The Immortal Invincibles, Arsenal Football Club
Long before Arsenal were the punch line of most Premier League jokes, they were one of the most feared teams in Europe. With a fearsome back four and one of the most lethal and fluid attacks soccer had ever seen, Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal were simply electrifying.
In a game that is often chaotic, they seemed more capable of controlling the chaos than any other team in the world. Their dominance was such that their manager believed they were capable of going an entire season unbeaten. After an excellent start to the 2002–2003 season, Wenger voiced these beliefs to the world.
“I am still hopeful we can go through the season unbeaten — a frightening thought. It’s not impossible as AC Milan once did it but I can’t see why it’s so shocking to say it. Do you think Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea don’t dream that as well? They just don’t say it because they’re scared to look ridiculous, but nobody is ridiculous in this job as we know anything can happen.”
After that statement the Arsenal manager was given the moniker Comical Wenger. Everyone thought he was crazy to even believe that his team could go an entire league season unbeaten. The last time it happened was over a century ago when Preston North End went unbeaten in the 1888–1889 season. With the season now 38 games instead of the 22 that Preston North End played, nobody thought it was possible anymore. The league had gone over 100 years without anyone going unbeaten. Why would that change now?
Unfortunately for Wenger and Arsenal, the 2002–2003 season was anything but perfect and Wenger had plenty of egg on his face. Arsenal would lose their first game about a month after Wenger’s comments and then went on their worst run of form in 19 years. They would end up losing out on the title to Manchester United after a 3–2 home loss to Leeds United late in the season. That was the last time Arsenal would lose a premier league game for 17 months.
Led by the magic of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp — two of the greatest players to ever grace the Premier League — Arsenal would end the season with a record of 38 games played, 26 wins, 12 draws and 0 losses. The Invincibles. However, their path to such a feat was not easy. In fact, they almost lost 6 matches into the season.
Playing Manchester United away from home, Arsenal were on the verge of securing a 0–0 draw when United were awarded a penalty deep into injury time. Ruud van Nistelrooy — one of the Premier League’s best finishers — stepped up to take the penalty for United and a loss was all but assured for Arsenal. Then, the unthinkable happened. Van Nisterlrooy hit the bar and Arsenal’s dream of an unbeaten season remained alive.
From that point onward, Arsenal would go on to comfortably win the league and they wouldn’t face another serious scare the rest of the season. Henry would end up being the league’s top scorer with 30 goals and he won the league’s player of the year award for the second consecutive season.
Arsenal would extend their unbeaten run the next season and wound up going 49 games without a defeat. Comical Wenger was no more.
Unfortunately, since that unbeaten season, Arsenal have yet to reach the summit of the Premier League again. However, while the trophy case has remained relatively bare over the past decade — only 3 FA Cup victories over the past 12 years — Wenger has continued to give the world some of the most beautiful soccer it has ever seen. I mean, how can you watch this and not be amazed?