When Arsene Wenger first spoke about Arsenal remaining unbeaten for a whole season, many in the game looked on with smirks of derision and worse. It was the 2002-03 Premier League season and having been eight points clear at the top, the Gunners were on course to retain their title. That was until they threw away the lead at Bolton Wanderers, only to then surrender their title in a 3-2 home loss to relegation threatened Leeds United.
Manchester United went on to lift their eighth Premier League title that year, with Wenger’s side finishing runners-up. However, as Wenger had predicted a year earlier, Arsenal would go a whole season unbeaten, and in the 2003-04 season, the Invincibles would win the Premier League title with an amazing Played 38, Won 26, Drawn 12, Lost 0 sequence.
Invincibles! Arsenal celebrate their third Premier League title at Highbury
As they claimed their Premier League trophy at a raucous Highbury, among the celebrations, just along from Thierry Henry and sandwiched in between Ashley Cole and Robert Pires, Gilberto Silva the man who would go on to score the first ever Premier League goal for Arsenal at the Emirates stadium in 2006 is seen celebrating the landmark occasion.
Tough tackling midfielder, Gilberto Silva was a 2003-04 Arsenal Invincible
Silva recalled that Invincibles’ dressing room and remembers an inspired place where the players never actually focused on remaining unbeaten, but a team which wanted to right their perceived wrongs from the season prior.
” Well as players we never thought about it, we just started to play with our frustration because the previous season was very hard you know we were in front of Manchester United, then we saw the League escape from our hands. But I believe we used that frustration from the previous season to come back stronger. We just wanted to go to the games and win the games, and this is what he have done,” he said.
Silva’s face animates as he tells of what would follow after Arsenal claimed the 2003-04 title with that dramatic 2-2 draw against Spurs at White Hart Lane, and how Wenger’s winning mentality would give them a kick up the back side to continue the unbeaten run until the final game of the season, despite having already won the Premier League title with four games still to play.
” When we realised that we were close to it, we didn’t want to lose it anymore. But after we won the title against Tottenham, it was not so easy to keep our concentration. We had to be very strong mentally because we had already won the title.
What do we now play for? We had to (continue) for the last four games. But then you know Arsene shook us up!
Silva (l) went on to score Arsenal’s first ever goal at the Emirates stadium
“ He said, ‘ Come on you have to! You have made history but we can be special,’ and now we’ve seen the results. Maybe for the moment we were not so sure but it was important when he said that, and it was.”
For their final four games of the 2003-04 season, Silva and his Invincible team mates would draw 0-0 at home to Birmingham City, draw 1-1 at Portsmouth, win 1-0 at Fulham and finish with a 2-1 win at home to Leicester City.
Silva is very proud of the Invincibles record, and it is one which he hopes will stay but accepts it could be matched. He remembered Wenger saying that perhaps no one else would go a whole season unbeaten again.
” At the time he said that, but of course a record does exist to be broken. I hope it doesn’t happen honestly (he laughs) just to keep ourselves unique. But if at some point it happens because somebody has done something great, then we have to appreciate that. This is what we have done, I think we have done something very special.”
Liverpool remain on track to emulate Arsenal’s season unbeaten record, but as their record goal scorerer Thierry Henry would later remark, “We were the first.”