Invincibles This Week: History made as we reach 30

Thierry Henry celebrates scoring against Man Utd 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.

Last week, we moved level with the legendary Leeds United and Liverpool sides that went 29 games unbeaten from the start of the campaign. However, our old enemy would stand in our way of creating a new piece of history.

Setting the scene

Manchester United are dejected after conceding a goal

Nine wins in a row had propelled us into a commanding lead at the top of the table, and after drawing 1-1 at Chelsea in the first leg of our Champions League semi-final more big matches loomed on the horizon as we aimed for a famous Treble.

The only team to have achieved that at this point was Manchester United five years previously, who trailed us by 12 points going into this meeting at Highbury. September’s Battle of Old Trafford still loomed large over both teams, who would also face off in an FA Cup semi-final six days after this Premier League clash.

Wenger’s words

Arsene Wenger during training

The gap between the teams surprised Arsene Wenger, but he was not underestimating the Red Devils. “I can tell you that this game has lost none of its usual impact, even if the gap isn't as close as we would have expected it to be at this stage,” he said.

“This a vital game for us because we know that our form at Highbury until the end of the season will determine a lot. We take it step by step. First this season we wanted to quality for Europe, then we wanted to guarantee Champions League football and next we want to ensure a top-two finish.

“If we win today I think we will do that. Should we open up a 15-point gap today, then I would say that Manchester United won't catch us this season.”

From the dressing room

Freddie Ljungberg in action against Chelsea in 2004

With both teams facing each other for the first time since tempers flared in our goalless draw in September, Freddie Ljungberg suggested that the incident had galvanised our squad.

“Feelings ran high up at Old Trafford earlier in the season, for various reasons,” he said. “Perhaps we went over the top a little bit after they missed the penalty, I admit we shouldn't have gone that far. The good thing to come out of it though was that we stood up and showed we were together as a team. We have a lot of character here.

“The result was very important for us too, because it was just a few days after we lost 3-0 to Inter Milan. I said at the time that had we lost at Old Trafford it would have been very difficult for us because our confidence would have been down.”

On the pitch

March 28, 2004

Louis Saha struck with five minutes left to deny us victory against Manchester United at Highbury. But despite the Frenchman's equaliser, we set a new record for the most consecutive unbeaten games from the start of a season, as we reached the 30-game mark.

Thierry Henry opened the scoring with a spectacular 30-yard drive soon after half-time before his compatriot, Saha slotted home at the far post with just four minutes left.

There were two changes to the side that had drawn 1-1 at Stamford Bridge in midweek, with
Gael Clichy replacing Ashley Cole, who was still suffering from a knee injury and Jose Antonio Reyes started up front, meaning Dennis Bergkamp dropped to the bench.

We had two chances to grab all three points in the closing minutes of the game. Firstly Henry forced a reaction save from the excellent Roy Carroll from close range, before he set up Lauren who had appeared in the Manchester United area.

The Cameroon right-back had the option to return the pass to Henry but instead shot for goal and saw his effort well saved by the legs of Carroll, meaning we had to settle for a draw.

It meant our lead over second-place Chelsea cut to seven points with eight games left, but left Sir Alex Ferguson's side third, 12 points adrift of ourselves and virtually out of title contention.

Line-up: Lehmann, Lauen, Toure, Campbell, Clichy, Ljungberg (Cygan 82), Edu, Vieira, Pires (Bergkamp 85), Reyes (Gilberto 77), Henry. Subs not used: Stack, Kanu.

Where we stood

  P W D L F A Pts
Arsenal 30 22 8 0 58 20 74
Chelsea 30 21 4 5 57 24 67
Man Utd 30 19 5 6 56 30 62
Liverpool 30 12 10 8 42 31 46
Newcastle 30 11 12 7 41 31 45

What the press said

Gael Clichy tackles Ryan Giggs

"Despite their funeral black garb, Manchester United showed signs of life at Highbury." - Daily Telegraph

"Arsenal's champagne remains on ice, Manchester United's obituary on file." - The Independent

"Arsenal get their record, United a point and we move on to Villa Park to try to separate these two bitter rivals." - Daily Star

Elsewhere this week

Sylvain Wiltord celebrates scoring against Manchester City in 2003

Sylvain Wiltord returned from injury with a goal in a 4-0 behind-closed-doors reserve friendly against Luton Town.

As well as netting his 30th goal of the campaign against United, Thierry Henry moved level with Ian Wright at the top of our all-time Premier League scorers list with his 104th goal.

Our women’s team beat Birmingham City 2-1 to maintain their slim chances of winning the league, having already booked a spot in the Women’s FA Cup final and London County Cup final.

Image of the week

Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline

Wenger and Ferguson clash on the touchline at Highbury during the game, as the two old adversaries prepared themselves for another battle a week later.

Later reflecting on what we achieved in 2003/04, the Scot said in 2021: “I won 13 leagues, but I was never near going through a season undefeated. The achievement stands above everything else and it was Arsene’s.

"It became toxic for a while. The big change that made Arsenal was reinventing Henry. And the goals… he was fantastic. Arsenal were catching us up, and their team was good enough to go above us." 

UK number ones

Official top 40: Yeah - Usher featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris 
Album chart: Patience - George Michael
Box office: The Passion of the Christ

In the news this week

A person smoking in a pub

The Republic of Ireland became the first country in the world to ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants. All countries in Great Britain would follow suit by 2007.

France beat England to complete a Grand Slam and win the Six Nations. England finished with the Triple Crown.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal met for the first time in their careers at the Miami Open. Top seed Federer was beaten by the Spaniard, seeded number 32.

Find out what happened next as we continued to fight on three fronts, but would need some Henry magic against Liverpool

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