Invincibles This Week: Henry's Liverpool hat-trick

Thierry Henry scores against Liverpool in 2004

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 broke a top-flight record by going 30 league matches at the start of a season unbeaten against Manchester United, but our hopes of cup or European success vanished in a matter of days before crunch meetings against Liverpool and Newcastle United.

Setting the scene

Wayne Bridge scores against Arsenal in the Champions League quarter final in 2004

After losing 1-0 to Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park six days after beating the same opponents on our own patch, we also crashed out of the Champions League in north London after Wayne Bridge’s 87th-minute strike sent Chelsea through to the last four at our expense.

That left the league title as our sole honour to claim, and as we held a seven-point lead over the Blues in the league table, an undefeated season and a place in history looked to be the real achievement to seize. That would come under serious threat as the two other teams occupying a spot in the top five of the Premier League tried to stop us across a three-day Easter period.

Wenger’s words

Arsene Wenger

Writing in his programme notes, Wenger admitted he had to pick his players up from the European disappointment and refocus: “We have invested a lot of effort in the Champions League this season, but we've invested much more in the Premiership, because we've been fighting for that for eight months,” he said.

“To have something positive in front of us is great. We went for everything this season, every competition, but you always know that it's possible that you will not win everything. That shouldn't stop you from being positive and going for it.

“These guys are strong, they have to re-programme their brains. It's easy to forget how good you are, that's what I've been convincing the players over the last couple of days.”

Meanwhile, he admitted our talisman could be missing for these crunch games: “Thierry Henry had a scan this week which was very positive, but I don't think he will be available this weekend. You never know though and we will leave the decision as late as possible.”

From the dressing room

Jens Lehmann

Jens Lehmann was left frustrated after the Champions League exit, and the scheduling of two massive league matches over the space of three days.

“I think we are the best team in England, but like every team, you are dependent on your physique and mental strengths,” he said. “We are the only team that has such a big number of hard games to play, all in a row. I don't know if it's ever happened in England before, but in my career l've never known it.

“There have been five or six consecutive top-level games, and to play Liverpool and Newcastle on Friday and Sunday is ridiculous but we have to cope with it. We are still convinced that we are the best team and play the best football, but if we are mentally not strong enough to come through this phase then that won't matter.”

On the pitch

April 9, 2004

A bad week ended with a Good Friday as we exorcised the ghosts of a frightening seven days and swept aside Liverpool to extend our lead at the top of the table. Twice we came from behind to beat Gerard Houllier's men, with Henry hitting a hat-trick in the process.

Sami Hyypia's fifth-minute header gave the Reds the start they dreamt of and the last thing Wenger would have expected. His team though never knew when to give up and responded admirably when the fit Henry equalised in the 31st minute.

Despite restoring parity, our defence still looked a little fragile and Steven Gerrard's inch-perfect through ball allowed Michael Owen to tuck away a shot five minutes before the break.

We had to dig deep and responded well after the break. Robert Pires prodded us level once more four minutes after the restart and, seconds later, Henry conjured up a stunning, solo strike. The Frenchman picked up the ball close to the halfway line and dribbled his way past a number of confused players before choosing placement over power and side-footing his shot past Jerzy Dudek.

It was a strike which set Highbury alight, and for good measure Henry completed his hat-trick midway through the half with an admittedly fortunate goal to ensure we overcame a huge hurdle on our way to immortality.

Line-up: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole, Ljungberg (Keown 90), Gilberto, Vieira, Pires (Edu 71), Bergkamp, Henry. Subs not used: Shaaban, Clichy, Reyes.

April 11, 2004

48 hours later, our season took one more step closer to a pleasing conclusion after we ground out a hard-fought draw on Easter Sunday.

The trip to St James' Park had long been labelled as 'dangerous' when Highbury-hearted supporters scoured the fixture list for potential pitfalls remaining in this campaign. It certainly represented a significant threat to our unbeaten Premiership season - especially as it was our fourth game in nine days.

Wenger made three changes from the Liverpool game- Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires dropped to the bench while Freddie Ljungberg was omitted altogether. Edu, Jose Antonio Reyes and the fit again Sylvain Wiltord were their replacements.

Newcastle started with purpose. In the sixth minute, Alan Shearer escaped down the right and crossed to the near corner of the six-yard box. Craig Bellamy overran the ball slightly and then flicked it goalward with the inside of his right foot, and the effort looked destined to trickle into the near corner of the net but Lehmann stretched his athletic frame to divert the ball around the post.

Other than that, chances were few and far between and Wiltord should have put us ahead in the dying seconds of the first half while Henry hit a shot against the post midway through the second.

For the Magpies, Bellamy's clever shot in the opening minutes turned out to be their best opportunity of the 90 minutes. As time ticked away, both sides seemed happy enough to hold what they had, but Kolo Toure flashed a header wide from a corner in injury time as we nearly stole another couple of points.

Line-up: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole (Clichy 90), Wiltord (Pires 78), Gilberto, Vieira, Edu, Reyes (Bergkamp 78), Henry. Subs not used: Shaaban, Keown.

What the press said

Ashley Cole playing against Newcastle in 2004

"Before there can be a pearl, there must first be grit." - Financial Times

"Arsenal emerged gasping to the surface, breathing once again the oxygen of title ambition." - Daily Express

"The finger of history continues to beckon the Highbury club." - The Guardian

Where we stood

  P W D L F A Pts
Arsenal 32 23 9 0 62 22 78
Chelsea 32 22 5 5 58 24 71
Man Utd 31 20 5 6 58 31 65
Liverpool 32 13 10 9 48 35 49
Newcastle 32 12 13 7 45 33 49

Elsewhere this week

Philippe Senderos in 2004

Philippe Senderos made his return from injury and scored the only goal as our reserves beat Portsmouth 1-0.

Edu is called up for the Brazil squad for the first time in his career ahead of their friendly against Hungary.

Arsenal Ladies beat Fulham 4-0 to win the London County Cup, with Jayne Ludlow, Jo Potter, Alex Scott and Justine Lorton getting the goals.

Image of the week

Thierry Henry in the tunnel after the win against Liverpool in 2004

A drained Henry is pictured in the tunnel after leaving the field following his hat-trick against Liverpool. On what was arguably his greatest Gunners performance, he felt he scored his favourite-ever goal.

He later reflected: “When you look at that goal, nothing makes sense. Why am I there with Gilberto Silva? All I know is that when I had the ball, I saw the goal. That stadium had a heart and it wasn’t beating. I can revive the heart of that stadium through that goal, when I felt it going again. 

"When I watch my goals, I never really get goosebumps, but with that one even watching it now, I do. That day I got the confirmation that that stadium had a heart."

UK number ones

Official top 40: Five Colours In Her Hair - McFly
Album chart: Anastacia - Anastacia
Box office: Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

In the news this week

David Beckham playing for Real Madrid

David Beckham was forced to deny allegations that he had an affair with his former assistant Rebecca Loos after she sold her story to the media.

Legendary West Indian cricketer Brian Lara recorded the highest individual score in a Test innings with 400 not out against England in Antigua.

At the 47th attempt, Phil Mickelson claimed his first major title with a birdie on the final hole to win The Masters by one stroke over Ernie Els.

Find out what happened next as Leeds United came to Highbury, as Henry was about to go one better

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