Why Arsenal’s Invincibles should be celebrated rather than derided
- Credit: PA
With Liverpool failing to match Arsenal’s achievement of going an entire league season unbeaten, Islington Gazette Arsenal reporter Dan Mountney looks at why the Invincibles of 2003/04 should be celebrated and not derided as they have been by the wider football community.
Defeat to Watford on Saturday means soon-to-be Premier League champions Liverpool won't finish the league season unbeaten and the achievements of Arsenal's Invincibles remain unmatched, so why have such a brilliant side with an unparalleled accomplishment been downplayed and ridiculed?
They shouldn't be, and here's why.
In the past 130 years, only two English teams have gone an entire league campaign unbeaten. Preston North End in 1888/89 and Arsenal in 2003/04. Even in an era where clubs strived to survive rather than thrive and just 22 league games were played, Preston still deserve plenty of praise.
The Gunners managed to do it in a 38-game season and although it could be argued that the Premier League wasn't as tough as it is now, Arsene Wenger's men still had plenty of competition in the form of fierce rivals Manchester United and newly-rich Chelsea.
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As well as being one of only two teams in over a century to be invincible, Arsenal's unbeaten achievement looks even better when you realise that the great Everton sides of the late 60s and mid-80s, the dominant Liverpool team of the 70s and early 80s, the treble-winning Manchester United of 1999, Jose Mourinho's impressive Chelsea sides and Manchester City's record-breaking 100-point team couldn't go a whole season unbeaten.
Jurgen Klopp's blood and thunder Liverpool side couldn't do it either, but if they had they surely would have been lauded by all and rightfully so. Therefore, I ask the question again. Why aren't Arsenal?
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If it was as easy or small of an achievement as some have made out then why did it take 115 years for another team to do it after Preston and why has no one done it since 03/04?
One of the arguments made against the Invincibles is that they drew 12 games that season. but why are teams so often praised nowadays for getting something from games when for Wenger's side it's a point to criticise?
Another argument against Arsenal's Invincibles is their lack of achievement in Europe and the other cup competitions that season.
The Gunners lost 1-0 to Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final, exited the League Cup at the same stage with a 3-1 aggregate defeat to Middlesbrough and were dumped out of the last-eight of the Champions League after losing 3-2 to Chelsea over two legs, thanks to an 87th-minute Wayne Bridge goal at Highbury.
Not winning a cup competition that season, especially the Champions League, is a real point of frustration for Arsenal fans but it shouldn't be used to downplay their unrivaled achievement in the league.
Sure, Arsenal fans would love to see their team lift the Champions League, but a team win the competition every season. A team going a whole league season unbeaten happens once in a lifetime.
The derogatory views of football fans towards the Invincibles appear to come from nothing more than jealousy. Plenty of great sides with titles and trophies that deserve praise have already been listed, but how many know what going an unbeaten season feels like?
The answer to that is just The Arsenal.
Sentiment towards that side should be one of admiration and respect and while plenty share that, a lot certainly don't.
Another team might match their achievement or even surpass it in the future, but it will take one special team to do it.
As Liverpool proved, going an entire league campaign unbeaten is a task that is near impossible. The Arsenal side of 03/04 showed that it is possible and for that, they should be celebrated.
Played 38, won 26, drew 12, lost 0. Arsenal's Invincibles.