Invincibles This Week: 90 minutes from immortality

Thierry Henry and Jose Antonio Reyes celebrate the winner against Fulham

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 recorded back-to-back draws against Birmingham City and Portsmouth to get to within touching distance of an unbeaten season, with our final away game of the season coming in the form of a London derby against Fulham.

Setting the scene

Patrick Vieira playing against Newcastle in 2004

With just two games to go, Arsene Wenger’s champions were throwing everything they could into creating history. Players were pushing through the pain barrier, including skipper Patrick Vieira who had suffered broken ribs, and despite a season that saw us go deep in all three cup competitions, they were hoping enough was in the tank to get over the line.

Fulham had also enjoyed a fine campaign, and went into this game just six points off the European places with two games to go and on track to record their best finish in the competition, despite having to play at Queens Park Rangers’ Loftus Road due to Craven Cottage being redeveloped.

Wenger’s words

Arsene Wenger in training

Wenger was conscious of the slight drop-off in our form having not won for three matches, but was proud his team were still digging to achieve greatness: “We wanted to keep on winning, of course, but we took the foot off the pedal slightly which took something away from our game.

“But when we had our backs to the wall you could see that we did not want to lose. We haven't really seen the real Arsenal in the last couple of games, I agree, but also you did see that these boys are winners and refuse to lose, even when we had won the league

“And don't forget that in two of our last three seasons we have been unbeaten away from home. That's just fantastic.”

From the dressing room

Sol Campbell celebrating with Thierry Henry

With Euro 2004 on the horizon and nursing an injury, Sol Campbell could have been excused for putting his feet up for the final few games, but that wasn’t the case.  "It’s true that I've played the last couple of months with the injury, and in fact that makes it even more special for me,” he said.

“At the moment it's not too bad, although a few weeks ago it was. It's settled down a bit, and it's only there slightly now. I hope to carry on being involved until the end of the season though, I like to keep things ticking over, you can't just stop. It could do you more harm than good if you stop playing for a few weeks.

“Even if you are just playing 45 minutes, it's good to keep ticking over. Anyway, we just want to keep it going until the end of the season.”

On the pitch

MAY 9, 2004

We were just 90 minutes away from completing an unbeaten Premier League season after we grabbed a hard-fought win against the Cottagers.

An error from Edwin van der Sar gifted us an early lead when the Dutch keeper failed to clear a back pass from Alain Goma in the ninth minute. Jose Antonio Reyes was quick to steal the ball from under the feet of the Dutch keeper before slotting home from close range.

Before Reyes' goal, Freddie Ljungberg had a chance within two minutes to open the scoring but the energetic Swede failed to capitalise, unlike Reyes minutes later but once again we had to graft to get the win.

Fulham went on to have plenty of possession but, in truth, they only rarely tested Jens Lehmann. Former Gunner Moritz Volz came as close as anyone when, midway through the second half, he fired low across the face of goal and inches past the far post.

We came close to a second goal later on when Junichi Inamoto, another ex-Arsenal player, skewed the ball towards his own goal. However, van der Sar was equal to the effort and saved his team from going two behind as well as the blushes of the Fulham midfielder.

At the other end of the pitch, Luis Boa Morte had a chance for Fulham when he latched onto an Inamoto chip only to see Lehmann save well with his legs, but we held on to set up a crucial final-day encounter at Highbury against Leicester City.

Line-up: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole, Pires (Clichy 78), Vieira, Parlour, Ljungberg (Keown 87), Reyes (Aliadiere 71), Henry.

Where we stood

  P W D L F A Pts
Arsenal 37 25 12 0 71 25 87
Chelsea 37 23 7 7 66 30 76
Man Utd 37 22 6 9 62 35 72
Liverpool 37 16 11 10 54 36 59
Aston Villa 37 15 11 11 48 42 56

What the press said

Ray Parlour playing against Fulham in 2004

"90 minutes from immortality." - Daily Mirror

"Arsenal's success this season has had even the most reasoned observers scurrying in search of fresh superlatives, and yesterday the side's own manager ignored this relatively unimpressive performance to claim the greatest glory of them all: immortality." - The Guardian

"One game from heaven." - Daily Star

Elsewhere this week

Dennis Bergkamp celebrates scoring against Bolton in 2004

Dennis Bergkamp signed a one-year contract extension to remain at the club for another season.

Thierry Henry was named the Football Writers’ Player of the Season, becoming the first player ever to retain the trophy.

The club hosted a state visit from the president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski who took a look around Highbury.

Image of the week

The open top bus being prepared ahead of our trophy parade

Preparation for our open-top bus parade continued as the vehicles get wrapped in Arsenal colours. 

With the league title in the bag, could we go one step better and finish the campaign unbeaten to make it an extra special day to remember?

UK number ones

Official top 40: Don’t Want You Back - Eamon (third week at no. 1)
Album chart: D12 World - D12
Box office: Van Helsing

In the news this week

The cast of the TV show Friends

The TV show Friends ends after nearly 10 years, with 52.5 million people tuning in to watch the finale in America.

33 years after his first BBC appearance, Michael Parkinson held his last talk show on the channel after Match of the Day returned in its place.

An early painting by Picasso, Boy With A Pipe, fetched a world record price of $104million (£58 million) at auction - the first to break the $100million mark.

Find out what happened next as we took on Leicester City, hoping to overcome the final hurdle to invincibility

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Fixtures & Results

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