Invincibles This Week: Triumph over Tottenham

Arsenal celebrate scoring against Tottenham Hotspur 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.

Last week, we swept aside Leeds United with a 4-1 margin before finally claiming a first win in the Champions League group, setting us up nicely ahead of our first north London derby day of the campaign.

Setting the scene

Ashley Cole celebrates scoring against Dynamo Kyiv

We went into our meeting with Tottenham Hotspur riding high at the top of the table, while our opponents had ensured a miserable start to the campaign and sat in 13th, with Glenn Hoddle dismissed as manager, and director of football David Pleat installed as caretaker.

Our Champions League campaign had also finally burst into life thanks to Ashley Cole’s 88th-minute diving header to earn a 1-0 win against Dynamo Kyiv and ensure Highbury would be buzzing for the arrival of our neighbours.

Wenger’s words

Arsene Wenger and Cesc Fabregas during training in 2003

Wenger believed the late winner would have huge ramifications for his team, especially with the fixtures once again piling up: “The atmosphere around the club will definitely be lifted by the fact that Ashley Cole scored that late winner on Wednesday,” he wrote in his programme notes. “We were relieved to get the three points against Kyiv, but I must say that I think it was a great performance.

“This is obviously always a tough game and I don't need to tell any of you how big it is. I also think it's especially important to get the win at Highbury today after our good display at Leeds last weekend. We just want to keep the momentum going.

“My main concern in the last couple of days has been how well we will recover in time. This is our third difficult game in a week, but we have been busy preparing and if we play to our best, then we know we have a good chance to beat Spurs.”

From the dressing room

Thierry Henry celebrates scoring against Newcastle

Thierry Henry’s goalscoring exploits had seen him become the first player to hit double figures in the league this season, and move up to joint-eighth in our all-time list, 61 off Ian Wright's record of 185.

The Frenchman was fully aware of his stats: “I do know what my overall total is, yes. A lot of people are saying it to me. I started to count it when I passed the 100 mark to be honest. Now I'm on 124 goals for Arsenal.

“It's pretty nice when you look behind you and you see what you have achieved. That's all I wanted to do when I first arrived here, I always said that I wanted to make history. I hope that one day when I'm no longer playing here, I will carry on being part of the history of this club."

On the pitch

November 8, 2003

Two goals in nine minutes late in the second half saw us come from behind to beat Spurs and take the derby day spoils.

The game had barely started before the drama began. Five minutes in, Lauren's attempted clearance on the corner of the area rebounded off Mauricio Taricco, up from left-back. The ball spun across the face of the area and Darren Anderton stole in to poke his shot past Jens Lehmann at the far post.

Moments later Lauren's poor backpass sent Helder Postiga clear but the Portuguese striker, dithered over the opportunity and Lehmann gathered.

At the start of the second half, Sol Campbell diverted Ledley King's dangerous cross for a corner then, a minute later, turned Robert Pires' free-kick into the side-netting at the other end.

Then, just as patience was turning into frustration, the equaliser came. Ray Parlour's raking ball allowed Henry to beat Tottenham's offside trap, and a shot from the striker squirmed its way to Pires at the far post who slotted home.

We fancied a winner and in the 78th minute, Nwankwo Kanu found Freddie Ljungberg advancing down the left. He made it to the edge of the area and, with little on, fired goalwards and his shot hit Stephen Carr's outstretched foot, ballooned over Keller and fell into the net to claim victory.

Line-up: Lehmann, Lauren (Cygan 61), Campbell, Toure, Cole, Ljungberg, Parlour, Gilberto (Bergkamp 71), Pires, Kanu (Edu 82), Henry. Subs not used: Stack, Hoyte.

Where it left us

  P W D L F A Pts
Arsenal 12 9 3 0 25 10 30
Chelsea 12 9 2 1 26 9 29
Man Utd 12 9 1 2 23 7 28
Charlton 12 6 3 3 19 15 21
Birmingham 12 5 5 2 11 8 20

What the press said

Robert Pires celebrates scoring against Tottenham

"This time Arsenal appear in little danger of peaking too soon. In their opening 12 games last season their form soared, sagged and then started to take off again. Now they are on more of a plateau with the old brilliance glimpsed in flashes but the football less spellbinding than it was." - The Guardian

"Arsenal and Tottenham produced a classic, old-fashioned derby which underdogs Spurs were unfortunate to lose. Here was a throbbing encounter precariously balanced on an extending tightrope from first to last." - Daily Telegraph

"Parlour's drive and desire kept the Gunners alive as fired-up Spurs threatened to end the Premiership's last remaining unbeaten record." - Daily Star

Elsewhere this week

Cameron players hold up a photo of Marc Vivien Foe

Henry, Pires, Sylvain Wiltord and Lauren played for a “Friendship XI” in Lyon as a tribute match for Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe, who had tragically died of a heart attack suffered during a Confederations Cup semi-final game against Colombia back in June.

Sol Campbell, Henry, Wiltord, Pires and Patrick Vieira are nominated for the European Footballer of the Year award.

Arsenal reserves drew 1-1 with Portsmouth at Fratton Park, with Quincy Owusu-Abeyie scoring our goal.

Image of the week

Jens Lehmann shouts at Helder Postiga during our game with Tottenham

Jens Lehmann takes issue with Spurs striker Helder Postiga after a challenge by the striker during the derby. Postiga had endured a tough start to life in England, having failed to score in his first 11 matches up to this point following his move from Jose Mourinho's Porto in the summer.

He would end the campaign with just one Premier League goal to his name, but would go on to score a crucial strike to help Portugal knock England out of Euro 2004.

UK number ones

  • Top 40: Be Faithful - Fatman Scoop featuring The Crooklyn Clan
  • Album chart: Life for Rent - Dido (fourth week at No. 1)
  • Box office: Bad Boys II

In the news this week

Michael Howard

Michael Howard was elected unopposed as Leader of the Conservative Party, following the resignation of Iain Duncan-Smith back in October.

Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex celebrated the birth of their first child Louise, who was born a month premature and weighed just 4lbs 9oz. She was the first of the Queen’s grandchildren to be born in an NHS hospital.

The BBC current affairs series Panorama, launched in 1953, becomes the first UK television show to reach its 50th anniversary on the air.

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Fixtures & Results

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