Arsenal boss Wenger: 2004 Invincibles Good Friday clash my favourite Liverpool match – but now it’s top four ‘not about winning league’
- Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima
Arsenal host Liverpool at the Emirates on Friday evening – but Arsene Wenger inadvertently revealed how far the club has fallen on the pitch since the heady days of his favourite clash against the Reds.
The long-serving Frenchman was asked this week what his best game was against the Merseyside giants. He chose the never-to-be-forgotten 4-2 victory against Gerard Houlier’s side at Highbury on Friday, April 9, 2004.
It had been a traumatic week for the all-conquering soon-to-be Invincibles after they suffered a crushing 2-1 home defeat by Chelsea in the second leg of the quarter finals of the Champions League three days previously. A late goal by Wayne Bridge knocked the club out when they looked well placed to lift the tournament that year. Three days prior to that Wenger’s men had fallen to a Paul Scholes goal at Villa Park as Manchester United beat the Gunners 1-0 in the FA Cup semi-final.
The team which had topped the table for most of the season had to dig deep as many outside the club started to doubt their chances of lifting the Premier League.
But in a match which is undoubtedly one of the greatest matches ever played in Arsenal’s long and illustrious history the team showed the character they possessed and blew Liverpool away in a stunning second half at Highbury.
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Thierry Henry grabbed arguably his most important hat-trick for the club as they swept away the Reds and went on to lift the title at White Hart Lane 16 days later.
Wenger said this week: “I don’t know what is my best memory, maybe when we won the championship in 2004 — we were 2-1 down at half-time and won 4-2. Thierry Henry.
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“It was a pivotal game in the unbeaten season.
“It’s always an important game against Liverpool.”
However 13 years on from the Invincibles Wenger let slip how far the club has fallen from that heady era, when he admitted the result of Friday’s fixture will help the club in their hunt to finish in the top four after missing out last season.
The Arsenal boss conceded Friday night’s game is all about pushing for a place in the top four rather than challenging for the title.
Wenger said: “I am aware of the history, yes.
“But this game is not about winning the League, it’s about being our next Premier League game to come back in a strong position in the top four. That’s what it’s about.
“Let’s not forget I’ve played against Liverpool when they had Mascherano, Alonso, Gerrard, Owen. They’ve had fantastic teams in the past, always.
“Now it seems there are six or seven teams fighting for the top four. So this game is important because of that, but not more than any other in the top seven.”
Arsenal lost at Anfield in August in a humiliating rout to Jurgen Klopp’s team and will be looking for revenge from one of the worst performances in the club’s history over the last three decades.
Wenger appears to have abandoned his back three which he introduced back in April and has switched back to a 4-4-2 in a bid to introduce a tighter backline.
The fixture has always traditionally been full of goals and Friday’s match may be no different.
With both teams believing attack is the best form of defence the winner will be guaranteed fourth place for Christmas.
Wenger said: “Christmas is just after the 22nd and our happiness depends not on the presents we get but the results we make. That is what it is about.
“Liverpool are an offensive team. We are a team who likes to go forward and create chances, and we do create chances.
“Our home form has been strong, but you want to transform that into points. Against Man United [the 3-1 home defeat] we came away frustrated because we created so many chances.
“We want to continue to focus on our performance because that is the most important thing, that enables us to win the game.
“There is a gap in points, that’s true – more than in performances.
“It’s very simple if you look at the mathematics. Who are the team who have created the most chances in the league? Arsenal. Have we scored the most goals? No. That means there is a deficit between the expected goals and the number of goals we have scored.
“Maybe we have to find solutions to be more efficient in front of goal.”