The word of the day is ‘bottle’ it seems.
Is there anything Arsenal don't bottle? pic.twitter.com/utXDni9HPP
— UNITED (@442weets) March 3, 2016
A look around Twitter this morning – or even last night – will have thrown the word unexpectedly in your face several times. Apparently both Arsenal and Spurs are bottlers after their defeats last night. Manchester City are sort of bottlers too, given the fact that they were only sort of in the title race.
Presumably Watford’s defeat doesn’t count as ‘bottling it’ against Manchester United last night. I don’t really know, I’m just speculating.
That’s because I don’t really know what ‘bottling it’ really is.
The bottle job begins! West Ham 1-0 Spurs!
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) March 2, 2016
Bottled it pic.twitter.com/fADr0HtLJi
— Bootifulgame (@bootifulgame) March 3, 2016
It’s a phrase we hear every year, though given that the last few seasons have usually seen title challengers slip up on markedly fewer occasions over the course of the year, we’ve heard it a lot more this time around.
In ‘There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble’, Robert Carlyle plays a retired football who had a glittering couple of seasons at Manchester City. He muses that he never had bottle, and the only way he could get it was ‘by necking some bottle before the game’. You steel yourself up and you avoid caving into the pressure. Sure.
It’s a phrase we hear in March and April, even May. It’s certainly not a phrase you hear in October. Which is no surprise. ‘Bottle’ has to do with pressure, performing when the chips are down.
It’s just that this season it doesn’t seem appropriate. Why? Not because there’s no pressure – though, to be fair, it is only the third day of March, there’s a lot of time to recover from one or two defeats – but because it doesn’t follow from what has happened for most of this season.
It’s not like Arsenal, for example, are just losing for the first time this season. It’s not like they are suddenly under immense pressure and beginning to crack. Or at least, if they’re cracking now, it’s not the first time they’ve cracked all season.
Spurs didn’t lose between the opening weekend and their surprise defeat to Newcastle, so it might be slightly surprising that they lost last night. But I’m not even sure it’s less surprising than Arsenal’s defeat. Spurs lost to a very fine West Ham side, a West Ham team who have beaten most so-called ‘big clubs’ this season. Leicester are the only team above the Hammers to actually win against them. Surely losing to West Ham doesn’t really come under the scope of ‘shame’.
So really, ‘bottling it’ surely refers to the likes of 2014 Liverpool, 3-0 up at Crystal Palace with 11 minutes to go and somehow contriving to lose the game and, eventually, the their first league title since 1990. Surely it doesn’t refer to a defeat in late February or early March. And it certainly doesn’t refer to the same kind of defeat that these teams have been suffering all season.
Maybe it was really Twitter necking some bottle last night.
— Europcar Sport (@EuropcarSport) February 28, 2016