Invincibles This Week: 2004 starts with a draw

Nwankwo Kanu celebrates scoring against Everton

Each week, we'll reminisce about our incredible Invincible season 20 years on by looking back at what was going on at the club on and off the pitch, as well as remembering key news stories and the pop culture buzz at the time.

Last week, we enjoyed back-to-back wins over the Christmas period with victories over Wolves and Southampton, but 2004 wouldn’t start the way we wished.

Setting the scene

Arsenal celebrate scoring against Southampton

We had ended 2003 second in the Premier League table, just a point behind Manchester United and started the new year by thrashing Leeds United in the FA Cup third round.

But with the games coming thick and fast, we were soon back in league action as we travelled to Goodison Park to face an Everton side sitting 11th in a hugely congested table, three points off sixth but just five away from the drop zone.

Wenger’s words

Arsene Wenger at London Colney

As we headed towards the halfway point, the boss assessed the title race: “The situation at the top of the table is interesting, but we only need to concern ourselves with our own performances at the moment.

“Ideally, you always want to win and want your direct opponents to lose, it would be stupid to say otherwise. But it is still too early to worry about the other teams. If you start to worry about the opponents at this stage you will go crazy with nerves.

“We just try to keep going and play well, concentrate on our own performance and always look to improve. The unbeaten run continued and that is a mark of our consistency and proof of how motivated we are.”

From the dressing room

Kolo Toure in 2003

Kolo Toure was enjoying his run in the first-team: “When I play I want to give as much for [our supporters] as I possibly can. I am so pleased if I do well and I hope that makes supporters happy and it makes me really happy when I see supporters smiling. When they're not happy, neither am I and I want to do everything to make Arsenal fans feel good.

“Sometimes supporters come up to me in the street and say 'Kolo you are doing so well and we are pleased with you,' and this is a great feeling for me.”

Kolo also provided an update on his brother Yaya, who had a trial with us in the summer and played in some friendlies: “He is going to Metalurg Donetsk in Ukraine. It will be a hard place to go and he will have to be very strong mentally, but this is not bad for him at his age. Arsenal will follow how he does out there though, I'm sure.”

On the pitch

January 7, 2004

We lost ground at the top of the Premier League after Everton snatched an equaliser 15 minutes from time at Goodison Park.

Nwankwo Kanu had put us ahead in the 29th minute, skipping past Nigel Martyn and tucking away a shot after Freddie Ljungberg's astute pass. We maintained our ascendancy before the break but the Toffees snatched the initiative at the start of the second half.

After the first goal we pressed forward in search of that all-important second, one which would put the game beyond the Merseysiders. Ljungberg went close as did Thierry Henry. The goal failed to come however and Everton were rewarded late on for their persistence as they grabbed an equaliser and with it a share of the points.

It took a miscue by Ashley Cole, latched onto by Arsenal loanee Francis Jeffers to break the deadlock. Jens Lehmann saved the striker's drive but Tomasz Radzinski slid home the rebound.

Everton had worked hard to muscle their way back into the game, in all honesty, it was difficult to begrudge them a share of the spoils.

Line-up: Lehmann, Toure (Lauren 20), Campbell, Cygan, Cole, Ljungberg (Gilberto 89), Parlour, Vieira, Pires, Kanu (Edu 81), Henry. Subs not used: Shaaban, Aliadiere.

Where we stood

  P W D L F A Pts
Man Utd 20 16 1 3 40 14 49
Arsenal 20 13 7 0 36 13 46
Chelsea 20 13 3 4 36 17 42
Charlton 20 8 7 5 28 23 31
Liverpool 19 8 5 6 29 21 29

What the press said

Ray Parlour in action against Everton in 2004

"The Everton supporters went to Goodison Park last night hoping to experience déja vu rather than va va voom and they got it from an unexpected source." - The Times

"Arsenal saw two valuable Premiership points dropped at Goodison Park - thanks to one of their own cast-offs." - Daily Star

"There is something about Arsenal that brings out the devil in Everton." - The Sun

Elsewhere this week

Edu and Gilberto celebrate scoring against Leeds

We beat Leeds United 4-1 in the FA Cup third round at Elland Road, with  Henry, Edu, Robert Pires and Toure getting on the scoresheet.

We were then handed a home tie against Middlesbrough in the fourth round, meaning the teams would play each other four times in January having also been paired in the League Cup semi-finals.

As the transfer window opened, Moritz Voltz returned from his loan spell at Fulham, Greek defender Stathis Tavlaridis joined Ligue 1 club Lille on loan for six months.

Image of the week

Graham Stack at the Arsenal training ground

Graham Stack poses for a photo at London Colney, and discusses how his rivalry with Lehmann transcended football. The Republic of Ireland Under-21 International played rugby, cricket and was captain of the school basketball team, but it didn't dissuade the German from issuing a challenge to the young pretender.

"He wants to beat me at running," said Stack. "I am 22, he is 34, so he has no chance! He will never be quicker than me. But is so determined to be quicker and he wants to set up a mini-decathlon against me ... running, 400 metres, 800 metres, throwing, long jump. I said, 'Jens, bring it on, no problem!' I have to admit, though, that I was a bit worried because he is so confident!"

UK numbers ones

Official top 40: Mad World - Michael Andrews feat. Gary Jules
Album chart: Life for Rent - Dido (seventh week at no. 1)
Box office: Lord of the Rings - Return of the King (second week at no. 1)

In the news this week

Britney Spears in 2004

Britney Spears had her surprise marriage annulled less than 55 hours after tying the knot with childhood friend Jason Alexander in Las Vegas.

US scientists celebrated with champagne as NASA's probe successfully landed on Mars - as UK scientists were forced to revise their plans to track down their missing Beagle 2.

Social networking website MySpace is officially launched. Within a month, more than a million unique users have registered.

Find out what happened next as we went into the first of four games in a month against Middlesbrough

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