Arsenals Top Season 2003-2004 Step up – Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles

June 6, 2018

They are the only team to go unbeaten for a complete season since Preston North End went unbeaten in the inaugural season of the Football League in 1889 with a record of P22, W18, D4, L0, GF74, GA15, Pts58.

In retaining the Premier League Championship in 2001/02, Arsenal had earlier equalled Preston North End’s record of going unbeaten away for the entire season by beating Manchester United 0-1 at Old Trafford in our final away game. Perhaps it was this outstanding achievement which prompted Arsene Wenger’s outrageous prediction in September 2002 that his side could go a whole season unbeaten – the journos and footballing establishment mocked such a claim.

The ‘Comical’ jibe plus beret were a reference to an Iraqi Information minister at the time

Arsene only used 22 players in the whole season with Jens Lehmann playing in all 38 games – which included 15 shut outs.

Although he performed well throughout the 2002/03 season, long-serving keeper David Seaman was released at the end of the campaign. Arsenal brought in Jens Lehmann from Borussia Dortmund for a mere £1.5 million – a steal, considering just how important he would be for Arsenal over the next 12 months. Due to building the Emirates there were no big-name signings; club captain Patrick Vieira signed a new contract in the face of strong interest from Manchester United, Chelsea, and Real Madrid. With Arsene not make any big changes to the squad, and with no major departures, Arsenal started the season with the same group of players as the previous season.

The season kicked off with Arsenal in inspired form. A 2-1 home victory over Everton on the opening day was followed up with 4-0 win over Middlesbrough, a 2-0 win over Aston Villa and a 2-1 away victory over David Seaman and Manchester City. With just four games played, Arsenal had already put three points between them and fellow title-chasers Manchester United, leaving them sitting comfortably in first place, having scored ten and conceded just two.

Our unbeaten run came close to ending at Old Trafford in the sixth game of the season when United were awarded a penalty in injury time (no surprise there) but (our least liked player) Ruud van Nistelrooy stepped up and missed the penalty and the match ended tied at 0–0. Tempers boiled over in the game dubbed the ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ following Vieira being given a red card.

October presented a tough schedule with a trip to Anfield and a home game against Chelsea.  Despite falling behind against Liverpool we recovered to win 2-1. Going into the Chelsea game, both sides were level at the top of the table and were also undefeated in the league. The game appeared to be heading for a draw until a Carlo Cudicini blunder saw Thierry Henry give Arsenal the win, bringing an end to Chelsea’s unbeaten run. Despite the fact we had still not lost a poor 0-0 draw against Fulham on Nov 30th gave Chelsea the chance to take over at the top of the table.

At the turn of the year Arsenal had made it half way through the season without tasting defeat in the Premier League and the unbeaten season began to take place: but despite this feat, Arsenal entered 2004 in second place, one point behind leaders Manchester United.

The Gunners’ first game of the year once again ended with a lacklustre draw against Everton, while United secured a victory to increase their lead to three points. Although, things picked up with a dominant 4-1 win over Middlesbrough, which saw us draw level with United on points, goal difference and goals scored. Henry then began a goal scoring run which would see him net in each of the club’s next six games, the second and third of which came against Aston Villa a week later giving Arsenal all three points. Despite a trip to title chasers Chelsea and a visit to Manchester City, February would prove to be one of the best months in the campaign, with five wins in five games.

After 30 games Arsenal had officially beaten the Premier League record of consecutive game without defeat.

The 31st game saw perhaps the game of the season with Thierry Henry scoring a blistering hat trick to beat Liverpool after being 2-1 down at halftime.

Henry beats Dudek having left a trail of prostrate Scouse defenders in his wake

On April 25th we went to White Hart Lane knowing knew that a single point would be enough to end any chance of a late Chelsea comeback. Goals from Vieira and Pirés were enough to secure a 2-2 draw that handed Arsenal the trophy at the home of the North London pretenders with four games to spare.

We saw out the final month of Premier League action comfortably, with a bore draw against Birmingham City followed up with a 1-1 draw at Portsmouth and a 1-0 victory over Fulham. Despite going behind in their final game against Leicester City, Arsenal bossed the second-half, claiming victory thanks to goals from Henry and Vieira.

After Arsenal completed the only 38-match season unbeaten, the Premier League commissioned a unique gold trophy to commemorate the achievement. Arsène Wenger was presented the trophy as a parting gift from the club after his last home game as manager on 6 May 2018.

 Written by GunnerN5

 

 

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The Emery job at Arsenal: Easy or hard?

May 29, 2018

Here on AA yesterday there was a discussing between FGG (who knows an awful lot about football), and Erik.

Naturally they disagreed, but I thought the topic was interesting. Does Emery have a difficult task ahead to improve The Arsenal.

FGG felt we had a fallen quite a way behind the top four, and using this as a barometer, amazingly I’d side with Erik. We all remember how Arsene transformed Arsenal into double winners in his first full season, and despite the fact I know how seismically the footballing landscape has changed, I do believe that we are looking at tweaks rather than having to deploy the surgical scalpel.

The baseline for evaluating improvement is the point at which you begin, and in our case, that’s winning nothing and finishing above The Burnley.

Next point is that one of the major obstacles in previous season’s was the fact that Arsene appeared from the outside to have too many roles to be hugely effective at any one of them. The Club have clearly recognised, and addressed, this weakness. Bearing in mind I believe the effects of that division of responsibilities has already become fruitful by way of our January transfer activities, leaving Emery to be more focused on the footballing side.

Finally, few would disagree that we have an exceedingly talented squad, together with two or three very promising younger players, which should provide the continuity so vital to progress. Also very unusually, most can agree about the obvious areas to strengthen, so I doubt the Arsenal recruitment team will be far away from seeing the same needs.

His biggest challenges? Team structure and understanding of responsibilities within the Emery system, defensive organisation, and our away form.

Great, just the 2-3 players short, then 🙂

Written by MickyDidIt89


The new Arsenal manager…let’s try and be rational

May 24, 2018

You, me, him, her, and probably everyone who reads this knows that Arsenal are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen. We’re right, they are wrong and facts are facts.

However, let’s consider some other poor souls for a few short moments, and by poor souls, I’m referring to the Allegris, Tuchels and the Zidanes of this world.  By my calculations there are six sides who you would back to lift the Champions League trophy in any one season, although I appreciate other runners and riders can emerge to upset the betting, and this season it is Liverpool who have emerged as a surprise contender. The souls to whom I just referred will always look to manage an elite club with a realistic chance (and budget) of lifting ‘Ol Big Ears.

Arsenal are not one of those sides. So. What are we, who should we be, and why is Emery a very good fit for us now?

Before the start of last season, I suggested that Arsenal were a Cup side. My comment referred as much to what I thought was an element of the glory seeking, big time Charlie attitude of one or two of our superstars. In other words they didn’t have the appetite for a seasons’ long slog in the rain to sustain a League challenge, and anyhow, barring the freak event we are outside the main pretenders as defined by budget.

What are we? We are a top six English side, and yes, we are a good cup side. What should we be? We should be a club that strives to grow through better results/performance within the boundaries of our budget. In other words, without oiling up, out target models are the likes of Bayern (and Juve?). This is a longer long term objective than the media driven immediacy demanded by today’s society permits, but the club just have to deal with that crap, as do we all.

The aim for the next 1-3 years is to establish ourselves as the best of the rest. This brings me back to two things I have mentioned, one was Liverpool and the other was cups.

When I spoke almost a year ago about our cup sidedness, I did mention also how I liked this. It’s a personal thing, but I way prefer knockout football to league football.

This, at last,  brings me to Emery. RC79 has very kindly enlightened us as to the detail of the man, his tactical philosophies and his footballing ethos. I especially liked his insight on Emery’s ability to get the most out of a second tier budget by developing youth and pushing the superstars.

I believe he is the right man to lead us through the next three years or so as we consolidate amongst our domestic top four, and, as he has done at both PSG and more impressively at Sevilla, become a Cup specialist.

Who knows what lies beyond that, but step one looks good to me.

Written by MickyDidIt89


The Case for the Defence – New Manager Conundrum

May 17, 2018

So, the dust has settled on the 2017/8 season and all final league positions have been decided. What pointers will it have given our new boss as to how the team needs to be reinforced?

Let’s take a look at the teams at the top of table.

Man City

Well Pep has forged an exciting new team by lashing out close to half a billion on top of an already decent squad. 106 goals and 27 against. Hmmm, maybe we ought to look elsewhere for clues.

Man U

Mourinho bored the pants off everyone yet again, his team scoring six goals less than us but almost emulating City’s meanness in defence. No thanks.

Totts

Surprisingly with the best England striker in decades and a vibrant young attack, they managed to score precisely no goals more than us. Their 15 goals better goal difference came from another source!

Pool

Fun to watch during the season with a rampaging front three operating along similar lines to City. Second only to City in goals scored and with goals conceded similar to the spuds and chavs.

Chelsea

8 goals less than AFC but 7 points more. Last season’s runaway winners were not in evidence at all. It is so hard to win back to back titles, though. (Will City sustain their dominance next time around?)

AFC

74 goals for, 51 against (12 more than 7th placed Burnley, though they only scored an appalling 36 goals).

One conclusion might be that the new chap in the hot seat needs to spend any moolah available to him on bolstering our porous defence.

Or is it more a case of better game management all round?

With a front 4 of Auba, Mkhi, Laca and Mesut, recruits up top seem less of a consideration unless a top line left sided forward becomes available, maybe. (I’ve no idea if this is true but always see it written everywhere!)

A new defence or defensive plan is much needed – that does appear a logical conclusion. Or is that just too simplistic an analysis for the tactical geniuses out there. 🙂

What do you think?

chas

 


So Long and Thanks for all the Fish – Huddersfield Ratings

May 14, 2018

So after over 1200 games in charge, we finally reached the point where M. Arsene Wenger would be Arsenal FC boss for the last time. A goalfest in the sun would be perfect but some sneaky first away points of the year, acceptable.

First Half

Huddersfield pressed like terriers in the first twenty minutes without really creating a chance, except from dead balls. One particular goalmouth scramble saw David Ospina make his first close range block.

Two planes flew banners over the beautiful arches of the Huddersfield stadium and the 22nd minute of appreciative applause was well observed.

The Beast wasn’t sharp enough to poke home a near post flick-on from a corner before the first quality piece of football in the match produced Aubameyang’s mini record-breaking goal. Laca and Mkhi exchanged passes before setting Rambo free on the left. His outside of the boot driven cross was superbly anticipated by Auba sliding in on his derriere at the far post.

Second Half

The second half saw even more huffing and puffing from Huddersfield but little quality. Twice as many ‘attempts’ on goal than us but with one fewer on target tells its own story.

Two glorious one on ones for the boys in charcoal grey and pink were both squandered by Laca and Welbz respectively. Laca chose to lob a keeper who carried on standing up and Danny really needed to stop and change the angle rather than continue on his weaker left.

Huddersfield had two last attempts at spoiling the Wenger party, one shot flicking off the top of the crossbar and Ospina keeping out a last gasp header at the second attempt.

Ratings

Ospina – Probably did more than anyone else to ensure Arsene left with a victory … 7

Bellerin – Looked great in the Yorkshire sunshine  … 6

Mustafi – Some decent challenges and blocks … 7

Holding – Will be interesting to see if the next manager can bring more out of Rob … 6

Kolasinac – Rampaging Berserker … 7

Ramsey – Flitted in and out like a delicate butterfly  … 6

Xhaka – Great end of season, looking forward to him doing it all year  … 7

Iwobi – Scampered around trying to find a crack … 7

Mkhitaryan – on the beach already  … 6

Aubameyang – Became the fastest Arsenal player to reach 10 Prem goals, ultimately the match winner   … 7

Lacazette – Will a new manager have Alexandre down the middle with PEA on the left? – hmmm … 7

Subs

Monreal – presumably came on to bolster the defence? … 6

Welbeck – created his one on one with a fine challenge but couldn’t find the coup de grace – 6

Maitland-Niles – came on, passed and tackled well … 6

Summary

So Arsene got the send off he deserves with the team finally winning three points away from home at last.

Curiously enough, the dolphins had long known of the impending demolition of Earth and had made many attempts to alert mankind to the danger. But most of their communications were misinterpreted as amusing attempts to punch footballs, or whistle for titbits, so they eventually gave up and left the Earth by their own means – shortly before the Vogons arrived. The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double backwards somersault through a hoop, whilst whistling the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’. But, in fact, the message was this “So long and thanks for all the fish”.

chas


Who should be the new Club Captain and Allegri, the new Boss?

May 11, 2018

Arsenal FC’s new Club Captain?

So the BFG is moving even further away from the playing side at the Club leaving a situations vacant for Club Captain.

Does anyone leap out at you as his obvious replacement?

Does the position mean much anymore?

Do we need a leader on the pitch?

 

Massimiliano Allegri – the next Arsenal manager?

Allegri featured for a variety of Italian clubs during his playing career as a creative, inventive midfielder. Promotion and a couple of decent seasons in Serie A with Pescara perhaps the highlight.

The lowlight of Allegri’s time as a pro footballer was a one year ban in 2001 for match-fixing.

Allegri’s managerial career is a different kettle of fish entirely. Having served his apprenticeship in the lower leagues, he first hit the top flight with Cagliari in 2008. The Sardinians finished a creditable 9th, not far from UEFA League qualification and played with such flair with extremely limited resorces that Allegri was awarded the Panchina D’Oro (golden bench), the Italian version of Manager of the season, ahead of Serie A winning coach Mourinho (I’m liking this chap already).

Milan liked the look of this nuovo arrivato, signed him up in 2010 and he led them to the Serie A title in his first season. When switching to Juve in 2014, he again won the top flight title in his first season, though it was to be the Old Lady’s 4th title on the bounce (the previous three while managed by Antonio Conte).

The following seasons at Juventus were littered with Serie A titles and Coppa Italia victories plus two Champions League Finals (losing to Barca and Real).

He seems a fine choice as Arsene’s successor, being strong on tactics but liking fluid formations and attacking pressing football. His daughter is quite attractive too.

chas


The Leicester Game….some match feelings

May 10, 2018

Well, if our own intrepid specialist author of the “in-depth” post, Mr GoonerB Esq, was confused after watching The Arsenal play majestic football against The Burnley, he will be aghast at the away performance of last night.

This was a match with no meaning, and the ten men of Arsenal put in a staggering display of effort, and commitment. Remember, this was away AND meaningless. Unreal. Had Arsenal managed to combine the performance of Sunday with that effort, over the course of the season well, who knows.

One thing for sure, I’d imagine the new manager will lick his lips at the prospect as he is inheriting a very talented squad who can really give it the beans. Yip, I know, the defence, but aren’t we just two or three worlds short, GB? I think we are.

My overall feelings? Yes, I still reckon Iwobi has what it takes, and Maitland Niles remains a truly outstanding prospect, and I believe that even using the word prospect is exceedingly harsh. Of course, the question of his his most effective role remains unresolved, but after last night, I’m a whole lot less concerned about an injury to Bell.

Lastly, it was a crying shame our young Greek got himself sent off, as I’m pretty sure we would have won otherwise, nonetheless, losing meaningless games does not hurt. It was after all a pulsating end-to-end encounter leaving me feeling very optimistic.

Written by MickyDidIt89