Played 38, won 26, drawn 12, lost exactly none.
The 2003/04 Arsenal Invincible side has gone down in Premier League history as probably the greatest English side of the modern era, rivalled only by United’s treble winning side of 1998/99.
Fast forward to 2015 and talk of Arsenal winning their first league title since that fateful season have been bolstered by the reported signing of legendary Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Of course, one player is never enough to win the league, so here we look at six lessons Arsenal must learn from their greatest ever side in order to ensure the trophy returns to North London once more..
In the summer 2003, Gunners legend David Seaman moved on to Manchester City. This paved the way for Arsenal to pay £1.5 million for German ‘keeper Jens Lehmann.
A rock behind Arsenal’s defence, it is now widely accepted that a top quality goalie is a must for any top club. The last five seasons have seen Courtois, Hart, de Gea and Van der Sar win the league in the number one jersey.
The inevitable £10.9 acquisition of Cech from Chelsea, himself a four-time winner of the league, puts Arsenal back in the top bracket for this position, after several years of struggling to replace the aforementioned German.
If it’s been said once it’s been said a thousand times. Recently Arsenal have seriously lacked a defensive midfield player, of the Gilberto Silva type from the invincible season. With Coquelin on top form Arsenal finally have their man, though most pundits would say that cover is needed. That could mean the likes of Schneiderlin, Vidal or Carvalho.
One of the hallmarks of that legendary side was the beautiful football that flowed through Highbury every week. Henry at the spearhead of the Gunners’ best moves, Ljungberg and Pires in support, with maestro Dennis Bergkamp running the show. In this category however, Arsenal have never really dipped in the field of flair and creativity, and with Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla at their best, can rival any team in the world in this area.
Goals, Goals, Goals
Theirry Henry finished that particular season as top league scorer with 30 goals. Arsenal scored more collectively (73) than any other team. Here is where the arguments lie – namely, is the Arsenal attack ruthless enough to punish teams in the way that Henry and Pires did that fateful season?
Giroud and Walcott have both found good form of late, but neither can be considered an automatic start for their respective countries. In order to be the best, Arsenal need the best goal scorers, which is why they remain in the market for players like Lacazette.
In the same season, Arsenal conceded less (26) than any other team. The defensive partnership of Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure stood firm in front of the imposing Lehmann, with Lauren and Cole chipping in from the sides. Now with World Cup winner Per Mertesacker alongside Barcelona target Laurent Koscielny, marshalled by the impressive Coquelin, with Cech in goal, Arsenal have the foundation of a great side once more. With impressive options on both flanks, and Gabriel and Chambers fighting for their places, expect to see more than a few clean sheets over the coming year.
The final defining characteristic of the Invincible side of ‘03-04 lies in the heart of midfield. Patrick Vieira, a Gunners legend, commanded his team like a fighter. His spirit carried through to the rest of the team who fought for every lost cause, beating their opposition for pace, stamina and sheer guts. Arsenal’s current, rather short crop of players, lack this trait, and with captain Arteta not expected to hold down a starting place, this is another area where Arsenal must strengthen as they add new recruits.
The Invincible side is also notable for containing recent World Cup winners at its heart, with Gilberto the most recent winner, and the French contingent of Vieira, Henry and Pires with a winners medal each as well. This Arsenal can now match, with Germans Mertesacker and Ozil holding a medal each. With Cech fresh from winning the league at Chelsea and Arsenal’s double FA Cup triumph, Arsenal can build on a winning team mentality, and with the addition of a leading goal scorer are definitely capable of winning the league in 2016.
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