We examine a particular season of Arsenal's glorious history, what happened, when and where, the stats and the facts. This year, it's the famous 2001/02 campaign.
After the disappointment of finishing as runners up to Manchester United in the previous campaign and losing the FA Cup final to Liverpool, a flurry of transfer activity serves notice of Arsenal’s intention to win the title – which they hadn’t done since 1998. Richard Wright joins as understudy to goalkeeper David Seaman, and the arrivals of midfielder Giovanni van Bronckhorst and striker Francis Jeffers give the squad a depth it had previously lacked. Most remarkably of all, central defender Sol Campbell joins the Gunners from north London rivals Tottenham – and the transfer sends shockwaves through football.
The Gunners begin the campaign in fine style, romping to a 4-0 away win at Middlesbrough. Thierry Henry opens the scoring before half time, and two late Dennis Bergkamp strikes add a final flurry to a fantastic team performance. Leeds shock Arsenal at Highbury a few days later in the league, running out 2-1 winners, before the Gunners clobber Leicester City 4-0 at Highbury with some scintillating football.
Arsenal carve out a 1-1 draw at Chelsea in a disappointing match, before Henry serves notice of his stellar season by scoring in a 3-1 victory at Fulham. At home against Bolton, Jeffers’ opening goal for the Gunners is cancelled out by Michael Ricketts’ freak goal, which loops over David Seaman’s head.
Henry, yet again, is Arsenal’s main man at the end of the month in a 2-0 win against Derby. The Gunners find themselves in a precarious position in their Champions League group following away defeats to Mallorca and Panathinaikos, but a win at Highbury against Schalke keeps their hopes alive.
With a flurry of red cards in their opening games, Arsène Wenger warns against the team losing its cool, and guards against defensive complacency. His side start out the month by keeping a clean sheet against Southampton in a 2-0 win, but then cave in at home to Blackburn in a 3-3 draw, where despite superb goals from Pires, Bergkamp and Henry, David Dunn grabs a last-minute equaliser.
There’s another disappointing result at Sunderland, where former Gunner Stefan Schwarz cancels out Kanu’s opener in a 1-1 draw. There’s better news in the Champions League, where wins at Highbury against Panathanaikos and Mallorca take Arsenal through the first group stage as runners-up, behind winners Schalke.
A stuttering start to the month sees Arsenal concede valuable ground to Manchester United, losing at home to Charlton (4-2) and then eking out a 1-1 draw at Tottenham, as Campbell suffers a barrage of abuse from home supporters. In the last league game of the month against Manchester United, Wenger’s men finally recapture their form. After falling behind to Paul Scholes’ opener, Ljungberg’s delicate lob equalises, before late errors from United keeper Fabien Barthez gift Henry two goals in a 3-1 win.
Arsenal march on in the League Cup, hammering a second-string United 4-0 at Highbury and then easing past Grimsby 2-0 to reach the fifth round. Arsenal begin the second group stage of the Champions League with a disappointing 2-0 loss at Deportivo La Coruna.
Arsenal start to move up through the gears in the league, starting on December 1 with a 2-0 win at Ipswich, and then, in an unforgettable fightback, coming from behind against Aston Villa, with Henry slotting home a 91st-minute winner. There’s another Highbury blip at home to Newcastle, with late Shearer and Robert goals grabbing the Toon a smash-and-grab victory. The Arsenal players take heed of Wenger’s warning that they can’t afford any more slips, and claim a famous 2-1 win at Anfield. Ljungberg grabs the winner, crashing the ball home after a superb run and cross from Pires.
A Boxing Day win at home to Chelsea (Campbell nets his first goal for the club) is followed by a narrow win at Highbury against Middlesbrough. The Gunners’ League Cup interest is ended with a heavy defeat against Blackburn, but there is a famous Highbury night - culminating in a superb Ljungberg chip from a mind-boggling Bergkamp through ball - as Arsenal defeat Juventus 3-1. Wenger’s view on proceedings? “We need to be playing like that more often to fulfil our potential."
2001/02 Premiership table
|7||West Ham United||38||15||8||15||48||57||-9||53|
Draws against Liverpool and Leeds in the league are followed by hard-fought victories at Filbert Street against Leicester (van Bronckhorst nods his first goal for the club) and Blackburn, as Bergkamp slots home an excellent late goal. There’s also good news in the opening rounds of the FA Cup, with clinical late strikes from Kanu and Bergkamp seeing off Watford, and Bergkamp’s goal is enough to gain a measure of revenge on Liverpool in the fourth round. Skipper Tony Adams warns: "We’re playing well, but we’re not consistent enough yet. Top sides go on long winning streaks before they win the league."
A disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Southampton sees the team booed off at the end, but Sylvain Wiltord’s freakish looping effort at Goodison Park is enough to give his team a slightly undeserved 1-0 win. The Gunners wouldn’t drop a single point for the rest of the campaign. There’s a straightforward 4-1 win at home to Fulham, with Henry knocking one goal in off his knee, and at home to First Division Gillingham Arsenal claw their way back from being 2-1 down to run out 5-2 winners. A double-header against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League second group stage sees Arsenal draw in Germany and run out 4-1 winners at home, with Bergkamp’s superb late goal the coup de grace.
Arsenal now begin to motor in the league. Bergkamp’s famous wondergoal at St James’ Park sets up a fine 2-0 win, before Pires, rapidly emerging as the league’s in-form forward, scores the winner in a tight 1-0 win at home to Derby. He then follows this up with a majestic lob over former United keeper Peter Schmeichel in Arsenal’s 2-1 win at Aston Villa.
The month ends in the league with an easy 3-0 win at home to Sunderland, and the Gunners heap yet more misery on North East teams with a superlative 3-0 replay win over Newcastle at Highbury. Early strikes from Pires and Bergkamp kill off Newcastle early on, but there is a downside as Pires’s knee injury ends his season. The domestic Double may officially be on, but Arsenal are edged out of the Champions League after defeats to Deportivo and Juventus.
A blinding month for Arsenal as they home in on glory. There’s a quicksilver nine-minute burst at Charlton, as an Henry double and Ljungberg destroy the hosts. At home to Tottenham, Ljungberg finishes in fine style after a slide-rule Bergkamp pass puts him in, and Lauren’s cool head helps him net a late penalty to keep Arsenal on course to win 2-1. Ljungberg is on target again in both matches as Arsenal defeat West Ham and Ipswich at home.
At the Reebok Stadium, another dazzling piece of combination play between Bergkamp and Ljungberg helps give Freddie the opener against Bolton in a 2-0 win that brings Arsenal to within a point of Premier League glory. Arsenal reach the FA Cup final with a hard-fought 1-0 win against Middlesbrough. An own goal by Festa takes the Gunners back to the Millennium Stadium to face Chelsea.
Arsenal complete the first leg of a historic ‘double’ by seeing off Chelsea 2-0 in the FA Cup final. Ray Parlour curls home a superb opener, before Ljungberg charges forward to grab the vital second. Four days later, Wiltord delights travelling Gooners by scoring the winner at Old Trafford to bring the title to Highbury. Clad in gold, Arsenal’s performance dazzles onlookers, leaving United skipper Roy Keane to admit: “It was men against boys out there.”
The Gunners round off the season in classic style by beating Everton 4-3, but Tony Adams bids an emotional farewell to Highbury - as does Lee Dixon - with his testimonial match against Celtic. The crowd chant “One more year” at him, but a knee injury forces him to retire after a glittering Highbury career.Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source