 24 on offer. 
  •  Man City are on a run of 14 games unbeaten, 11 wins in a row, one draw (1-1 away at Nottingham Forest).

April was a title-defining month, as Arsenal was made to feel foolish.

Arsenal, five points clear at the top after 28 games, had five games to play in the month ending with the title decider on April 26th at the Etihad.

Mikel Arteta’s team started the month with a commanding victory at home, beating Crystal Palace 4-1.

They looked like they were on target for another three points in their next game against a struggling Liverpool side, at Anfield, leading 2-0 with two early goals.  

Was it possible that Arsenal would win the league?

What followed was the start of a major collapse in both form and self-belief.

Arsenal missed chance after chance and ended up ruing them with just three minutes left on the clock.

The game ended 2-2.

Arsenal were in a similar position on April 16th, leading 2-1 at West Ham, with a penalty to wrap it up.

Bukayo Saka stepped up and missed. Minutes later Jared Bowen equalised.

Another 2-2.

Meanwhile, Man City was winning game after game.

Then came the nail and the coffin, as bottom-of-the-table Southampton took a point at the Emirates in a 3-3 thriller, in a game Southampton was leading 3-1 entering the final few minutes.

That third draw in a row allowed Man City to put that aforementioned nail in the coffin provided by the three previous teams.

They hammered the Arsenal!

Man City was now top of the table by a point and had a game in hand.

Arsenal had successfully completed the choke!

The Saliba Effect

Arsenal had a few injuries this season, as most teams do, but the one that impacted the Gunners’ title chances was suffered on March 12th against Fulham.

William Saliba went off with a back injury after an awkward fall and then aggravated the injury four days later against Sporting Lisbon. After further checks, the Frenchman was ruled out for the rest of the season.

Without Saliba, Gabriel looked a lot more suspect, and Rob Holding is just not good enough to play in the Premier League.

Can Arsenal Go Again Next Season?

This season was Arsenal’s best chance to win the title since the Invincibles season of 03/04.

In the last two decades, they had finished runners-up on two occasions (04/05 and 15/16) but by double-digit points deficits on both occasions.

For Arsenal to get close to the top next year, they will need to sign a quality centre-back, either as a back-up for Gabriel and Saliba or to play in a three-man defence which can become a partnership if one of the three gets injured.

Anything is better than playing Rob Holding! 

A reliable midfielder is necessary, such as Declan Rice, who has a better temperament than Granit Xhaka, and doesn’t miss as many games as Thomas Partey. Also, a striker would come in handy as Gabriel Jesus is unreliable in front of goal.

Even with all these signings, Arsenal is unlikely to be able to challenge for the title for the next few years.

As a Premier League fan, when was the last time the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd, and Spurs were all this unpredictable?

Man Utd fans have been singing Erik Ten Haag’s praises, yet his team has lost more games this season than in the seasons Oli Gunnar Solskjaer was in charge of them.

Chelsea have been awful, but they will bounce back under the management of Mauricio Pochettino.

Liverpool has found a way to grind out results towards the end of this season, and will undoubtedly take that into next year.

We will also see Newcastle United be even more relevant with the money they have.

The only team that will continue being Spursy is Spurs. That club will never win anything!

Arsenal has the quality to fight for a top-four spot, if their players recover from the disappointment of this season’s collapse.

However, let’s not forget it has taken Mikel Arteta four seasons to get here.

There’s more chance that the boo boys will be back for Arsenal next year after a season that far superseded expectation, especially if the team starts poorly.

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