Invincibles

Invincibles This Week: Middlesbrough brushed aside

Thierry Henry scores against Middlesbrough 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, 2004 kicked off with us being pegged back at Goodison Park as Everton earned a 1-1 draw, leaving us chasing Manchester United at the top of the table.

Setting the scene

Arsene Wenger and Steve McClaren

As we attempted to cut United’s three-point gap at the top of the table, Middlesbrough arrived in north London for the first of four matches between the sides in three competitions across January.

The Teesiders would ultimately play a key role in how much domestic success we’d achieve in 2004, given after our league encounter we would tackle them in the FA Cup fourth round later in the month, sandwiched between a two-legged League Cup semi-final.

Wenger’s words

Arsene Wenger

Having played poorly on Merseyside the weekend before, Arsene Wenger was at least pleased we got something from the game ahead of another busy week. “The unbeaten run continued and that is a mark of our consistency and proof of how motivated we are,” he wrote in his programme notes. “We want to extend that run, going into the marathon against Middlesbrough!

“It's unusual to play the same team four times in a month and the be way to set yourself up for that is do well in the first game against them. For us, today's meeting is the most important of the four, mainly because it is the next match, but also because there are Premier League points available.

“I expect the four games to be very different, because the line-up will be different from match to match and we may change things slightly. Middlesbrough are in a good run at the moment, and that shouldn't be surprising because if you look at their squad there are some very, very talented players there.”

From the dressing room

Patrick Vieira and Nwankwo Kanu

Having seen Nwankwo Kanu net his first league goal of the campaign at Goodison Park, Patrick Vieira was pleased to see his long-time teammate be rewarded for his efforts.

“It was good to see Kanu get a goal for us, which was a good finish, and he has done really well this season,” the skipper said. “He has had a hard time at the club recently because he hasn't always been in the side and of course he wants to play which frustrates him, but he has stayed patient and has had a chance to show his superb skills again recently.

“Kanu is never happier than when he is out there playing football, I think supporters can probably tell just how much he enjoys playing the game and doing the best he can for the team. He is working really hard and trying to show to the boss that he deserves to be in the side.”

On the pitch

GAME 21: ARSENAL 4-1 MIDDLESBROUGH
January 10, 2004

We won round one against Boro with a performance that knocked our opponents out cold. With another three matches to go in the January series, Middlesbrough will need to rediscover the defensive resolve which, before this game, had seen them concede only 19 times.

Kolo Toure, after injuring his ankle in the match against Everton, was not passed fit in time for the game so his place was taken by Pascal Cygan at the heart of defence. Jeremie Aliadiere partnered Thierry Henry up front for the second time this season as Kanu was rested.

Middlesbrough started the game on the back foot and seemed intent on letting us attack. But for some astute positioning from their Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer they would have found themselves 2-0 down after only 10 minutes.

On the solitary moment that they ventured into the opposition half, Doriva forced Jens Lehmann into a reflex save with a fine drive from outside the area.

The deadlock was smashed open when in the 38th minute Vieira was hauled down in Schwarzer's box, and Henry finished coolly. Seven minutes later Henry fired in a free-kick from 30 yards and Franck Queudrue sliced the ball into his own net to double our lead.

We started the second half as we had finished the first with Robert Pires slamming home after Gareth Southgate gifted him the ball, and Freddie Ljungberg completed a fine afternoon when he struck his 50th goal for the club. Massimo Maccarone scored a consolation penalty at the death, but by then it was too little, too late.

Line-up: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Cygan, Cole, Ljungberg (Parlour 73), Gilberto, Vieira, Pires (Edu 67), Aliadiere (Kanu 46), Henry. Subs not used: Stack, Keown.

Where we stood

  P W D L F A Pts
Man Utd 21 16 2 3 40 14 50
Arsenal 21 14 7 0 40 14 49
Chelsea 21 14 3 4 40 17 45
Charlton 21 9 7 5 30 23 34
Liverpool 21 9 5 6 30 21 32

What the press said

Thierry Henry clashes with Danny Mills of Middlesbrough

"Middlesbrough's Danny Mills picked up the wrong man when he tried to wind up Arsenal superstar Thierry Henry. A case of Mills and Boom!" - Daily Star

"A word of advice for Danny Mills. Next time you go to war with one of your opponents, make sure it's not the most lethal striker in the world." - The Sun

"By the end of the month Arsenal and Middlesbrough should feel like an old married couple - The Guardian

Elsewhere this week

Jens Lehmann catches during the ball against Blackburn Rovers

Jens Lehmann is charged with improper conduct by the FA for an incident at the end of the game against Southampton on December 29 when he threw the ball at Kevin Phillips.

Thierry Henry is named in the UEFA Team of the Year for the third successive season. He was also awarded the Barclaycard Player of the Month for January.

A behind-closed-doors friendly at London Colney saw us beat Peterborough United 2-1.

Photo of the week

Patrick Vieira in the Highbury tunnel

Patrick Vieira leads his team out to face Middlesbrough, navigating the narrow Highbury tunnel. We were just a month away from funding for our new stadium at Ashburton Grove, which would pave the way for building work to commence on the site.

Vieira meanwhile was now fully recovered from the hamstring injury that plagued the early part of his season and would miss just one more league game this campaign as we started to string together a run of form that propelled us to immortality.

UK number ones

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

In the news this week

David Seaman waves to the crowd following his retirement

David Seaman retired from football aged 41 due to a long-serving shoulder issue. Having departed Highbury for Manchester City the previous summer, he made 26 appearances for the Citizens.

Harold Shipman, the former GP who is believed to have killed more than 200 people, was been found dead in his prison cell after committing suicide.

The world's largest ocean liner, RMS Queen Mary 2, makes its maiden voyage. Costing £550 million, the largest passenger ship at the time was christened by her namesake's granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

Find out what happened next as we headed to Villa Park, aiming to maintain the pressure on Manchester United at the top of the table.

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