When Premier League fanatics look back at the 2003-04 season, the thing that will stick out in their minds is how Arsenal managed to win the title without losing one single game. This is the first time this has ever happened in Premier League history, and very few football experts believe it will ever be repeated.
Nowadays, people still talk about how Arsene Wenger’s North London side created history that year, and the nickname ‘The Invincibles’ is mentioned on a regular basis, especially among Arsenal fans. The Premier League is arguably the most difficult domestic league on the planet, and to go the entire season without losing one single game is incredible. So, what was it that the Gunners did to go on a thirty eight game run unbeaten?
Their Defenders were Solid
What Arsenal (or any other team in the world for that matter) would do to have a defense like Arsenal had in that season. English teammates Sol Campbell and Martin Keown were at the heart of Arsenal’s defense. Two strong, experienced center halves who seemed fearless when an attacker came close to their box. Not only were they good at defending, but both players could play football too, which allowed the North London side to play out from the back. However, Martin Keown was coming to the end of his fantastic career, so Kolo Toure often started instead of him. It’s not surprising that the young footballer would go on to have a wonderful career with other clubs.
Ashley Cole played in the left back position for most of the season. He was involved in scoring and assisting goals, and wasn’t afraid to put in a challenge when needed either. He too went on to have a wonderful career after leaving Arsenal for Chelsea. French international, Lauren, played in the right back position, who was adored by the Highbury supporters.
Arsenal’s starting eleven was amazing at the time, but they also had plenty of players in their squad that could do the job when they got the nod from the manager. Wenger had no issues with bringing young talent onto the pitch, such as Geal Clichy and Philippe Senderos.
Between the sticks, they had the charismatic German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. The tall, strong German made his presence felt when opponents were in his box.
Captain Fantastic: Patrick Vieira
During the summer of 2002, Arsenal legend, Tony Adams, finally hung up his football boots and the manager decided that the captain’s armband would be given to Patrick Vieira. Viera had already won lots of major tournaments at both club level and for France, including a World Cup and the European Championship.
Later, the French international claimed he felt that taking over the role as the captain was a daunting experience. During the early stages of the season, Vieira was shown a red card after he mistimed a tackle against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, however, his side went on to rescue a point. After the game, Veira spoke to French media, where he expressed that he was feeling fatigued and he needed a break from football because he could see himself burning out. Wenger didn’t take his captain’s request on board, and he ended up playing 66 times for the Gunners that season.
Vieira had everything a team like Arsenal needed in those days. He was a natural leader, he had pace, strength, an eye for goal, and he was incredible at regaining possession. He instilled faith into his fellow Arsenal teammates, and would always lead by example. Due to his pace, he was helping out his defenders one minute, and the next, in his opponent’s box trying to help his side score.
The Rest of the Midfield
When Freddie Ljungberg arrived at Highbury as a teenager in 1998, very few people had heard of him, however, almost 10 years on, the Sweedish international was a regular in Wenger’s Arsenal side. He played on the right wing and managed 4 goals in that season.
Robert Pires played on the left side of midfield. He was another French international superstar who brought flair and scored incredible goals while at Arsenal. Although he started most games on the left, he would often play in a more central role when the manager asked him to. He was one of Arsenal’s best players during the 2003-04 season and finished on 14 goals.
Playing slightly behind the captain in the midfield was Gilberto Silva. Having Silva in the team allowed Vieira to move up the pitch to help out the attackers. He was a consistent midfielder and had a great relationship on the pitch with the defenders.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Dennis Bergkamp is one of the most exciting and talented players to ever have played in the Premier League. He was a huge part of Arsenal’s successes in their heyday and will be remembered by Arsenal fans for many years.
It’s strange to think that the Dutch international only scored four Premier League goals in the season Arsenal went unbeaten, but there is much more to the player’s game than getting the ball in the back of the net. He was versatile, and Wenger often moved him around the pitch. He could play as a number nine, as a second striker, or even as an out and out striker.
Many believe that Thierry Henry is the greatest ever player to play in England’s top division. During the 2003-04 season, the Arsenal legend managed to get the ball in the back of the net thirty times. Traditional bookmakers and every online casino believed that he would once again win the Player of the Year award, and they were not wrong. He was one of those players that would make the game look easy, and he would light up Highbury in almost every game he featured in. In total, the French man scored 175 goals for Arsenal, and he created 74 chances.
Later in his career, he returned to Arsenal on loan and scored once again to knock Leeds out of the FA Cup. He showed the Arsenal fans glimpses of what he was like. Just like Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira, he will remain in Arsenal hearts for many years.