Invincibles This Week: Two draws, but two to go...

Ashley Cole makes a tackle in the game against Portsmouth

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 clinched the championship at White Hart Lane with four games to spare, but now a new prize was at stake - the first undefeated season since 1888/89. Birmingham City and Portsmouth were next to try and prevent us from claiming immortality.

Setting the scene

Arsenal celebrate winning the league at White Hart Lane in 2004

With the title in the bag, thoughts immediately turned to the final four matches and creating history by remaining undefeated, but despite having played all of the division’s big hitters, a couple of tough tests awaited us in a four-day period.

Looking to exploit any complacency or celebratory hangovers, Steve Bruce’s Birmingham were on the hunt for a UEFA Cup place as they sat just three points off the European qualification spots, while Portsmouth were scrapping hard to remain in the division having been promoted 12 months earlier.

Wenger’s words

Arsene Wenger celebrates winning the league at White Hart Lane

While Arsene Wenger had allowed his players to rejoice being champions, he was keen to stress there was more to play for: “It's so difficult to win the championship in this country, that when it happens, you must enjoy it,” he wrote in his programme notes ahead of the Birmingham game.

“My target this week has been to get everybody focused again as you do lose a bit of your sharpness after the title is won. It's a big incentive to go the whole season unbeaten, but what we can say at this time is that we won the championship without losing a game. We have set high standards this season which we have to maintain.

"My team selection for the rest of the season will reflect that. The players have already said that they want to show that they are still hungry. I'm aware of the players who need a few more appearances this season to be eligible for a medal, and I will try to achieve that aim for them, without being detrimental to the team. I want to keep the nucleus right.”

From the dressing room

Ashley Cole places an inflatable Premier League trophy on the White Hart Lane centre spot

One player who certainly enjoyed the celebrations was Ashley Cole, who famously posed with a plastic trophy in the centre circle at White Hart Lane.

“It was a great day for me,” he said. “Whatever stadium we would have been in we would have celebrated like we did. I certainly wasn't going to change the way I celebrate just because I was at White Hart Lane.

“We're not going to take our foot off the gas for the last four games. If we were to do that we would get punished and we really want the record of going unbeaten through the entire season. We really want to go down in history. We have achieved a lot this season as well as breaking a few records but that would mean a lot as it would prove to people that we are one of the best teams around.”

On the pitch

May 1, 2004

We edged closer to remaining unbeaten with a goalless draw against Birmingham. Following the title-winning celebrations, Wenger's side found it hard to lift themselves for this lunchtime kick-off at Highbury, and while they knocked the ball around crisply and with the confidence you might expect of champions, we never really threatened the Blues.

Our only chances of the game fell to the lively Jose Antonio Reyes who flashed a volley wide in the first half after a Dennis Bergkamp cross, and Thierry Henry who nearly squeezed home a quickly-taken free-kick just before the hour.

Birmingham had their chances too with Stephen Clemence testing Jens Lehmann with a low skidding shot, but in the end the biggest cheer of the day came when Martin Keown came on in the last minute, replacing Bergkamp, to play in his seventh game of the season as he remained in contention for a Premiership medal.

Line-up: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole, Ljungberg (Pires 69), Vieira, Gilberto, Reyes (Aliadiere 79), Bergkamp (Keown 90), Henry. Subs not used: Shaaban, Parlour.

May 4, 2004

A captivating draw with Portsmouth at Fratton Park saw us remain undefeated with just two games to go. We had to come from behind after Yakubu fired the hosts ahead on the half-hour, but a first Premier League goal for Reyes ensured a share of the spoils.

Either team could have snatched a winner after the Spaniard struck four minutes into the second half, who later fired a gilt-edged chance over the bar and Lehmann made fine saves to deny Yakubu and Dejan Stefanovic with minutes to spare.

In the end, a draw was probably a fair result after an entertaining encounter. We were brisker from the off, and had the ball in the net within two minutes but Freddie Ljungberg’s strike was ruled out for handball.

It wasn't long before the all-important first goal came and Portsmouth claimed it, against the run of play. Matthew Taylor sent a long pass downfield which Kolo Toure got a touch on, and Yakubu reacted quickly to race onto the loose ball inside the penalty area. The Pompey striker clipped a shot towards goal and, although Lehmann got a touch, the ball bounced over the line.

We went in at half-time with our unbeaten record under threat, but fears of a first league defeat this season were allayed soon after the break thanks to a well-taken Reyes goal. A Henry cross was headed out to the edge of the box and the young striker lashed a left-footed shot into the bottom corner past Shaka Hislop.

Line-up: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole, Ljungberg (Aliadiere 90), Vieira, Parlour, Bentley (Kanu 61), Reyes (Keown 90), Henry. Subs not used: Shaaban, Clichy.

What the press said

Jose Antonio Reyes in the game against Birmingham

"For those with a perverse side to their nature, this was a more engaging game than the scoreline might suggest." - Sunday Times

"A lacklustre goalless draw was no way to celebrate a league campaign in which beauty, imagination and pace have propelled the Gunners to leave their mark on history." - Sunday Mirror

"A match savoured as a carnival of all that is beautiful about football could, but for the brilliance of Jens Lehmann, have been remembered as the night Arsenal lost their unbeaten Premiership record." - Daily Mail

Elsewhere this week

Arsenal Women celebrate winning the FA Cup in 2004

Arsenal Ladies won the Women’s FA Cup after beating Charlton Athletic 3-0 at Loftus Road, courtesy of a Julie Fleeting hat-trick.

The club announced they would be participating in the Amsterdam Tournament in pre-season against Ajax, River Plate and Panathinaikos.

The press linked us with moves for Southampton goalkeeper Antti Niemi, Liverpool's Michael Owen, Juventus hitman David Trezeguet as well as David Beckham, who was enjoying a difficult first season at Real Madrid.

Image of the week

Ray Parlour and Martin Keown on the touchline

After we had made two substitutions against Birmingham, late on in the game Ray Parlour pretends he's been instructed to warm up and go on, despite Keown needing to feature if he was going to reach the 10 appearances necessary to claim a league winner's medal.

Having been initially fooled by the prank, Martin saw the funny side and was sent on by Wenger to get to seven appearances, with three games still to play.

UK number ones

Official Top 40: Don’t Want You Back - Eamon (second week at no. 1)
Album chart: Greatest Hits - Guns ‘N’ Roses (second week at no. 1)
Box office: Kill Bill Volume 2

In the news this week

James Milner after Leeds United were relegated in 2004

Three years after reaching the Champions League semi-finals, Leeds United were relegated from the Premier League.

The Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia all join the European Union.

Ronnie O’Sullivan won his second World Snooker Championship, beating Graham Dott 18-8 in the final with the runner-up having odds of 200-1 before the tournament started.

Find out what happened next as we headed to Fulham for our final away game of the season

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