As anyone with even a casual interest in American football knows, the 1972 Miami Dolphins went undefeated, through both the regular season and the playoffs, capped with a Super Bowl win. The main reason most everyone knows this is that, these days, the surviving members of the 1972 Dolphins team always crack open a bottle of champagne when the last remaining undefeated team in the league finally loses a game. Now that I'm writing this, actually, I realize that maybe they stopped this tradition after the Patriots' unbeaten regular season a few years ago, which would render this whole conceit, tenuous as it is anyway, moot. So I'm going to pretend they still do it, even if they don't. Artistic license!
In the late 90's/early 00's, winning the Premier League meant almost never losing games. The seasons from 1998-99 through 2003-04 saw the league champion lose an average of just a hair over 3 games a year, while the champions in the six seasons up to last season averaged just a hair under 5 losses per season. Obviously, the team with the most points still wins, but the league as a whole has gotten more competitive, and as it has, the standard of going a whole season unbeaten has become that much harder to reach.
While the members of the 2004 Invincibles team don't actually congregate and celebrate that I'm aware of, you can bet that they dearly love it when the last unbeaten Premiership team drops three points. This weekend, Arsenal have the opportunity to pick off one of the last unbeaten teams, when they face Chelsea at the Emirates on Saturday. A derby against Chelsea is normally a big deal, what with Chelsea being embiggened by massive amounts of oil money and all that - Arsenal need a viable London rival, and Pigeon Badge FC ain't getting it done these days - but this weekend, even though it's only September, Arsenal can both continue their excellent start to the season and make the statement that they are, in fact, challengers for the league title by denying Chelsea points for the first time in their season.
Picking off Chelsea would mean that only Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland are yet to lose in 2012; if Sunderland were to go 38 games unbeaten, it would be the most awesome thing in the history of things on the face of it, but considering that their unbeaten record so far is an uninspiring zero wins and four draws, it would in fact be the most boring thing in the history of things. But still, in reality Manchester City and Chelsea are of course the biggest threats to become Lesser Invincibles. It's far too early to be talking about going through an unbeaten season of our own just yet, but if Arsenal can take three points from Chelsea this weekend, the ghosts of 2004* will rest a little easier in North London on Saturday night.
*they are very young ghosts†
†they might not even be ghosts