Arsenal Football Society – Invincibles
There accept been many pretenders, including Liverpool in the 19/20 flavor, simply none have come shut to Arsenal’s magnificent achievement of going undefeated.
Every bit an Armory supporter, to see the Invincibles tag applied to whatever squad who happens to get a few games unbeaten is irritating, having watched Arsenal undefeated for real. That’s not to say that those teams aren’t practiced, just I often feel that the magnitude of Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run is often forgotten; that the achievement itself is played down as something that any team is capable of doing, never mind the fact that it’s an incredibly rare feat to pull off in professional football, then rare in fact that agen bola almost seems like free coin.
That may exist where the hunger from the media to see a new Invincibles comes from. Nosotros were just ten games into the terminal Premier League season when Manchester Urban center were beingness bigged up for an unbeaten season, just considering they happen to be having an easy time of it. Pep Guardiola and his players, at least, understood at that place was little point in entertaining any ideas nearly going the whole twelvemonth unbeaten.
While they were distancing themselves from the idea, I was reminded of something Arsene Wenger said back in 2002. Armory had gone a whole flavour without losing away from dwelling, and had started the 02/03 campaign in fine form. The idea that Arsenal could go a whole season unbeaten was in its infancy, merely nonetheless existed as early on every bit and so. Rather than shy abroad from the possibility, Wenger, emboldened as he was past his team’due south quality, embraced it.
“Information technology’s not impossible as A.C. Milan once did it just I can’t encounter why it’south then shocking to say it,” he said. “Do you think Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea don’t dream that as well? They’re exactly the aforementioned. They just don’t say it because they’re scared to wait ridiculous, but nobody is ridiculous in this job as we know annihilation can happen.”
Wenger did terminate upward looking ridiculous, at least temporarily. Arsenal lost to Everton in October, when a certain xvi-year-old Wayne Rooney popped up with a terminal infinitesimal screamer to kill the run before it even got going. Arsenal would go on to lose the title to Manchester United that flavour, and the thought of a season undefeated was put aside.
The run of 49, though, had its origins in the tail finish of that campaign. Robert Pires and Jermaine Pennant both scored hat-tricks every bit Arsenal swept aside Southampton 6-ane at Highbury, before endmost the season with a 4-0 win at Sunderland, thanks to another lid-trick, this time from Freddie Ljungberg. If nothing else, the games were a reminder of the immense quality Arsenal had.
By now, you could probably name the Invincibles team off by heart. Jens Lehmann, Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure, Lauren, Ashley Cole, Patrick Vieira, Gilberto Silva, Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, lined-upward in a 4-four-1-1 formation. Tellingly, simply Jens Lehmann was a new addition going into the 2003/04 season. In typical Wenger mode, Armory’due south response to losing out on the title wasn’t to exit in the summer and spend millions on reinforcements, only to rely on what he already had at his disposal getting fifty-fifty better.
The season began with iv straight wins over Everton, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and Manchester City. There was a stumble at home to Portsmouth, as they held Arsenal to a 1-1 draw, before the first big test: a trip to the champions, Manchester United.
That game turned out to exist 1 of the well-nigh infamous in Premier League history. The “Boxing of Old Trafford”, as it became to exist known, saw 2 teams who genuinely hated each other spend most of the game fouling 1 another (overall, 31 fouls were committed by both teams) before setting off a mass ball after the last whistle. The flash betoken was the antics of United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who managed to get Patrick Vieira sent off by provoking him into a 2nd yellow card. Hence, when the Dutchman stepped up and missed a tardily penalty, the Arsenal players wasted petty time in confronting him.
In the aftermath, Arsenal were fined £175,000, and several players were banned. Lauren was suspended for 4 games, Martin Keown got 3 games while Vieira and Ray Parlour got one each. Meanwhile, the rather fortunate fact that van Nistelrooy, a acme striker in his day, missed his penalty meant that Arsenal were withal unbeaten in the league.
Having escaped Sometime Trafford with a point, and with several players suspended, Arsenal rallied to win their adjacent three games against Newcastle, Liverpool and Chelsea. A depict at Charlton followed, before iii more than wins against Leeds, Tottenham, and Birmingham. Past this betoken, Arsenal had played most of the would-be title contenders and teams most likely to stop in the European spaces, yet still hadn’t lost. The unbeaten run at this stage was xv games long.
By Jan, Arsenal were still unbeaten. Ominously for the rest of the league, it was this indicate that the squad entered its best spell of grade. Between January 10th and March 20th, Arsenal won nine straight league games. An unbeaten season wasn’t the just possibility, as an unprecedented treble was as well on the cards.
Regrettably, that prospect came crashing down in the space of a week. Armory were eliminated from the FA Cup by Manchester United before, days later, Chelsea upset them in the Champions League quarter-concluding. Having taken two significant punches, Arsenal were teetering going into the game against Liverpool at Highbury.
It was this game against Liverpool that gave everyone at Arsenal the belief that the unbeaten season was possible. Sami Hypia gave the visitors the lead after just 5 minutes, and Henry’s equaliser was cancelled out by a Michael Owen goal before half-time. The team pulled themselves together during the break, and produced a second-one-half comeback that would generate enough momentum to carry them through to the end of the season. Pires equalised four minutes into the 2d half. Henry then embarked on a solo run through the heart of the Liverpool defence force and gave Arsenal the atomic number 82. He then completed his hat-trick in the 78th minute. Doubts well-nigh Arsenal’southward character were well and truly quashed.
A week later, the Premier League title was within sight. Leeds visited Highbury and were blitzed by a rampant Henry, who scored four goals in what many consider to be his all-time performance in an Armory shirt. The team just needed ane more indicate to secure the title with four games to spare, and the venue couldn’t have been more than perfect.
Arsenal had won the league at White Hart Lane earlier, way back in 1971. Still, nothing will dilute the pleasure of winning the league in your rival’southward backyard. Goals from Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires, scored in typically sweeping Arsenal style, gave u.s.a. an early two goal lead. Spurs came back in the 2nd half with goals from Jamie Redknapp and Robbie Keane to level the game at two-2, but it didn’t thing. Arsenal were champions once again.
Henry didn’t score that day, merely he did have an amusing chestnut to share.
“Nosotros had orders from the constabulary non to over celebrate if we win the championship in that location (White Hart Lane),” he told Sky Sports.
“In all fairness everyone said ‘okay nosotros understand,’ considering it might goo to far. So you know the story, we went 2-0 up. Then they came back and Jens Lehmann did what Jens Lehmann did sometimes, but then they came dorsum into the game and drew the game 2-two.
“They started to gloat similar they had won the league, so then I said ‘hang on a infinitesimal await,’ they didn’t actually realise that we but needed a point to be champions. I don’t understand.
“And so, and so I said to Ashley Cole ‘when the referee blows the whistle, at present we’re going to gloat, because we wanted to be apprehensive about it at the beginning of the game, simply you lot’re going to celebrate a draw, really, at your identify when we demand a indicate to win the league.”
With the league championship done and dusted, it would have been piece of cake for the squad to switch off and coast through the last iv games of the season. In fact, they very near did precisely that. The following game at home to Birmingham was a drab 0-0, before the tape came under significant threat at Fratton Park confronting Portsmouth. With Armory trailing, they had to rely on immature January signing Jose Antonio Reyes to get back into the game. Reyes’ inflow at the club proved significant, as he went on to score the winner against Fulham in the penultimate game of the season. There was simply ane game to go.
Leicester at home, on newspaper, looked a breeze. But of course, in typical dramatic way, the underdogs took the lead on 26 minutes through one-time Armory striker Paul Dickov. Arsenal threw everything at Leicester, but couldn’t detect a way through in the showtime half. Things would modify quickly in the second half. Ashley Cole latched onto a trademark Bergkamp pass and was bundled over by Frank Sinclair in the penalty surface area. Henry stepped up and planted the brawl into the bottom corner, condign the commencement Arsenal player to score xxx league goals for 56 years in the process. In the 66th minute, Vieira fittingly gave Arsenal the lead, running onto a Bergkamp through pass, rounding the keeper and passing into an empty net. The game concluded. Arsenal’due south tape stood at won 26, drawn 12, lost 0.
It’s been argued since that twenty-four hour period that the achievement wasn’t all that special, considering the standard of opposition wasn’t every bit high equally it is now. However, there’south 1 very simple reason why it was a very special and incredible achievement: no team had washed it for over 100 years. There have likewise many nifty teams in that time to count, just none of them were able to do what Armory did.
Having reached such a meaning landmark, information technology would have, again, been and so easy for Arsenal to relax and go complacent. The summer came and went, and the squad regrouped to target a new tape: Nottingham Forest’s 42 game unbeaten run, the longest run without defeat in English language football. Armory need to avert defeat in just three more than games.
A 4-1 win at Everton got the 2004/05 flavour off to a flier. Middlesbrough then visited Highbury for the first home game of the flavour. Henry’s deft lob over Marker Schwarzer gave Arsenal an expected lead, but and then the unexpected happened: Arsenal looked like losing. Middlesbrough equalised before half-time. So, in the second one-half, Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink gave the visitors the lead. Iii minutes later, Franck Queudrue took advantage of some dubious Lehmann positioning to put Middlesbrough iii-one alee. It looked like Armory were going to sideslip upwardly correct at the end.
This, though, was a side of hardened winners possessing bundles of power. Bergkamp got a goal dorsum straight away. Ten minutes later on, Pires grabbed the equalier. Resurgent, Bergkamp set-upwards Reyes to hammer Arsenal into the lead, before Henry sealed the effect with a fifth. The following week, Arsenal broke Woods’s record in rather more relaxing fashion with a 3-0 win over Blackburn.
The run continued for six more than games, reaching 49 games – the number that is proudly sung by Arsenal supporters on the road. The run came to end in highly controversial circumstances at Old Trafford, but nobody has come close to threatening information technology since. Billions of pounds have been spent on players, and top course managers take come and gone, however however the run endures. And until a club manages to get close to matching information technology, nobody should ever underestimate what an achievement it was, nor how special it was to see Armory undefeated.