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Tuesday 24 April 2012

20 Seasons Awards: Best Team nominee 'The Invincibles'

Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira on their extraordinary achievement in the 2003/04 season


As part of the Premier League's 20 Seasons Awards, a panel of leading football figures, journalists and commentators will choose the Best Team in the history of the competition.

One of the teams that stands out over the past two decades is the extraordinary Arsenal 'Invincibles' team that re-wrote the record books in 2003/2004 when they managed to go through the entire campaign without losing.

"When you have Bergkamp and Henry in your team you know something will happen during the 90 minutes"
- Patrick Vieira

They are the only team to remain unbeaten in a 38-match season and were the first to do so in the top flight since Preston North End in 1889.

The squad was packed with talent and had defensive steel and creative flair in abundance, thrilling crowds with their pacy brand of counter-attacking football championed by manager Arsène Wenger.

The likes of Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole were key parts of their defence, captain Patrick Vieira anchored the midfield, Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg provided the width, while up front there was the guile and creativity of Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp as well as the prolific goalscoring expertise of Thierry Henry.

Their final record in the 2003/04 season was: won 26, drew 12, with 73 goals scored and only 26 conceded, and they ended up winning the title at a canter by 11 points with Henry the League's leading scorer on 30.

France World Cup winner Patrick Vieira tells what it was like to be a part of that special team:


"We had a commitment, we worked really hard, we had momentum and overall the spirit between the players and in the football club was so positive.

"It was all about believing in ourselves that we were going to win a game or at least take a point. Our self-belief as a team was fantastic.

"At the time we didn't really think we were part of something special because you never know you are going to do it until the end.

"But of course when you have players like Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry in your team you know that something will happen during the 90 minutes. They were scoring goals and we were working really hard at the back, it was a good combination and a good team.

"You never believe you can do it. For us, our only focus was to play game after game.

"As a team, when you achieve something like that, it is really special"
- Patrick Vieira

"We didn't want to put too much pressure on our shoulders because everybody was talking about it, so we didn’t want that to be a negative and put one more stress on our shoulders.

"That’s why the spirit of the team was pure and really good because when we won - or we drew - we just thought about the next match. It was just happening. Of course when you get to the last three or four games, that’s when you start to think about it.

"And, yes, near the end we were getting nervous because people kept talking about it.

"Can anyone do it again? Never say never because in football anything can happen. It will be difficult to do it but I am sure a team will.

"I think it will take a special team to do it. Of course you need luck, but overall you need to believe as a team.

"When you achieve something like that as a team it is really special because people will talk about it until it gets beaten - and you never know how long it is going to take. It was a fantastic team performance."

Arsenal's 'Invincibles' squad:
Jens Lehmann, Lauren, Kolo Touré, Sol Campbell, Martin Keown, Pascal Cygan, Ashley Cole, Gaël Clichy, Freddie Ljungberg, Gilberto Silva, Patrick Vieira, Ray Parlour, Robert Pires, Edu, José Antonio Reyes, Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord, Nwankwo Kanu, Dennis Bergkamp, Jérémie Aliadière.

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Key Points

  • Premier League is celebrating 20 Seasons
  • Awards for the greatest stars and best moments in Premier League history
  • An expert panel will decide on the Best Team