Invincibles This Week: Pires magic stuns Liverpool

Robert Pires celebrates scoring against Liverpool

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 edged out Newcastle United in a five-goal thriller to end a three-match unbeaten run, but the big games were coming thick and fast.

Setting the scene

Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole during a training session

Having got through a tough run of fixtures that saw us face Inter Milan, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Lokomotiv Moscow in 13 days, we returned from Russia to be faced with an early Saturday kick-off at Anfield against Liverpool.

It would be the final game before another international break, and with injuries catching up with us, Arsene Wenger was forced to switch up his side once again as he aimed to continue our impressive start.

Wenger’s words

Arsene Wenger

With his side sitting top of the league after six games, Wenger suggested that there were plenty of signs that this campaign would be different to the last, having navigated our way through plenty of tough tests already.

“Each of those games we had difficult periods to come through but we found the resources to get through it,” he said. “That for me is much more positive than last season. So, so far I feel the difference is that last season we threw away too many leads.

"At the moment I would say the team is on a good route - we know we can improve, and we know we can do better, but that's quite positive, if you look what we have achieved so far while knowing we can do more.

"I think also we have discovered that we need the qualities we have shown so far and we need to keep hold of these qualities for the whole season."

From the dressing room

Martin Keown shouting at Kolo Toure

Martin Keown’s excellent form had seen him linked with a return to the England set-up for their crunch Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey, despite him being 37 years old. Our defender didn’t get the call, but ran the rule over the nation’s top defensive prospects at the time.

"I feel that we have a very good group of young central defenders in this country and I'm still trying to hold my own,” Martin said. “I do feel that if I was a little bit younger I'd like to think I'd still be regularly involved in the England set-up.

"I've not worked closely with John Terry or Jonathan Woodgate, so it's difficult for me to really talk about them with authority. I have worked with Matthew Upson of course and I think he will go on to become an outstanding defender.”

On the pitch

October 4, 2003

We performed a smash-and-grab operation at Anfield to extend our unbeaten league run to eight games, thanks to a wonderful strike from Robert Pires midway through the second half.

With Patrick Vieira out injured, Edu was given the job of patrolling the midfield while Ray Parlour filled the right midfield slot in place of the missing Freddie Ljungberg. Jeremie Aliadiere was also given his first league start.

Recovering from the trip to Moscow, we started the match in apprehensive fashion and allowed the hosts time and space from which to launch their attacks, and Harry Kewell soon capitalised on our generosity by firing a volley past Jens Lehmann 14 minutes in after the ball had cannoned off Michael Owen.

The Reds had further chances to put the game beyond reach in the first 45 minutes when first Owen and then Kewell blasted wide. Fortunately, the scoresheet remained the same and it was ourselves who equalised through a Sami Hyypia own goal, although Edu will take credit for the header that forced the Finnish defender into prodding into the wrong net.

The second half produced a different performance from ourselves and the early defensive resilience shown by the team was complemented with some fine attacking play.

With 22 minutes remaining, Edu won possession outside the Liverpool penalty area and squared to Pires. The Frenchman shifted the ball across to a central position before letting fly with a right-footed shot from 25 yards which gave Jerzy Dudek no chance, curling into the top corner.

It was a goal worthy of winning any game, and the result filled Wenger with pride: “To be 1-0 down after playing at Moscow on Tuesday and coming back to win 2-1 tells you a lot about the mental strength of the team."

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

What the press said

Edu celebrates Sami Hyypia's own goal against Liverpool in 2003

"A year ago, Arsenal were producing football of a splendour rarely witnessed in this country or elsewhere. This season, with such fluency proving elusive, they have been grinding out results with an efficiency bordering on the Teutonic." - The Times

"Arsenal, on their Premiership travels, have followed a valuable draw against Manchester United with a win (at Liverpool) and Wenger has cause to acclaim the 'solidarity of the squad." - The Guardian

"In the midst of all the Anfield doom and gloom surrounding Michael Owen, one massive boost for England almost went unnoticed - Sol Campbell." - The Sun

Where we stood

  P W D L F A Pts
Arsenal 8 6 2 0 16 6 20
Man Utd 8 6 1 1 16 3 19
Chelsea 7 6 1 0 18 7 19
Fulham 7 4 2 1 15 9 14
Birmingham 7 4 2 1 8 5 14

Elsewhere this week

John Halls

John Halls completed a month-long loan move to Stoke City - he would ultimately go on to sign for the Potters permanently after impressing in Division One.

Sol Campbell was fined £20,000 by the Football Association after kicking out at Manchester United’s Eric Djemba-Djemba in the Community Shield back in August.

Legendary striker Joe Baker died aged 63. He netted 100 times in just 156 games for the club between 1962 and 1966 after making a club-record £70,000 move from Torino.

Image of the week

Jeremie Aliadiere playing against Liverpool

20-year-old Aliadiere tussles with Hyypia for the ball on what was his full debut for the club. The youngster had waited patiently for his breakthrough, having joined the club in 1999 as a 16-year-old, but injuries delayed his progress.

He had a fan in Thierry Henry, who said at the time: "he has so much ability, he's quick, a good finisher and he understands the game well."

UK number ones

  • Official Top 40: Where Is the Love? - Black Eyed Peas (third week at number one)
  • Album chart: Permission to Land - The Darkness (fourth week at number one)
  • Box office: Calendar Girls

Elsewhere this week

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003

Film star Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California, ousting the incumbent, Gray Davis, three years before his term was due to end. Schwarzenegger won almost 48 per cent of the vote.

Millions of viewers held their breath as magician Derren Brown played Russian roulette live on TV, however it was later revealed that the bullet fired at the end was a blank.

The England squad threatened to go on strike and not play their qualifier in Turkey after Rio Ferdinand was omitted after missing a mandatory drug test.

Find out what happened next, as big-spending Chelsea headed to Highbury for a top of the table clash

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