Tag Archives: unbeaten

Is Your Trophy Gold?

Watford threw up a surprise with their 3-0 hammering of champions-elect Liverpool.

In the Reds’ list of remaining games of the season, the trip to Vicarage Road looked to be one of the most innocuous, but a Sarr-inspired performance earned a deserved win – one that meant two of our biggest achievements remain unsullied.

It was close but our record for most matches without loss – 49, 49 undefeated – and our Invincibles season remain intact and without equal.

Jurgen Klopp’s side came mightily close. We were left sweating, looking at every match, result, goal and feeling increasingly resigned to seeing Liverpool grab their own version of an undefeated season.

This is something we will have to get used to.

Just one look at the top five unbeaten sequences shows that both Liverpool and City have both gone on runs that have come close to reaching that magical mark of 49. Klopp’s side were just five games away from matching that number – and it shows that the Premier League is changing – and not for the better.

The disparity between the ‘have’s’ and ‘have not’s’ is growing. TV money may have inflated every single team’s budget, but the gap between Liverpool, City and the rest in the last three seasons is akin to seeing an iceberg break off and sail off into the sunset.

The quality and consistency is something that the next group of teams can only dream of – and that includes us.

It means that the gold trophy and that famous chant we reverberate around our stadium regarding playing the Arsenal way? It will be something we cling to ever more feverishly as the Scousers and City continue to push the standards higher.

Gold trophy

The time will come when a side does take the season by storm and avoids defeat for the entirety. If Liverpool keep this form up they will earn far more points that our Invincibles did and so the claims will be made that Klopp’s team were far better.

Every conversation in the media about the greatest ever team to grace the Premier League involves talk of our greatest ever side. If Liverpool did do the unthinkable and match our achievement, it wouldn’t lessen what Arsene Wenger masterminded in 2004.

But, there will come a time when it happens again, and it won’t be the big gap between the first occurrence of an unbeaten season and ours – Preston in the 1800’s. It will be in the next ten to twenty years, perhaps sooner.

We need to get to grips with that. The panic involved when watching Liverpool systematically dismantle each challenger was real. The game before their loss to Liverpool saw West Ham take the lead but ultimately fall short as Liverpool kicked into gear. It was like they had woken up and then seemed to score at will. It was frightening, they have been that way for the majority of the season.

That is why we all worried. All records were in sight for the Reds, they had dropped points just ONCE.

They have got lucky of course. VAR and some comical defending/goalkeeping has gifted them points they shouldn’t have registered but there can be no argument about them not deserving the title.

Still, their defeat to Watford at least allows us to keep those records in our armoury for a little longer at least.

With City possibly being without European competition next season and Liverpool with a squad in rude health, next season could be tougher than ever for the rest of the league, never mind our intent to keep our records untarnished.

At the moment though, is their trophy gold?

 

The Best PL Side Ever?

A recent BBC poll – one of many – asked a question that many would think redundant. It wasn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last – to prove my point, a poll recently after this was to decide which pairing was best – Yorke and Cole or Bergkamp and Henry…

The poll in question however, mused on which team was the best in the PL era.

There have been a few.

Chelsea’s title-winning team of 05/07 under Jose’s first spell was a beast of a team, and their defensive record still stands.

Our own Double-winning team of 97/98 were included, the perfect blend of rough with smooth.

Then there were the main contenders.

The United Treble-winning team of 99.

City’s winning outfit last season, the first to 100 points.

And The Invincibles.

United-v-Arsenal-main

Putting aside my fierce and indignant bias, let us look at the numbers.

Firstly, if we are deciding which club had the best Premier League side, then external achievements need to be cast aside. So, United’s famous CL win cannot affect this judgement.

Fergie’s winning team won the league by a solitary point from Arsenal that year. This doesn’t scream out unparallelled quality, it shows that they had a team that was its near equal.

What of City’s steamrollering team of last year?

The first to reach 100 points, 106 goals scored and 27 conceded, 32 wins from 38 – only six games where they failed to get the win.

Truly frightening statistics.

What of The Invincibles?

Well, 12 draws means 12 games where we failed to win – double that of Guardiola’s side.

Seventy three goals scored, 26 conceded, a goal difference of plus 47.

The only stat we can boast that is superior is our defence.

Aside from one small factor – the losses column.

What weight does that zero carry? Is it heavier than the avalanche of goals City scored? Is it worth more than that and the paltry six games they failed to win? We went 49 games without defeat – still a record.

To decide which team trumps the other is fiendishly difficult, but the Gunners are still the only side to go through a campaign unbeaten – and the only recipients of a gold League trophy.

When City were putting teams to the sword last season, the world and his dog were predicting that Guardiola would oversee an unbeaten season. The matches ticked down and no team looked likely to beat them, but beaten they were.

City achieving what they did was miraculous, and they did so in an arguably more difficult league, but they couldn’t manage a loss-less season.

Will this poll settle the argument? No. But ask yourself this;

If any other set of fans had an unbeaten season in their recent history, would they let us forget it? Would they admit that other teams were better? Not a chance.

Our Invincibles side, no matter what objective view is aired, will always be the barometer that all amazing sides need to match up to.

From back to front, we were packed with talent and did the unthinkable with a smaller squad than City, and with just as much swagger, if not more.

Yet it wasn’t our Invincibles side that won the poll, nor was it City’s squad of last season.

United’s Treble-winners won the poll.

Ignore the poll, we know the answer.

Invincibles Vs Almost Invincibles

Featured in The Gooner Fanzine

Comparing things is pretty big business. It harnesses our compelling need to put different versions alongside each other and gauge each and every characteristic – despite the flaws in the method.

We can’t help but do it, but comparing things has far too many variables to reach a conclusive answer.

Especially when it comes to football – and yet we are all guilty of it.

Ronaldo and Messi compared to Maradona and Pele or any other titan of the game is one that is often bandied around, but the nuances of time and the different permutations surrounding each generation render any result reached a moot one.

We do it with different teams too – even ones that wore the same jersey.

As Gooners, we are pretty spoiled when we visit the annals of our past, as we have a multitude of teams, players and seasons when success was reached and memories were encased in a gold-tinted amber. We can hark back to these slices of time and wonder how they would have fared in today’s game – and if they would have emulated some of our more recent successes.

George Graham helped us achieve a few of our brightest moments, but will always be remembered for probably the most dramatic title win in history. The Miracle of Anfield 89 has been converted into film twice and is never far away from any self-respecting Gooner’s recollection – and for very good reason – but was that his finest team?

Probably not.

Two years later, his Arsenal side reclaimed the title ahead of rivals Liverpool, conceded just 18 goals in the process over 38 games, and scored a hatful of goals to dispel any notions that his men were mere defence merchants.

They won the title with games to spare too – and perhaps the most compelling argument to sway anyone who thought the 89 team was better? The team of 90/91 did all this even with their skipper being sent to prison, being deducted points for the infamous brawl at Old Trafford – still the only case before or since where a team has been deducted points – and having a squad that was light in terms of numbers.

They played every three days for over a third of the season, and lost just one game. One. That sole ‘L’ in the league table came at Stamford Bridge where an offside goal and a tackle that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an MMA Octagon took out our sole recognised centre-back combined to thieve points from GG’s team.

It is quite the story, and there was much more too. How did the squad keep the good ship Arsenal on a steady course despite missing such an inspirational figure in Tony Adams? How did the team cope despite being lambasted by the press for their part in the mass melee at Old Trafford? Above all, could they have gone ‘Invincible’ before Wenger’s fabulous side achieved it thirteen years after?

This amazing and inspirational side are one of the finest that Arsenal have ever had, but they get a paltry amount of limelight compared to the 03/04, 89 and even the 97/98 sides.

Never mind about were they as good as the hero’s of 89 – we should be asking whether they stand shoulder to shoulder with the Invincibles – arguably our greatest ever eleven.

You see? We can’t help but compare.

My book, Almost Invincible, does this extensively, and uses library newspaper records and the accounts of David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Bob Wilson, David Hillier and Alan Smith to illustrate how they did what they did. It also features expert opinion from Guardian journalist Amy Lawrence.

Undecided? Let my book show you how good the side of 90/91 truly were, the side that was ‘Almost Invincible.’

Just go to the ‘My Books’ section above, or go to my Twitter bio, my handle is @JokAFC.

Invincible by Amy Lawrence – A Review

Football fans need no invitation to wrap themselves in the comforting blanket of nostalgia. Every last-minute winner, every derby triumph, every accolade, is another opportunity to pass down treasured memories to the next generation. The details of the day may become hazy, but only due to the swirling mix of emotions from such an occasion.

The players who were responsible for luring out such fervour become titans, larger, more god-like, with each recollection. Time only adds to this sensation and the men that reaped such riches will always have a pedestal to be placed upon.

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With Invincible: Inside Arsenal’s Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season by Amy Lawrence – this is the reason I initially felt jealousy upon poring over the pages.

Continue reading Invincible by Amy Lawrence – A Review