The Invincibles Are Back

The Invincibles Are Back

Keep on thinking, thinking and thinking and people who are not fans of football will never know who or what are ‘’the invincibles”.  Dear fans I am so glad to tell you that “the invincibles”- Arsenal are back.  People started calling the Arsenal Team of the early 21st century as the invincibles due to their achievement of remaining unbeaten throughout the whole season of 2003-04 in the English Premier League. This was a special achievement in the modern era because they played throughout the entire season without losing a single match! I say now that “the invincibles are back” because of the way Arsenal have started the 2013-14 season. Arsenal is presently on top of the league and playing football the way people used to recognise them as “the invincibles”. They have always been combining a style of playing football which was and is always unique from others. They have the feel of passing of the BARCELONA team, charisma of AC Milan and the physicality of the English Game. People all over the world have started appreciating the way Arsenal have played all these years and attracted us with a beautiful game which can be matched by only a few football teams.

 

The Invincibles of 2003-04 are quite rightly viewed as the strongest squad assembled by Arsene Wenger during his time at Arsenal. The team possessed a combination of strength, guile and outstanding team chemistry that helped shape an unstoppable force that would tear its way through the English game. It is worth looking at the individuals that created the squad and their impact on the formation of what was to become a truly formidable team.

 

The Invicibles’ goalkeeper was the only major addition made to the squad from the previous campaign. Jens Lehmann was brought in at the relatively senior age of 33 from German outfit Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2003 to replace goalkeeping talisman David Seaman. In Lehmann, Arsenal had acquired a keeper whose undoubted talent on the pitch were to be of great benefit the defensive solidarity of the Arsenal side despite a somewhat temperamental personality that was often evident on the pitch. Lehmann was not only an exceptional shot stopper but he was also a goalkeeper who had the ability to command the penalty area not only through his outstanding organisational skills but also with his dominant physical presence.

 

 

The defensive unit that took shape in front of Lehmann during the Invincible season was undoubtedly the foundation on which the team was able to build its success. The first choice back-four consisted of wingbacks Lauren andAshley Cole and the centre half pairing of Sol Campbelland Kolo Toure. The centre halves in particular were able to forage a mutual understanding based on the significant existing premier league experience of Sol Campbell and the raw pace and power that a young Kolo Toure was able to bring to the side. In Lauren, Wenger had reshaped a footballing career through modifying a playing position (for other examples of Wenger’s willingness to reinvent a player’s role look no further thanThierry Henry and to a certain extent Robin Van Persie).

Lauren had arrived from Spanish side Mallorca 3 years previously and was seen as a utility man who formed decent cover for both midfield and defence. At Arsenal however, Wenger really cemented Lauren’s position as a right back and he was an integral, if not spectacular, part of the Invincibles’ first 11. When looking at the other wing, Ashley Cole’s input to the team can perhaps be better appreciated when considering the cognisance that existed with the players in front of him just as much as his collaboration with the back four. Cole was able to form a magical understanding withRobert Pires on the left wing and the further forward Thierry Henry who had a tendency to drift into the left forward channels. Despite Cole being the only natural left footer out of the 3, there was an imperial understanding that revolved around the pace, skill and natural understanding of the game that often resulted in devastating effects for opposing right flanks.

 

The central midfield positions were occupied by Patrick Vieiraand Gilberto Silva. Both were of significant stature, as was often the requirement in Premier League football at the time, and were very rarely seen to struggle to physically impose themselves against their counterparts. The trickery ofFreddie Ljungberg down the right often paid dividends when combining with the experienced and skilled master that wasDennis Bergkamp up top. Although Bergkamp was 34 at the beginning of the season and far from his physical peak, his vision and appreciation of the game had in no way diminished. The input of Bergkamp and other experienced heads to this Arsenal squad should in no way be underestimated and it can certainly be said that in later years a lack of such experience contributed to the clubs fall from the very top of English football.

 

In the absence of a game by game analysis of the season there are some undoubted pivotal moments that contributed to the creation of the Invincible tag.

 

The first of these matches came early on in the campaign. Arsenal faced up to champions Manchester United at Old Trafford in September 2003 where a fiercely contested battle was to unfold. With tensions and passion running high in both teams, Arsenal skipper Patrick Vieira was sent off in the 81st minute for kicking out at United striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Vieira and the Arsenal team were incensed however, as it appeared there was no actual contact between the two players. Then in the 90th minute a penalty was awarded to the home team after a clumsyMartin Keown challenge on Diego Forlan, with the villain of the piece Van Nistelrooy stepping up to the plate boasting a formidable penalty record. The Dutchman was able to send Lehmann the wrong way, however his spot kick was only able to rattle the bar. The ensuing few seconds saw Arsenal players Martin Keown and Lauren physically jumping on top of and bumping into Van Nistelrooy to torment him for his missed attempt. Although it is hard to argue that the behaviour of the Arsenal defence was in any way commendable, for me it demonstrated an attitude that has been lacking from the Arsenal side in recent years, one of resilience and a refusal to allow other teams to bully Arsenal.

 

On the back of that fateful clash in September the Arsenal went on to produce some scintillating performances, sweeping away many a Premier League outfit that came before them with gusto. For me, however, a two week period over Easter was the real test of the mettle of the Arsenal team that had handled all previous tasks with relative ease. First The Gunners were knocked out of the FA cup 1-0 in a rematch of prior mentioned clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford. Then 4 days later Arsenal had lead Chelsea 1-0 at Highbury in an all English clash in the Champions League quarter-final, only for Chelsea to come back and break red hearts with a 2-1 win sealed by a last minute Wayne Bridge winner.

 

The following weekend a deflated Arsenal outfit faced up to Liverpool in a league match at Highbury. With the gunners 2-1 down at half time, their season seemed close to meltdown, with the challenge of appearing in 3 major competitions seemingly taking its toll. It was then however that the character and spirit of the Arsenal squad emerged in a way befitting of only true champions. Arsenal came back to triumph 4-2, with a marvellous Thierry Henry hat-trick, including one goal of utter genius involving a slalomed run through the Liverpool back line leaving Jamie Carragher, amongst others, in his wake. From here the team pushed on, with Thierry Henry bagging 4 goals the next week at home to Leeds, and were eventually able to seal the title with a 2-2 draw at North London rival’s Tottenham. The Invicibles survived a few scares late in the season to round off the campaign with a 2-1 home victory over Leicester, with the final goal a coming from a trademark Dennis Bergkamp through ball finished off by skipper Vieira.

 

 

 

This year Arsenal has managed to maintain the level of intensity which elevated them to win the English Premier League during the 2003-04 season.  Under the managerial leadership of Arsene Wenger, Arsenal has reignited hope among her fans world over. Till now over all these years Arsenal has always been very consistent though luck has eluded them from adding more silverwareto their glorious cabinet. For the last 14 years Arsenal has always managed to play in the UEFA Champions League and this has indeed led to people believing that Arsenal under Arsene Wenger are brilliantly consistent. Arsene Wenger has always been known for his desire to bring in youngsters and give them opportunities in top flight football. A great example being that of CescFabregas. A player who was cultured very young at Arsenal under Wenger’s leadership and after 2005 he grows into a world class mid fielder and now an integral part of the Spanish National team winning the Euro’ 08 and 12 and Football World Cup of 2010.

For the last few years though people started questioning Wenger’s ability to manage in the future and more so because he sold Arsenal’s top players in Robin Van Persie and Samir Nasri to teams like Manchester United and Manchester City respectively and Fabregas , Alex Song to Barcelona. People wanted new world class players to fill the voids but Wenger persisted with his young bloods in Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Keiran Gibbs. I guess this season people are starting to realize why Wenger did this and also with the new arrival of the charismatic MESUT OZIL from Real Madrid has indeed fuelled energy into the fans’ hearts and even within the players too. Aaron Ramsey is in the form of his life and has also been awarded the FA player of the month for two consecutive time. This new feel of being invincibles has rose again inside the team and people have started to talk about the probability of winning the Premier League and being the invincibles again. With people already starting to speculate on another big signing in the January transfer window while enjoying the beautiful game of Arsenal FC, I think we all have great times ahead in football.

 

pics coutesy: google image{footballpictures.net}

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Arijit Pritam Sarma

An engineering student.He is an avid sports afficionado. His interests ranges from cricket,football,tennis to F1! He is also an accomplished State Table Tennis Player.Originally from Jorhat (Assam,India), he's now based in Chennai pursuing his academic career.

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I agree with this story.
I support Aaron Ramsey
I’m an Arsenal fan
Thank you for information sharing

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