Ten Years Ago

Clive Mason

On this day, 10 years ago, Arsenal became Invincible

The final whistle blew, and Alan Parry's commentary summed it up: "May the fifteenth, two thousand and four: history has been made! Played thirty-eight, won twenty-six, drawn twelve, lost exactly none". The history books were rewritten, and Arsenal became the first side to go through an entire English First Division/Premier League league campaign unbeaten since the Preston North End side of 1889 (the first season in English football).

The Invincibles had, of course, sealed the Championship four matches earlier, with a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane, and getting them to remain unbeaten was, according to Arsène Wenger, one of his hardest jobs in football. The players, according to him, did not see the big deal in being unbeaten, and wouldn't until after the end of the campaign. For the manager, though, this was sweet, sweet revenge towards though who had laughed when he claimed in 2002 that his side could go unbeaten. Alright, Arsenal may have lost six times in 2002-03, and finished second, but Wenger had the last laugh:

Somebody threw me a T-shirt after the trophy was presented which read 'Comical Wenger says we can go the whole season unbeaten.' I was just a season too early!

Arsenal, though, made it difficult in those final four games. A dull 0-0 draw with Birmingham followed the draw at Tottenham, and Jose Antonio Reyes rescued a 1-1 draw away at Portsmouth, with Jens Lehmann making a vital save. Reyes seized upon an Edwin van der Sar error to score the lone goal in a 1-0 victory against Fulham, bringing Arsenal to the brink of history: a home match against an already Leicester City.

Leicester, though, didn't play along, with Paul Dickov turning in Frank Sinclair's cross at the far post in the 26th minute to make it 1-0. Dickov, a former Arsenal man, had gone into the crowd while heading the ball home, and didn't care about the implications of the goal; he liked the party-pooper status.

It took Arsenal until the second half to rescue the match, with the effort led by Dennis Bergkamp. Picking the ball up in midfield, he played a glorious ball over the top for Ashley Cole, who was taken down for a penalty. Thierry Henry stepped up, and made no mistake, sending his penalty into the bottom corner. 20 minutes later, it was 2-1, with Bergkamp again the architect: he waited, and waited for a runner, and when it came from Vieira, he played a magical defence-splitting pass, meeting the run. Vieira calmly slotted home, and Arsenal were nearly there. Martin Keown came on in his final match for Arsenal, and then the job was done, and Arsenal were Invincible.

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