Inventing Arsenal's Invincibles: 2003/04

It's a feat that has only ever been achieved by three teams in English football history: The undefeated season is an illusive achievement that is as difficult to capture as a greased unicorn. The first team to garner the accomplishment was Preston North End way back in 1889, managed by William Wudell. Their undefeated season came in the inaugural Football League competition, kicking off the beginnings of professional club football in the United Kingdom with a bang.

It was more than 100 years before that same magic was recreated by Arsenal during the 2003-04 season. It came under manager Arsene Wenger, with legendary striker Thierry Henry helping to lead the team to one victory after the next. In an incredibly odd coincidence, that very same year AFC Wimbledon also had a perfect season. Although, it should be noted that Wimbledon's season, while still impressive, came in the Combined Counties League Premier Division (level 9 of the English soccer pyramid). As such, they hardly faced the same level of stiff competition as seen in the Premier League, but it's a noteworthy achievement nonetheless. However, we're here to talk about Arsenal.

The Gunners' current season is easily the team's best since the 2003-04 season, which was Arsenal's last Premier League title run (although the team has won its fair share of FA Cups in the years since). It is already too late for the team to recapture the magic of the Invincibles, but they do have a very real opportunity to take home their first Premier League trophy in more than a decade. Also, much like the undefeated season, it comes with very little splurging in the way of transfers with one of the main purchases for Arsenal being that of former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech. During the 2003 season, the club had a similar transfer situation and brought in a fresh keeper in Jens Lehmann while adding striker Jose Antonio Reyes during the winter transfer window in 2004.

Ironically enough, much of the shrewdness of Wenger and Arsenal in terms of financial spending came from necessity rather than design. The club was actually in dire financial straights as a result of the impending move to the newly christened Emirates Stadium (Ashburton Grove), which cost the team the opportunity to sign a young Cristiano Ronaldo. In fact, the all-stars of the 03-04 were in peril of not being paid for their services until the club was able to make a property deal that kept things afloat until the ship could be righted again. But everything worked out in the end, of course, and Arsenal has become one of the wealthiest and most successful clubs in the world with a die-hard fan base that spans across continents.

Since its now immortal undefeated season, the 2003 squad transformed into the stuff of legend. It was even voted the greatest team of the Premier League era for its efforts. We can only hope that the next time a team is able to lay claim to this remarkable achievement, we won't have to wait another 118 years for the blessed event to occur.


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