Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal team became the first and only team to finish a Premier League season without a single loss. The Gunners finished the 2003/04 season invincible, with 26 wins, 12 draws and zero losses and 11 points clear of second-place Chelsea - in fact in their entire unbeaten run (49 matches), The Gunners picked up 121 points.
This impressive feat has never been repeated, though Liverpool did come close in the 2018/19 season only losing one game.
However, since the invincible 2003/04 season, The Gunners haven’t won another Premier League title, with their title drought extended to 18 years going into the 2022/23 season.
How the Gunners Lined up in 2003/04
The invincibles team was stacked from back to front, from goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to Thierry Henry upfront.
Lehmann, along with a defence of Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure and Lauren kept 21 clean sheets in 38 games, the most in the Premier League that season. This back line also only conceded 26 goals the entire season, the sixth least amount of goals conceded in a season ever. The 26 goals conceded is even more impressive when you consider Arsenal also scored the most own-goals that season with four.
The 2021/22 Arsenal defence, on the other hand, only kept 13 clean sheets in 38 games. Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, Cedric Soares, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes and Kieran Tierney also conceded 48 goals, which equates to 1.26 goals conceded per match.
The Arsenal midfield was also star-studded with the likes of Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Gilberto Silva and Freddie Ljungberg. Together, all four contributed a combined 40 goals in the 2003/04 season. Pires scored the most with 23, making him the second-highest scorer for Arsenal that season. Ljungberg scored ten, Gilberto scored four and Vieira found the back of the net three times.
The ability to find so many goals in the midfield helped Arsenal establish and maintain their complete dominance over the Premier League. The Gunners only failed to score against four teams over a single game in the invincibles season, Newcastle United, Fulham, Birmingham City and Manchester United.
In comparison, the biggest figures in Arsenal’s 2021/22 midfield, Thomas Partey (before injury), Martin Odegaard and Granit Xhaka only totalled a goal tally of ten for the season.
Thierry Henry was arguably the star of the invincibles team, heading The Gunner’s front line and winning the Premier League Player of the Season along with a number of other accolades. The Frenchman was often partnered with Dutchman Denis Bergkamp and together they scored an impressive 46 goals across all competitions. Henry scored 39 of these goals and won the 2003/04 Golden Boot.
The difference in levels between the invincibles and the Arsenal that competed in the 2021/22 Premier League season can be seen best in the difference in front lines. The Invincibles scored 73 goals in the Premier League, whereas the current Arsenal only scored 61 goals. However, the biggest difference is in top scorers, in comparison to Henry’s 39-goal season, Buyako Saka was Arsenal’s top scorer with only 11 goals in the league.
There are four games in the Invincible season that really encapsulate the season and The Gunner’s dominance in England.
Arsenal’s away fixture at Old Trafford was one of these, as the Gunners escaped with a point against their fierce rivals who had beaten them to the title in 2002/03. This was despite going down to 10 men as Vieira was sent off as he lashed out at van Nistelrooy, before the Dutchman missed a penalty later on in this fiery fixture with virtually the last kick of the game that would’ve ended the Gunners' unbeaten run after just eight matches.
Although not their prettiest performance and relying on an opponent missing a penalty, this was a huge result for the Gunners as they had picked up a valuable point away at the home of the champions. It is without a doubt that to go a whole campaign unbeaten, you will need a slice of luck along the way. Due to a brawl between the two sets of players, this game was nicknamed the “Battle of Old Trafford”.
A meeting between high-flying Arsenal and a blossoming Chelsea at Highbury would prove to be a somewhat early showing of the Invincibles’ excellence. An early goal from both teams, Edu and Hernan Crespo finding the net before the ten-minute mark found the two London clubs held at a 1 - 1 draw. However, a mistake from Chelsea goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini allowed Henry to take the win for The Gunners and pull them three points clear of The Blues.
Later in the campaign, Arsenal welcomed Liverpool to Highbury in hope of extending their lead in the league. Liverpool took an early lead through Sami Hyypia in just the fifth minute, with Michael Owen scoring to make it 2 - 1 to the visitors at half-time. This game showed not only Arsenal’s dominance but also their ability to come back as a Henry hat-trick and a goal from Robert Pires sealed the win for The Gunners.
However, the most iconic game from the Invincibles for most would most likely be the title-winning game at none other than North London rivals Tottenham’s White Hart Lane. The Gunners took an early lead through a Viera goal in the third minute, with Pires doubling their lead going into half time. Jamie Redknapp and Robbie Keane managed to draw Tottenham level, the latter with a 94th-minute penalty, but it wasn’t enough to prevent their biggest rivals from winning the Premier League at White Hart Lane.
Though this kind of dominance at Tottenham has not been replicated recently, Arsenal’s last win at Tottenham was 1 - 0 back in 2014. In fact, the most recent loss at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, a 3 - 0 loss in May played a big hand in The Gunners failing to reach the Champions League places, a competition they have not played in since 2017.