I Watched NBCSN’s Documentary on Arsenal’s 2004 ‘Invincibles’ and Damn It The Premier League Was Just Better Back Then
Pro Soccer Talk – Arsenal went through the 2003-04 Premier League campaign without a single defeat and claimed the title as they were dubbed the “Invincibles.” Not one Arsenal fan will ever forget that campaign.
In the linked video you will find a teaser for the latest episode of Premier League Download which looks back at a golden era in the Gunners’ illustrious history.
Despite the fact that I never want to see Arsenal win or lift any trophies I sat down and watched this documentary last night because greatness recognizes greatness. Not surprisingly, just like everything else NBCSN does, it was tremendous.
There’s no denying that Arsenal squad achieved something special. Yea I know 12 draws is a lot of draws in one season but the bottom line is they went through the entire season without losing a league game; something that hadn’t been done in over 100 years, and in my humble opinion won’t be done ever again.
If that’s not enough for you they had five match stretch as they entered the run in that looked like this:
Chelsea (away: Champions League)
Manchester United (home: Premier League)
Manchester United (neutral site for the FA Cup Semifinal)
Chelsea (home: Champions League)
Liverpool (home: Premier League)
Talk about running the gauntlet! That’s a murders row of matches against a Chelsea squad that was on the rise (they’d win the next two Premier League titles), Manchester United, who were Arsenal’s biggest Premier League rival in the mid ’00’s, and Liverpool who were no slouches back then either, going on to win the Champions League the following year.
So while they did lose to Manchester United in the FA Cup (preventing them from equalling United’s historic treble), and get knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea, they managed to avoid losing their league games which is still quite an accomplishment.
But what really captivated me during this documentary was remembering how much better the Premier League was in the mid 2000’s. Just looking back and seeing the old stadiums, especially Highbury.. in the times before the Emirates. How everyone played a 4-4-2 before Jose Mourinho came along and ruined that. How all the players looked like your typical English/Irish guy that you would find in a pub.. before Arsene Wenger ruined that. The players were all wearing baggy jerseys, that were usually covered in mud, that look ridiculous just 10 years later. You had players like Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane who were two of the scariest players to ever play in the Premier League almost policing the action. While maybe the talent technically wasn’t “better” then than it is now, it was a much more English in your face bloodbath of a game.
One of the biggest games of Arsenal’s season, and just another example of the physical battles Arsenal and Manchester United had came early in the season at Old Trafford, a game that became famous for the sparks at the end…
Is it me or did even the non-English players seem tougher back then? Skip to the 2:38 mark…
Yes, that’s a 17 year old Cristiano Ronaldo acting tough in a fight. The same Ronaldo who would grow up to become this… …and never get anywhere near a fight. Football was just better then. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days I dig up every single documentary that YouTube has on the mid 2000’s Barclaycard Premier League and just watch them all day.
I think the turning point came around the 2007-08 season when they switched the jerseys and players gave up the old baggy jerseys for the more modern dry fit technology that Nike and everyone else keeps making. I know that’s a ridiculous statement but in my mind that’s how I mark the difference between the mid 2000’s era and the more modern money and foreign talent filled Premier League era.
PS: This all may just nostalgia from me since I’ll always hold that 2003-04 season special (despite United finishing third) since it was Tim Howard’s first Premier League season and thus the first year I actually followed the EPL.
PPS: I can’t just write a whole pro-Arsenal blog without adding in this tidbit. Yes you got your immortality but the joke was on Arsenal. They haven’t won the league since and that disgraceful season caused United to go out and buy 18 year old Wayne Rooney (ever heard of him the following summer). Five league titles later and I’ll settle for allowing Arsenal to go undefeated all year, they still aren’t touching United’s historic treble.
Oh and you wanted to go 50 straight league games unbeaten. Well guess where game number 50 took place? That’s right, Old Trafford. How’d that one turn out for you Arsenal?