Arsenal's Immortals win the League without losing a game | May 16, 2004
THEIR manager calls them “immortals”; the rest of us can do no more than wonder at the achievement of Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal, writes Jim Munro, football editor.
A 2-1 win over Leicester City at Highbury yesterday concluded a remarkable season in which the Premiership champions have avoided defeat in 38 gruelling Premiership matches, a year after Wenger first declared it was possible. Only Preston North End, back in the League’s inaugural 1888-89 season, had remained unbeaten previously, but over far fewer matches, 22, and at a time when professional football was in its infancy.
Twenty-six victories, 12 draws, no defeats: Arsenal finish 11 points clear of runners-up Chelsea but on a new plateau in League history.
“We are very proud,” said Wenger, as his troops jigged around the Higbury turf in celebration. “Unless you get there, you can’t quite believe it. I always had that dream and to reach it is marvellous.
“It is my third title and the best one. Not to lose is amazing. What fantastic players. I would like, officially, to take this moment to thank them.”
Asked whether he was already targeting new blood for next term, Wenger said: “We always want to improve, we always want to get better. I am confident this team is hungry for more. The target now is to get it out of them next season as well.”
Leicester, already relegated, had the temerity to take the lead with a Paul Dickov header on 26 minutes, but Arsenal’s unbeaten record looked secure just after half-time, when leading scorer Thierry Henry equalised with a penalty. Captain Patrick Vieira scored the winning goal on 66 minutes. “It has still not finally gone in yet,” said Henry, who became just the fourth player in the Premiership’s 12-season history to score 30 or more League goals in a season. “It may take 20 years for people to realise what we have done. We wanted to do something special and now we have done it is something more than amazing.
“It does not matter if someone does it again because we will be the first to have done it. That will go down in history.
“We must always remember that this season we were unbeatable.”Vieira added: “I am proud to be captain. We have a very good dressing room and the players give 100% for the team. We are really strong as a team. We never set out to go unbeaten. Our intention was always that we just wanted to win. You never know how good you are until a season ends but this team will be remembered forever now.
“We are going to enjoy ourselves and then come back and set our new targets.”There were a couple of black marks in Manchester United’s end-of-term report, a 2-0 win at Aston Villa with goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy, tarnished by sendings-off for youngsters Ronaldo and Darren Fletcher, both players picking up two yellow cards. Villa’s defeat allowed Newcastle to clinch fifth place and a Uefa Cup spot after drawing 1-1 at fourth-place Liverpool.
Portsmouth signed off with a 5-1 win over Middlesbrough at Fratton Park, Yakubu Aiyegbeni scoring four of those goals, while Manchester City matched that scoreline at home to Everton. A Jesper Gronkjaer goal enabled Chelsea to beat Leeds 1-0.