Invincibles This Week: Chelsea nudged off top spot

Carlo Cudicini allows Thierry Henry to score against Chelsea in 2003

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.

Two weeks ago, we came from behind to beat Liverpool ahead of the international break, but a top-of-the-table clash was next on the horizon…

Setting the scene

Robert Pires celebrates scoring against Liverpool

Having beaten the Reds at Anfield to remain top of the league, by the time we next took to the field two weeks later we had been leapfrogged by Chelsea, who had used their two games in hand to clinch the four points needed to put them top on goal difference.

After an international break that saw both sets of players jet off around the globe, the west Londoners crossed the capital for a meeting of first v second in N5, reaping the rewards of Roman Abramovich’s £111 million spending spree during his first summer in charge of the Blues.

Wenger’s words

Arsene Wenger

Publicly at least, Arsene Wenger was playing down the significance of the meeting so early on in the campaign. “Whoever wins today will be top of the table, and although you can never say it's not important to be top, there is such a long way to go,” he said. 

“I think at the moment the emphasis is on showing how strong you are and putting good performances in. Chelsea are a competitive team and can challenge for the title but we must take that in a positive way, because it should push us higher and give us even more motivation to show our strengths.

“They have had a good start to the season as well, which should stimulate and motivate us. It shows that they will challenge for the title this season. I think they have the individual talents to help them get results even when they are not playing especially well.”

From the dressing room

Ashley Cole

Having helped England reach Euro 2004 courtesy of a batling 0-0 draw against Turkey the previous week, Ashley Cole was relishing so many big games in quick succession. "It's been a great couple of weeks," the defender enthused. "As a player you want these types of games, the big Premiership matches, the internationals and the Champions League too.

"After winning at Liverpool and getting the result in Turkey I'm feeling really good. 

"A lot of people at the start of the season said that Chelsea might take time to gel,” he continued, “but I think world-class players gel together straight away. They've got a few English players too, and good team spirit, so they will be up there. It will make the league tougher this year, which is good for the fans.”

October 18, 2003

We moved back to the top of the Premier League after edging this dramatic London derby at Highbury, moving a point clear of Manchester United who had temporarily gone top after winning at Leeds United earlier in the day.

Our start was as bright as the sunshine in which Highbury was bathed in. Thierry Henry nearly profited from Sylvain Wiltord's cutback in the second minute, and three minutes later, Robert Pires' attempted flick was handled just outside the area. Edu took the free-kick and the Brazilian's low drive deflected off Ray Parlour to beat Carlo Cudicini.

The lead lasted only three minutes. A perceptive ball from Claude Makelele put Hernan Crespo in behind Lauren. The Argentinian cut back to get the ball onto his right foot and produced a curling shot that arced past Jens Lehmann into the top right-hand corner.

The winner arrived with 15 minutes left, courtesy of an error by Cudicini. Pires squared a pass from the right into the middle of the penalty area, and the Italian keeper rushed out to beat Henry to the ball but, in stooping to collect, it slipped through his fingers and hit the knees of our striker before bobbling into the unguarded net.

Post-match, Wenger was delighted to have beaten another perceived title challenger: "It has been very tight between us, Manchester United and Chelsea. United was also a tight game but we have found the resources to get something out of each game.”

Line-up: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole, Parlour (Kanu 66), Gilberto, Edu, Pires (Cygan 90), Wiltord (Bergkamp 66), Henry. Subs not used: Stack, Aliadiere.

Where we stood

  P W D L F A Pts
Arsenal 9 7 2 0 18 7 23
Man Utd 9 7 1 1 17 3 22
Chelsea 9 6 2 1 19 9 20
Birmingham 9 4 4 1 8 5 16
Man City 9 4 3 2 20 11 15

What the press said

Edu celebrates scoring against Chelsea in 2003

"Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has been delighted by the resilience his Gunners have shown to take 10 points from four games against Manchester United, Newcastle, Liverpool and Chelsea." - Daily Star

"We stopped calling them 'Lucky Arsenal' about five years ago. All the Gunners have achieved since then they have earned through hard work and their evolvement into a class act." - The Sun

"Before they rule the world, Chelsea need to rule London and they were reminded on Saturday that Arsenal will staunchly defend their supremacy in the capital." - The Times

Elsewhere this week

Arsenal are dejected after conceding against Dynamo Kyiv in 2003

Following the Chelsea result, the squad headed out to Kyiv for their third Champions League group stage game, but a 2-1 defeat left us bottom of the group with just one point. 

Jermaine Pennant had his loan spell at Leeds United extended by another month after impressing for the Whites in a similar deal.

Kolo Toure was voted as the club’s Player of the Month for the second successive month after continuing to impress having been handed a chance to feature at centre-back.

Image of the week

Cesc Fabregas playing for Arsenal's under-19 side

Cesc Fabregas is pictured during his first appearance in Arsenal colours after completing his move from Barcelona. The 16-year-old played for our under-19s against Coventry City in a friendly game at London Colney, in what would be just one of two appearances at that level before he was thrust into the first-team limelight later in the month...

UK number ones

  • Official Top 40: Where Is the Love? - Black Eyed Peas (fifth week at number one)
  • Album chart: Life For Rent - Dido
  • Box office: Finding Nemo

In the news this week

David Blaine in his perspex box during his 44-day starvation stunt

David Blaine completed his 44-day starvation stunt where he was suspended in a glass box by the River Thames in London without food. A crowd of 10,000 people were there to see him finally reemerge, having lost 30 per cent of his body weight.

Taipei 101, a 101-floor skyscraper in Taiwan, surpassed the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur by 50 meters to become the world's tallest building. It became the world's first skyscraper to exceed a height of half a kilometre (about 0.3 miles).

Prime Minister Tony Blair was taken to hospital after complaining of chest pains at his Chequers residence and was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. He was kept in hospital for more than five hours before returning to work after a day’s rest.

Find out what happened next as we headed to Charlton Athletic, while history would be made in the League Cup

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