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 Invincibles would have struggled too

February 22, 2016

Discuss……

Ok I won’t leave it there, I’ll put some thoughts down first and then you can all have at it…..

Over the last few games a similar theme has arisen, why don’t we move the ball as quickly as we used to, obviously this often conjures up images in the mind of Paddy passing to God and him choosing which pawn to move next normally a rushing Thierry or Freddie and we just waited for the inevitable sound of ball in onion bag.

Repeat a couple of times then coast through the rest of the game conserving energy for the rest of the season. It is widely accepted that at some point Arsene shifted away from pace and power to smaller more gifted technical players, why?

I have a theory it stems from when we lost our unbeaten record, Ferguson decided stopping us playing would be far more beneficial than playing against us. He put a couple of solid banks out there and had his men go about kicking everything that moved, theory which proved successful in that upsetting the rhythm of our team stopped counter attacks early and denied us space in behind and time. This formula was gradually copied by everyone else, some like Allardyce had already done it.

With everyone else copying this tactic how would pace and power get round crowded midfield threes and solid defensive lines who were reluctant to move further than twenty five yards from their own goal, the power might have worked but the pace not so much. Hence the move to technical players who can unpick these packed defences and pass round midfield anchormen.

But here are my questions and the point behind the post:

Why did the likes of Blackburn, Newcastle, Middlesborough etc turn up at Highbury and play a proper game of football (ie both sides attacking)?

This allowed our pace men to burn away from opponents and exploit gaps left.

Why have teams adopted a very different style now?

They’d rather escape with a point, because Premier League survival is paramount and secondly once that is secure the next step is Premier League prize money, and every point counts. So when they arrive at the home of football they prefer to park the bus, would the Invincibles have had more weapons to break this down? I’m not sure.

Gooner in Exile


Saints Preserve Us!

May 8, 2012

This weekend or next we have the opportunity to clinch third place, and to celebrate, each in our own way, the annual pleasure of St Totteringham’s Day.

Although of only recent inception, St Totterigham’s has now become a popular and much anticipated event. Oh how we love it! But it is not the only annual Arsenal celebration, and so I propose that we formally instate another shared feast.

St Invictus Day.

This is the day on which none of Arsenal Premiership competitor’s remain unbeaten. It is the day on which we know that the legend of the Invincibles cannot be besmirched by the upstart over-moneyed Johnny-come-latelys. It is the day when there is a reassuring lack of zeroes in the losses column of the premiership table. And it is a day when the whole of English football is reminded just how incredible the achievement of the Arsenal team was in 2003-04.

It is a day we should celebrate every year.

Historically, there have been eight St Invictus’ Days to date:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, as the years have passed, the media has gradually devalued the Invincibles season. The last remaining unbeaten team of each season suddenly becomes a candidate for equalling their achievement. A quick Google search brings up articles in this vein by TalkSport for both this season and last, some of them as early as October!

But as we can see from the above, in eight attempts only one team managed to get anywhere close, and they were unbeaten for less than two-thirds of the season.

So let us continue to celebrate the Invincibles and the Arsenal when the next St Invictus Day comes around!

Written by MJC


Invincibles versus VanPersibles: How Many of Today’s Team Would Get in the 2004 Vintage?

January 18, 2012

First off, I accept that this is a pretty unfair comparison.

To rank any Arsenal team from any era against the most feted group of Gunners ever to have worn the sacred cannon is clearly destined to be a mismatch.

It’s a bit like comparing Dan Brown with Charles Dickens, or Boyzone with the Beatles.

But I have noticed a few comments recently (including yesterday from Chary) alleging that, for several years now, we have been replacing good players with new players of slightly lower quality, and then replacing those ones with slightly lower quality again and so on. A kind of downward inflation.

We may not now be in the worst of times, but it made me wonder how far we have fallen since the greatest of times. How close would any of the current first team get to starting in the Arsenal eleven of 2003/4?

I am taking as our current First XI (with everyone fit):

.

Our first choice first team from 2003/4 was:

So let’s do the Head-to-Head.

Szczesny or Lehmann

No contest. Mad he may have been, but Jens Lehmann was the best ‘keeper in the Premiership that season. Szczesny will turn into a great player, but he is still learning his trade and, inevitably, makes costly mistakes. Lehmann.

Sagna or Lauren

Tough call this one. Sagna has been one of our most consistent players of recent years. Ralph was equally consistent during the unbeaten season.  They are both no-nonsense, uncomplicated defenders capable of focusing fully for the whole game. I’m going to shade this one Sagna’s way because he is a bit more dynamic getting forward. Sagna.

Koscielny or Toure

If Koscielny keeps progressing it may not be too long before he can eclipse Kolo Toure. But for now, Kolo’s athleticism, speed and strength win the day. Toure.

Vermaelen or Campbell

Again very close, but Campbell was the rock upon which our Invincibles defence was built. A double wardrobe with a Ferrari engine, Campbell must have been a nightmare to play against. Campbell.

Santos or Cole

Santos may become an Arsenal great, but right now this is a no-contest. The greedy Chav wins hands down. Cole.

Song or Gilberto

Alex Song is a more gifted all-round footballer, but for protecting the defence against all comers it has to be the Invincible Invisible Wall. He wasn’t spectacular, but, boy, did he know his job. Gilberto.

Vieira or Wilshere

Bad luck Jack. Against most midfielders who have played for Arsenal you might have won this one, but I’m afraid no-one can displace the unmatchable Paddy V. Vieira.

Arteta or Pires

OK, OK… this is where the exercise breaks down a bit because a 4-3-3 is different from a 4-4-2. Let’s just say that, good though Arteta is (and his absence on Sunday helped reinforce his importance), it has to be Le Bob. Pires.

Walcott or Ljungberg

Freddie was never the most gifted of players, but his intelligence made him one of the most effective wide men in the business, always arriving in the box at the right moment and choosing the right option. Sadly, when it comes to footballing intelligence and taking the right option, Theo does not rate so highly. Ljungberg.

Van Persie or Bergkamp

Two Dutch Masters. Bergkamp played ‘in the hole’ – a position in which Robin would also possibly thrive. But even after his goal scoring exploits of the last year, RvP cannot displace the greatest player ever to have pulled on the famous red and white. Bergkamp.

Gervinho or Henry

Close call, this one. OK, just kidding. Henry.

So there we have it. From our current first team only Sagna, by my reckoning, would have a chance of being a starter in our Invincible eleven (and even that is a close call).

What does this tell us?

That the years of being a bit boracic because of the stadium build have led to us downgrading the quality of our players, as Chary and others suggest?

That we are currently an unambitious club unwilling to spend on world class players the like of which we had in 2003/4?

That football has changed so much since 2004 (when it was really a toss up between us and Manchester Utd for the title each year) that we will never again be able to achieve such dominance because of the arrival of the sugar daddy clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City?

Or that, back in 2004, we were just incredibly, freakishly lucky to have several of the best players in the world all playing together, supported by ruthlessly professional team mates and a winning ethic that enabled us to steamroller all opposition?

Have we fallen so far because of self-inflicted mistakes, or is it just the swings and roundabouts of football, in which success is difficult to achieve and sometimes difficult to understand, while failure is an ever-present possibility (just look at Liverpool and the Spuds) for which everyone claims to know the reason and whom to blame?

What do you think?

RockyLives