This short football language podcast looks at the word ‘bottle‘ which has been in the news after Manchester City’s recent win over Premier League leaders Arsenal. You can read the transcript for this podcast below, while you can also check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and visit our site to access all our previous posts and podcasts. If you have any suggestions or questions then you can contact us at

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Learn English Through Football Language Podcast: Bottle

DF: Hello again everyone and welcome to – the football-language podcast for learners and teachers of English. I’m Damian and I’m here in a very sunny London, while of course the other member of the languagecaster team is Damon who is based in Tokyo, Japan – you should check out his recent post on our website around the phrase ‘to sniff‘ when used in football from last week. Now, for those regular listeners of the show you’ll know that Damon is a Liverpool fan and that I am a Tottenham fan and these two sides meet on Sunday in the Languagecaster derby. I must admit I am not very confident after our very poor performance against in-form Newcastle last week when we were hammered 6-1. Hammered, of course, is used to describe a heavy defeat and another word for this is thumped – Spurs were thumped 6-1. What a terrible result for Spurs which also meant that the interim manager Cristian Stellini was fired – remember Stellini had been named interim manager after head coach Antonio Conte had been sacked a month before so now Ryan Mason has taken over as acting head coach. These job titles are all a little confusing but we do have a post on some of these titles that tries to explain them. But of course this all means that Tottenham still do not have a full-time manager!

Stinger: You are listening to (in Japanese)

Now, I hope we are all doing well and enjoying all the football and on this podcast we take a look at the word ‘bottle‘ which has been in the news this week after Arsenal’s defeat at Manchester City in what many have called a ‘title decider’. The leaders were beaten 4-1 and it now look as if Manchester City have the momentum to go on and win the title. Some people in the media here in the UK have suggested that Arsenal did not have the bottle or courage to win – especially in the manner of their defeat – although even as a Tottenham fan I think this might be a little harsh or tough on them.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Welsh)

Yes, that message was in Welsh and yes, you are listening to Now, remember that in addition to this podcast, you can also access all of our other football-language podcasts – we have hundreds of them stretching back to October 2006. So, come along to our site here at

Learning English Through Football Podcast

Stinger: You are listening to (in Hindi)

Learn English through Football Language Podcast: Bottle

Did Arsenal choke at the Etihad? Was this something as recognisable, as familiar, as the bottle job and the no-show (, 27 April 2023)
The word ‘bottle‘ when used in football refers to courage or more commonly it is used to show that a player or a team does not have enough courage. Its meaning is also related to having a strong mentality or character and a team that has ‘bottle‘ is a team that does not crumble under pressure – they find a way to win. The origins of the phrase are a little unclear but it is suggested that it comes from Cockney rhyming slang (a form of language that is based in and around London). So, if you have or show bottle, you have courage, particularly under pressure but conversely, if you lack bottle, you are not seen as being brave enough to win a game or a title. So for example, if a player pulls out of a tackle, we can say that they have bottled it as they have avoided doing something that requires courage or that they are a bottler. If a team does not play well in a match in which they are under pressure we can say that they have bottled it or that they are   as they have not shown enough courage or mentality to win in difficult circumstances.

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Here’s a quote from The Guardian newspaper from last week’s game between Manchester City and Arsenal. So, this quote from The Guardian newspaper match report mentions the word ‘bottle‘ in the same sentence as ‘no-show’ and this gives us some more understanding of its meaning. A ‘no-show’ is when someone does not turn up for something – physically or metaphorically, so for example when Tottenham lost 6-1 away at Newcastle we can say that they were a no-show as they didn’t really turn up to play at the level that they should be at. So, one meaning of the word ‘bottle‘ is to not turn up in a game – to play well below the level you should be playing at. The writer also asks a question about the Gunners, ‘Did Arsenal choke?’ which gives us some more understanding of bottle as to choke in sport means to not play well when under pressure. We use this phrase when a team is expected to win but fails to do so and this gives us a little more understanding of the word ‘bottle’.

So, did Arsenal ‘bottle’ it against City? This is difficult to say because they clearly didn’t play well when the pressure was on but many clubs don’t (or can’t) play well when facing Manchester City away. But Arsenal are also having a dip in form – three draws in a row and two of these from winning positions – and this suggests that the team might be bottling it at the business end of the season – the time when titles and competitions and league placings are decided. Here are some more examples:

  • Example: Before winning Euro 2008 Spain were often accused of lacking bottle or character in international tournaments.
  • Example: Aston Villa accused of ‘lacking bottle’ after draw at Nottingham Forest as Steven Gerrard under pressure with club struggling in the Premier League (Talk Sport October 2022)
  • Example: ‘Douglas: Brentford showed bottle in Bournemouth comeback’ (Hounslow Chronicle Headline)
  • Example: ‘Some of my Arsenal teams DID lack bottle but this one can play and fight insists Arsene Wenger’ (Daily Mirror 2016)

OK, there’s some examples and a short explanation of the word ‘bottle’ and ‘bottlers’ and the verb ‘to bottle’



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OK, if you have any questions or comments then drop us an email at and you can also look out for us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We also have a football-language forum where you can ask and answer any questions you have on the language of football.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Italian).


DB: Yes, you are listening to languagecaster and that message was from an Italian football fan. Don’t forget there’s a transcript for this short podcast and there’s lots of vocabulary support – we explain lots of the meanings of these words in the transcript, which you can access by coming along to our site.

OK, that’s it for this short podcast which was all about the phrase, ‘bottle’; ‘to bottle’ and ‘bottlers‘ which is often used to describe a player or a team not having enough courage or strong mentality in a game. Let’s hope our teams don’t bottle it this weekend although I am not 100% sure this will happen with Tottenham in the Languagecaster derby! Enjoy all the football and we’ll see you again soon. Bye bye!

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Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

Free football language podcast for learners of English brought to you by Damian and Damon. Interviews, match reviews, predictions all with full language support for football fans around the world who wish to improve their English language skills.

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I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
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BEpisode 57