Arsene Wenger was never afraid to be a little different from the average manager. Little did we know, however, that when he arrived in English football, he’d turn into Nostradamus at the same time.
In 2002, the Frenchman bemused reporters by declaring: “It’s not impossible to go through the season unbeaten and I can’t see why it’s shocking to say that.”
Wenger was laughed at by supporters as his team went in search of something no one had achieved in English football since Preston North End in 1888/89.
However, less than two years after the Arsenal boss muttered those words, his team had completed a whole Premier League campaign unbeaten.
Those who had chuckled now stood in shock and were left with no choice but to applaud the splendour of Wenger’s side.
They played ruthless swashbuckling football, blowing teams away with a brand of quick passing play that was new to the game in this country.
Once all was said and done, they lifted the Premier League, something they haven’t achieved since, with a record of P38, W26, D12, L0.
Some of the players helped to revolutionise how the Premier League was seen, with the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp absolutely terrifying opposition teams.
However, at the same time, there were some rather obscure members of the Gunners’ side.
Many didn’t receive a winners medal, but they were still in and around the first-team during one of the greatest achievements in English football history.
But who are those players? Read on to find out…
With a head as shiny as the Premier League trophy itself, the French defender was fortunate enough to earn a medal during Arsenal’s triumphant season. He played 18 times in the league but because he wasn’t of the calibre of Martin Keown, Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure, he’s often forgotten about.
The Greek centre-back is a true blast for the past and is one of the few unfortunate players not lucky enough to play in the Premier League that season. He played eight times in total throughout various cup competitions before forging a successful career for himself back in his homeland. Tavlaridis earnt three caps for Greece between 2005 and 2015.
Another Frenchman in Wenger’s team, Aliadiere has become somewhat of a cult hero at Arsenal. Now a pundit, he played ten times in the Premier League that season, three of which were starts. Playing second fiddle to Henry, Sylvain Wiltord, Dennis Bergkamp and Jose Antonio Reyes was never going to be easy, so it’s impressive he got a run out at all.
Papadopulos has to go down as not only one of Wenger’s biggest flops but one of Arsenal’s in general. The Czech forward signed on loan from Baník Ostrava in the 2003/04 season but managed just one first-team appearance. What a waste of time. He did, at least, go onto have a decent career elsewhere, being capped by the Czech Republic on six occasions.
The goalkeeper has become a vibrant personality on Twitter but unfortunately, he never made the grade at Arsenal. He made five appearances in the League Cup during that season but never got his chance in the league. Stack ended up playing for 11 clubs in his career, even having a stint with the Kerala Blasters in India. Bizarre.
At one point, it was thought Bentley could become the next Beckham. He had a mean delivery and a decent set-piece on him too. However, trying to break through into this Arsenal team as a young player was nigh on impossible unless your name was Cesc Fabregas. The winger played just once in the league that season but went onto earn seven England caps a few years later. He also had a spell with Tottenham.
All things considered, Hoyte was one of the most successful Arsenal players on this list. The full-back was another to feature on just a solitary occasion in the 2003/04 Premier League but he did finally break through properly in 2006/07. Hoyte eventually left the Gunners behind after playing for them 68 times. Not bad at all. The defender has since won 18 caps for Trinidad and Tobago, while his last club was FC Cincinnati in America.
Speaking of America, step forward Frank Simek. If you asked most supporters to tell you anything about the defender they’d probably struggle. He played just once in the League Cup that campaign before having spells at QPR, Bournemouth, Sheffield Wednesday and Carlisle. He retired from the game in 2013, aged just 29.
Spicer was cut from a similar cloth as Ray Parlour. Born in Romford, Arsenal was the club he’d played for since he was a young boy. Like many, though, he didn’t make the grade in north London. Spicer made his one and only appearance for the club on a night when Fabregas made his debut. The English forward went onto have a successful career in the football league with clubs like Bournemouth, Burnley and Doncaster.
Many forget that Thomas came through the youth ranks at Arsenal but he was another who only got minutes in the cup competitions in 2003/04. He never made a league outing for the Gunners but retired in 2017 having enjoyed a successful playing career with the likes of Charlton and West Brom.
Of all the players on this list, Owusu-Abeyie is probably the one who had the most cultured of careers. He didn’t earn a Premier League winners medal but did go onto play for some pretty decent clubs; Spartak Moscow, Celta Vigo, Portsmouth, Malaga and Panathinaikos in Greece. A player with lightning speed, he also earned 17 caps for Ghana.
Olafur Ingi Skulason
Arsenal recently signed Icelandic stopper Alex Runarsson but he isn’t the only player from that country to feature for the club. Skulason was a midfielder but played just once in the League Cup during the Invincibles season. The 37-year-old is remarkably still playing and now features for Fylkir, the team he left behind for Arsenal all the way back in 2001. He has enjoyed a decent career in some obscure European leagues while playing 36 times for Iceland. Skulason was even in their squad for the 2018 World Cup.
Smith was someone who promised so much when he was coming up through the ranks at Arsenal and made his senior debut at just 16. He played for every England youth group from U16s to U20s but unfortunately never made the grade at the highest level, mainly because of a horrendous injury while playing for Arsenal reserves. A player two-footed him in the knee and he ruptured his cartilage as a result.
Smith only played three times in the cup during the Invincibles campaign and went onto have spells with Derby, Millwall, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Sporting Kansas City, Chivas USA and Greek side Skoda Xanthi. The Islington-born winger is still only 33. A story of what might’ve been.
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