This week the BBC, bored perhaps of the international break, started a debate about who is the greatest ever Premiership team. The games governing body themselves have long voted Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ as winners of that accolade, one of several awards we have received for going a League campaign undefeated.
For me, I can’t see the counter argument.
Clubs win titles, Cups, have success in Europe, but very few do what we did in 2003/2004. Only one in fact! To put into perspective how special the feat was, it was last done by Preston in 1888. In other words many of us might not be alive for it to be matched, if it ever will be. Of course though certain TV and Radio pundits don’t need an invitation to try and reeducate younger supporters, twisting statistics to down play the best squad in our history. It is time to challenge those myths …….
We Lost To Chelsea In the Quarter Final of Champions League
Was this a missed opportunity? Of course, it’s frustrating to think that tiredness caught up with us at Highbury (we lost a FA Cup Semi Final days before), not the fact Chelsea were the better team. Should though this be used as a stick to beat us with? It seems odd that a fixture not in the Premiership is used as evidence to conclude who’s the best Premiership team? No cup tie can be used to make such a judgement. In knock out competitions the line between success and failure is so fine you can’t use it’s results to measure long term development, unlike a 38 match marathon. If anything, doesn’t overcoming the adversity of being knocked out of two competitions within days, make it more impressive that we bounced back?
Look at it from another angle. The year we got to the Champions League final we only just squeezed into 4th place. If we had won in Paris, do you think the TalkSport’s of this World would have labelled us the best in this country when 3 of our rivals were better placed in the League? Of course not.
We drew too many Games
Apparently not losing in 38 matches isn’t enough for some in the media who felt we didn’t win enough. Of course the same people fail to mention that if it’s as easy as drawing 12 fixtures, why has no one else in the modern era done it? Not that I feel I should have to defend results which made us champions but as soon as the title was mathematically assured, the pressure got to us as we were so close to making history. In the last month of campaign we drew games we would have won any other time. If not for protecting our streak we would have won meaningless fixtures. I’d rather win less and never lose, than win more but lose.
Other Champions Got More Points
This is probably the argument I hate the most. Your target at the start of each season is to be better then 19 other clubs. How you do that in terms of points total, when or where it was won, etc is irrelevant. No supporter remembers what year who got how many points, just that they won the League or failed. Should we give Man United credit because at other times they would have won the title with last seasons points total? We finished 5th before with a tally that in any other year would have meant Champions League qualification, does it change the facts? Other title races have been decided on the final day, In 2004, the level of competition meant we had 4 games to spare, 4 games where we had the luxury to put our feet up, 12 more points we were free to dismiss. But we didn’t!
We were Lucky
Some often point to a Pires’ dive at home to Portsmouth and a Man United penalty hitting the bar, as examples of how close we came to losing a game. Isn’t that why we love sport? The fact that the line between success and failure is so fine, isn’t that why we keep coming back? The ball hits the post, and it bouncing back out or going over the line can decide if your a winner or loser. Considering that, shouldn’t it make doubters respect the feat even more? We balanced going away from home, injuries, players not on form, days where luck isn’t with you and still found a way to never taste defeat.