The 2003-04 season will live long in the memory of football fans around the world, not just for the Gunners faithful. This will be known as the ‘Invincible Season’ in which Arsenal finished the entire Premier League campaign without losing a single game - something that no team has completed since. That’s why in our latest post, we will be looking back at the invincible Arsenal season and what led them to this unrivalled feat.
The Arsene Wenger invincible season would not have been possible without Arsene Wenger. Known as the philosopher of football - Wenger’s style of play was unmatched, as at the time - most clubs opted for a 4-4-2 formation. Granted, Arsene also adopted this formation, although once the starting XI arrived on the field - it quickly became something else.
Rather it formed an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation as Dennis Bergkamp and Gilberto Silva would often track back down the field - whilst the likes of Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires and Ashley Cole would move up the pitch - causing this modified 4-4-2 formation.
The way in which Arsenal preferred to play was out from the back, as Kolo Toure was extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet, allowing him to supply a vertical pass at a moment's notice or progress further up the pitch to scout for better passing angles. With Robert Pires and Ljunberg on the wings, often they would be instructed to come deeper into the heart of midfield - allowing the red and white shirts to suffocate the available space which in turn would make the opposition more susceptible to losing the ball. Once possession was won, that is when Ljungberg, Pires and Cole would break forward with pace trying to capitalise.
This brings us to the attacking play of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. The side was blessed with having some of the best footballers to ever grace the Premier League. Such as Patrick Viera who was able to dominate the middle of the park whilst transitioning further up the field to help supply passes through the box to cut open defences. As well as Viera, the legendary Thierry Henry and Robert Pires would cut outside and inside respectively whilst Cole also transitioned further upfield.
This was the essence of how they played, so how did this work in practice? To put it simply, a golden trophy that no one else has lifted.
The twelfth season of the Premier League kicked off for the Gunners on the 16th of August 2003, a home fixture against the formidable Everton. This win was especially impressive considering Sol Campbell was given a red card at the 25th-minute mark - resulting in the Gunners needing to finish the game with 10 men. Despite being a man down, Arsenal was still able to go ahead with two brilliant goals thanks to a Henry penalty and a Pires strike. They followed this opening win with an additional 3 wins to Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and Manchester City. Truly asserting their dominance from the very beginning of the season. However, they did have somewhat of a scare in their next two fixtures having drawn against both Portsmouth and Manchester United.
It wasn’t until the 36th fixture of the season that Arsenal believed that their invincible season could be in jeopardy against Portsmouth. This was due to a stunning goal by Yakubu in the 30th minute, going into half-time Gunners fans were anxious that their invincible season would come to an end. Alas, it wasn’t until the 50th minute that Jose Antonio Reyes was able to score the equalising goal - finishing the game 1-1. This may have resulted in a 2-1 given that Yakubu failed to score a brace.
The final two games of the season saw Arsenal beat both Fulham and Leicester City. Resulting in the Gunners winning the Premier League title without having conceded a single loss. Some people have often scoffed at the side given they won the league by a single point. This can be attributed to the fact that they accumulated 12 draws throughout the season.
Regardless of how many points the side won the league by, it is irrefutable that this is one of all-time greatest achievements in sports history. Additionally, Arsenal managed to obtain 26 wins whilst gaining the fewest goals conceded that season with 26 goals. Thierry Henry obtained the golden boot for the 2003/04 season by scoring 30 goals, (8 more than second place Alan Shearer with 22). Arsene Wenger obtained Premier League Manager of the Year also.
Six Arsenal players were featured in the PFA Team of the Year including:
Given that this feat has not been met prior or since, it goes without saying that this is one of the most impressive sporting achievements, and will live long in the memory of sports fans - especially Arsenal fans. To commemorate this unrivalled achievement, the Premier League awarded the club with a unique gold trophy - something that no other team has been able to obtain.