Arsene Wenger’s Prophecy
The Arsenal invincibles story starts two years prior to the achievement. In 2002, Arsene Wenger was asked about the possibility of going the entirety of the season unbeaten. His response was unexpected as the Frenchman made the following comments:
“Yes! It could be done. Other top managers felt the same way but were too scared to say so. Milan has done it so why is the idea shocking to anyone?”
The Arsenal players went into the 2002/03 season with these comments in mind. However, their dreams of going unbeaten were ruined early as a young Wayne Rooney scored in the last minute for Everton.
The iconic 2003/04 season
After the disappointment of last season, Wenger was told by the players that they felt like he was putting too much pressure on them. And also that the goal of winning the league without losing a match seemed unachievable to them.
Despite this, Arsene did not lose faith in his squad reiterating to his players that if they win the league without losing a match they’ll be remembered as the ‘modern day invincibles.’
Build up to the start of the season
This season Wenger focused on the defensive transfers as he brought in goal keeper Jens Lehmann from Dortmund. He was the final piece Wenger needed to complete his defence. The German would operate behind the likes of Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole, Kolo Toure and Lauren.
Elsewhere in the league, Roman Abramovich, a Russian billionaire, had completed the purchase of Chelsea.
They now became favourites (alongside Manchester United and Arsenal) to win the league as they spent big in the summer.
The season begins
The challenges came thick and fast for the Gunners. In the first match against Everton, Sol Campbell was sent off forcing Arsenal to play with 10 men. Despite this, Arsene Wenger’s men managed to secure the three points.
The Battle of Old Trafford
Arsenal found themselves having to comeback from behind and grind out results in several matches.
The prime example of this came against rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford. A very intense and physical match that would influence the direction of the title race. This match saw captain Patrick Vieira get sent off in the dying minutes due to an altercation with Ruud van Nistelrooy. The Frenchman kicked his leg out at Ruud whilst on the ground.
Unsurprisingly, the Arsenal players were infuriated as they thought the Dutchman over exaggerated his reaction to get Vieira sent off.
To make matters even worse, United were given a penalty in the last minute.. This was a golden opportunity as United now had the chance at ending Arsenals invincible dreams. Up stepped the villain, Ruud van Nistelrooy. But karma seemed to have caught up with the striker as he struck the crossbar meaning the game ended in a goalless draw.
After the final whistle huge fights broke out amongst the players with Arsenal players pushing and shoving the Dutchman around in disgust. These events saw the Gunners get fined £175,000
Conclusion to the first half of the season
Moreover, important wins against London rivals of Chelsea and Spurs saw the Gunners finish the first half of the season unbeaten and one point behind leaders Man United. Wenger added a new attacking piece in January by signing José Antonio Reyes from Sevilla in January.
As a result, Arsenal went on to win 9 games in a row leading the league by a comfortable margin.
The end of the season edges closer
After that period of the season ended, the pressure began to build for the club. In April Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United, and the Champions League by Chelsea. On top of this, Liverpool visited Highbury with ambitions of stopping Arsenal’s unbeaten dreams.
The first half performance from arsenal was bad as the Gunners went into half time 2-1 down. Obviously, something had to change otherwise what they had all worked so hard for would amount to nothing.
Additionally, fears of the streak ending that day grew amongst the fans. As supporters began to lose hope, a certain Frenchman refused to let that happen. Star man Thierry Henry carried Arsenal to a 4-2 victory in a game where he scored a hat trick.
Invincible at White Hart Lane
After their win against Liverpool, Arsenal were presented with the opportunity to win the title at White Hart Lane. Home of their main rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
The circumstances were in Arsenal’s favour as a draw was enough to win the title.
Due to the magnitude and the occasion of this game. Henry and the rest of the team were urged by security not to celebrate which they agreed to.
Arsenal went 2-0 up thanks to goals from Vieira and Pires. However, Tottenham managed to bring it back level to 2-2 with Robbie Keane scoring a last minute penalty.
Afterwards, Tottenham player Taricco began to rub the comeback into the Arsenal players faces. As if he didn’t realise Arsenal only needed a point to win the league at their ground.
Henry mocked Taricco’s mentality. For the disrespect Taricco displayed, Henry told him to watch how he celebrated after the game, breaking the promise he made to the security.
For the second time in history, Arsenal had won the league at White Hart Lane.
The endgame of the 2003/04 season
Finally, with less than 4 matches to go, Arsene Wenger reiterated the aim of going the entire season unbeaten to his players.
On the final day, Arsenal staged one last comeback win against Leicester City to cement themselves in Premier League history as the invincibles.
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