Invincibles This Week: Undefeated season completed

Arsenal celebrate winning the Premier League in 2003/04

Each week, we've been reminiscing 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 past Fulham to set up a showdown with Leicester City at Highbury - the final hurdle in our league campaign with a place in history on the line.

Setting the scene

The Arsenal players applaud the crowd before playing Leicester in 2004

After 37 matches, Arsene Wenger's Gunners had still yet to taste league defeat during 2003/04, and while the championship party was guaranteed to begin following Leicester City's visit, would it be one that saw us also celebrating a historic unbeaten season?

Standing in our way were the Foxes, already relegated alongside Leeds United and Wolves. However, they had earned a 1-1 draw when we visited the Walkers Stadium and with nothing to lose, were looking to end a disappointing campaign by claiming their biggest scalp of the season.

Wenger’s words

Arsene Wenger during training

In his programme notes, the boss was hoping he could lift the Premier League trophy with no regrets: “We are so close now that we really want to do it. If we do complete an unbeaten season then I believe that's an achievement that would live with these players and with this club forever. Certainly it's something that has never been achieved in modern football in this country.

“We have the trophy presentation to look forward to after the final whistle. The moment you have that trophy in your hands is the moment, perhaps the only moment in the whole season, where you can fully relax and enjoy the triumph.

“In that minute you get what you have striven for the whole season, to get your hands on the trophy is a great satisfaction. It's the reward for the season's efforts - the highs, the lows, the doubts.”

From the changing room

Ray Parlour in 2004

As Ray Parlour celebrated his third league title with the club, he admitted this success had the potential to be the best. “If we break that record, it will be very tough for anyone to match in the future,” he said. “I'm sure it will be a good few years until someone could do it again.

“People have only got to say that it hasn't been done in the last couple of centuries for them to realise. It's unique for us - you are not going to get the opportunity to do this again. The players definitely know this is our big chance to make history, and however long you play, you may never get this chance again.

“It's well worth doing, there's a big prize at the end of it. They are all special, but the little bit extra this season was to win while still unbeaten, that's just fantastic.”

On the pitch

May 15, 2004

Victory over Leicester saw us go down in football folklore as being only the second team in British history to last an entire season unbeaten. Preston North End completed this amazing feat in 1889 and this win ensured we could also call ourselves 'The Invincibles'.

With Leicester already relegated, the outcome of this match was seen by many to be a foregone conclusion, however Micky Adams' men were not the pushovers that some may have thought they would be. In fact, Paul Dickov threatened to spoil our party with his, and the game's opening goal, in the 25th minute. A Frank Sinclair cross found the former Gunner in the box and he headed past an outstretched Jens Lehmann.

The remainder of the first half saw no change in the scoreline and we went into the interval one goal behind, and the possibility of claiming the unbeaten record looked in the balance.

Thankfully, we came out for the second half with renewed vigour, equalising within two minutes of the restart. Ashley Cole was bundled over in the area by Sinclair and Thierry Henry restored parity with a well-taken strike from the penalty spot.

From then on, our supporters could relax a little knowing that the Foxes would have to push forward and hope we could take advantage of the subsequent space provided and 20 minutes later Patrick Vieira put us into the record books, converting an exquisite Dennis Bergkamp pass.

At the final whistle, the ground erupted to the tune of a new chant: "we are unbeatable", and for those in the know it was fitting that the first match ever played at Highbury mirrored the afternoon's record-breaking scoreline - a 2-1 win over Leicester.

Line-up: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole, Ljungberg (Keown 87), Gilberto, Vieira, Pires (Edu 70), Bergkamp (Reyes 82), Henry. Subs not used: Stack, Parlour.

Where we stood

  P W D L F A Pts
Arsenal 38 26 12 0 73 26 90
Chelsea 38 24 7 7 67 30 79
Man Utd 38 23 6 9 64 35 75
Liverpool 38 16 12 10 55 37 60
Newcastle 38 13 17 8 52 40 56

What the press said

League Champions 2003/04

"Invincible... unbeatable... immortal. Call them what you will, but you may never see their like again."  - News of the World

"When the superlatives have been exhausted, all that's left are the cold, hard facts which mean little to the romantics." - The People

"Now the dictionaries have had to be ransacked for new words of homage. The Immortals? The Invincibles? The Untouchables? That was Arsenal's preferred option - but take your pick to re-christen these extraordinary Gunners."  - Sunday Express

Elsewhere this week

The bus parade following our 2003/04 Premier League win

The following day, the players embarked on an open-topped bus parade through the streets of Islington finishing at the Town Hall, with thousands of Gooners lining the route.

Arsene Wenger was named the Premier League Manager of the Year, as well as scooped the League Managers Association award.

The Premier League announced that a special one-off trophy would be commissioned for the club to mark our undefeated season.

Image of the week

David Beckham and Martin Keown

After bringing the curtain down on his Gunners career, two days after the Leicester game Martin Keown was handed a testimonial against an England XI, containing David Beckham, John Terry, Joe Cole, Robbie Fowler, Andy Cole and Paul Gascoigne. Beckham defied Real Madrid's orders by playing for three minutes despite being instructed not to. 

Keown's former teammates Lee Dixon, Ian Wright and Marc Overmars starred for the Gunners who ran out 6-0 victors, with Jose Antonio Reyes netting a hat-trick and Keown seeing a penalty and the subsequent rebound saved by Robert Green.

UK number ones

Official top 40: Don’t Want You Back - Eamon (fourth week at no. 1)
Album chart: Greatest Hits - Guns ‘N’ Roses (third week at no. 1)
Box office: Van Helsing (second week at no. 1)

In the news this week

Nelson Mandela with the World Cup trophy

South Africa became the first African country to be awarded hosting duties of the 2010 World Cup, holding off the challenge of Morocco.

Fathers 4 Justice stage a protest in the House of Commons at Prime Minister's Questions by throwing purple powder at Tony Blair.

A UK version of the popular US TV series The Apprentice is confirmed, with Amstrad founder and former Tottenham chairman Sir Alan Sugar as the main judge. 

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