But none stands out as Arsenal's legendary "Invincibles" who won the 2003/04 Premier League title unbeaten.
Since its rebranding from Football League to the English Premier League in 1992, the English top flight has been graced by different teams who can lay claim to being the best in history; from Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United teams, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, Manchester City under Pep Guardiorla and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team.
But none stands out as Arsenal’s legendary “Invincibles” who won the 2003/04 Premier League title unbeaten.
The only side to have gone a whole league season unbeaten before Arsenal in English football history was Preston North End, who did so in 1888/89 albeit playing just 22 league matches.
The Gunners did theirs in a 38-match league season, winning 26 matches, drawing 12 and losing none. They won the league with 90 points — 11 points ahead of 2nd-placed Chelsea, 15 ahead of Manchester United in 3rd place and a whopping 30 points above 4th-placed Liverpool!
Arsenal were not successful in the other competitions though, as they crashed out at the semifinal stages of both the League Cup and FA Cup and were dumped out of the UEFA Champions League by Chelsea in the quarterfinals.
In this post, your ultimate soccer blog, FootballOrbit, brings you details of the “Invincibles” unbeaten run.
Arsenal’s run to the 2003/04 EPL title
Manchester United had narrowly pipped Arsenal to the 2002/03 title and in 2003/04, the Gunners bounced back stronger. They started the season unbeaten but their run was almost brought to an end on matchday 6 against the Red Devils who were awarded an injury-time penalty, but Ruud Van Nistelrooy hit the bar with his spot-kick and the match ended 0-0.
Chelsea — backed by their new Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich — led the league table till winter. In January, Arsenal began a run of nine victories in a row to move to the top of the table and remained there till the end of the season.
In February, a 2-1 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was decisive in the title race. Wenger’s men secured the title with a draw against Tottenham in April 2004 as Chelsea lost to Newcastle in the same round of fixtures.
The Gunners ended the league season with a 2-1 win over Leicester City on the final day to finish the season unbeaten — writing down their name in history as arguably the greatest Premier League team ever and earning themselves “The Invincibles” tag.
After Arsenal became the only team to finish a 38-match season unbeaten, the Premier League commissioned a unique gold trophy to commemorate the achievement. As a parting gift from the club after his last home game as manager on 6 May 2018, Arsenal presented the trophy to Arsene Wenger, who spent 22 years at the club.
Extending the unbeaten run to 49 matches
Arsenal continued their impressive unbeaten run into the next season (2004/05), and extended it to 49 matches — breaking Nottingham Forest’s 26-year 42 matches unbeaten record in the process.
The “Invincibles” run was ended in a controversial match against arch-rivals Manchester United, with the Old Trafford side emerging 2-0 courtesy of goals from Van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney.
The game is known as the “battle of the buffet” or “Pizzagate” because in the tunnel after the match, tempers boiled over between staff of both clubs and players, and amidst the brawl, a slice of pizza was thrown at Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, allegedly by Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas.
Remarkably, during the Gunners’ 49 matches unbeaten run, they were never behind in the final 20 minutes. In total, they won 36 games and drew 13 throughout the run, which lasted from May 2003 to October 2004 (spreading across three seasons).
Arsenal’s “Invincibles” squad of 2003/04
Patrick Vieira (Captain)
Jose Antony Reyes
Formation and playing style
Wenger’s side regularly lined up in a 4-4-2 formation but will usually switch to a 4-4-1-1 when in attack. Bergkamp occasionally drops to the Number 10 role behind Henry to link the midfield with the attack.
The team laid much emphasis on attacking football while also relying on flexibility, overlapping full-backs and had brilliant commitment to defending. Arsenal often counter-attacked by relying on the pace and excellent link-up plays between the likes of Henry, Pires, Ashley Cole, Lauren, Ljungberg and Bergkamp.
Vieira and Gilberto Silva served as shields for the defence — which conceded just 26 goals through the season.
The squad had good depth as well, as the likes of Reyes, Wiltord and Kanu could be summoned from the bench as super subs.
The Frenchman did not only revolutionised English football with his playing style then, but also introduced new training and fitness programmes as well as diet controls.
Thierry Henry was at his peak then. His pace, trickery and excellent finishing was a constant headache for opposition defenders. He ended the season with 30 goals in the Premier League and won the Golden Boot, the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Writers’ Footballer of the Year awards.
Dennis Bergkamp was the perfect complementary partner for Henry due to his speed, skill and intelligence.
Robert Pires was also instrumental as he put in some amazing displays and chipped in with 14 league goals, while captain, Patrick Vieira, was the team’s engine room.
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