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'They were so confident... they had no fear'

As assistant manager to Arsene Wenger during the 1997/98 season, Pat Rice is perfectly placed to assess what made that team one of the greatest in our history.

The Arsenal legend won the Double himself during his playing days, and says that the squad that emulated that 1971 side had some unique qualities - as could be seen in that season-defining win at Old Trafford.

"They were confident, they were so confident," Rice told Arsenal Player. "They knew they were going out [to win], and they had no fear. 

"They knew in their own hearts that they would create chances to win the game. Of course, with the speed that they had up front, anything can happen. Of course, it did happen. The flick on, and then Overmars is in, and then the goal is scored. It was fantastic. 

“When we were up against it and whenever we were playing at that time, even when we were a goal down and sitting on the line, you thought, 'Don’t worry, somebody else will pick up the bat and somebody will do it’.

"The other thing as well is that with those type of players, they weren’t frightened of having a go at each other. They would have a go at each other, but they had so much respect for each other – I can remember players really getting into a tussle out there but coming off the pitch they would be arm in arm."

Every member of the 1997/98 squad played an important role as we won the Double, but Rice picked out three of the newest members of the side as being particularly key.

“The thing I found with Patrick [Vieira] is that when he is up against it, when his reputation is on the line or his pride is on the line, he just goes up another level," Rice said. "Manu Petit, he was a great reader of the game. He had a brilliant left foot. He could not only play in midfield, he could play at centre back, he could play at left back – he smelt danger. He could create goals, he was a brilliant player as well. 

"Anelka, we know about Anelka. He was so quick, once he was off, boom, you had no chance of catching him. He had a great build for a young man. His reputation came before him, and it wasn’t one of those where the reputation was false, the reputation was true. He could play with players, he had tricks, he was quick, he could finish – he was a brilliant acquisition.”

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