03/04 v 10/11 – A heavyweight comparison

There’s no doubt the team of 03/04 were invincible, and incredible. Wenger’s magician like touch created a team made up of pretty football, but more importantly, WINS! For a stunning 49 games, Arsenal mauled just about anything that was thrown in front of them yet today, they’d struggle to beat a kick ‘n’ hoof Sunday team. It seems if Arsenal doesn’t play a team that can match their sexy football, then they simply can’t make their own brand of sexy football work.

So, fast forward/rewind seven years. If you scored it like a boxing bout, just how do the Invincibles compare to the boys that we have today?

 

GK                          Jens Lehmann   (10)                        V                             (9)   Wojciech Szczesny

The marauding voice and vigilante attitude of Jens was a huge influence on the back four. Without him, it wasn’t possible. Signed at the beginning of the Invincible campaign, Jens was arguably one of his greatest signings during the entire Wenger tenure.

DL                           Ashley Cole   (10)                             V                             (9)   Gael Clichy

As much as it pains to say it, Mr. Money Bags was en route to becoming arguably the world’s best left back. Gael was a mere spectator waiting in the wings for the England International to pack off across London.

DC                          Sol Campbell   (10)                           V                             (9)   Laurent Koscielny

Laurent’s got potential to be a top defender, however up against Sol who was at his peak in 03/04, well he’s getting nowhere near the team.

DC                          Kolo Toure   (9)                                 V                             (10)   Thomas Vermaelen

The first round that’s been won by a current player. Kolo was awesome in 03/04, but I do think that a fit Vermaelen would get into the 03/04 team and over the course of a career, prove a better defender that the Ivorian.

DR                          Lauren   (9)                                         V                             (10)   Bakary Sagna

Lauren was quality going forward, and he certainly played a massive part in the Invincible campaign, but it’s fair to say that the African full back was often suspect when up against a half decent winger. Bakary wins.

ML                          Robert Pires   (10)                            V                             (9)   Andrei Arshavin

It was very close to a 10-8 round. Pires was a master, a world class footballer. Notorious for a showboat, Robert delighted crowds both at Highbury, and away from home. Andrei had a good game… once.

MC                         Patrick Vieria   (10)                           V                             (9)   Jack Wilshire

Jack is a great player, and will be a great player for years to come. He reminds me sometimes of David Platt in his peak, but stick 03/04’s Vieria in our team now, and you might find that a lot of these ‘good youngsters’ will miraculously become winning youngsters.

MC                         Gilberto   (9)                                       V                             (10)   Cesc Fabregas

Our captain marvel of today is getting in anybody’s team, but for me, it’s no coincidence that we went a whole season unbeaten with a central midfield made like a brick wall. While Vieria and Gilberto ssealed up anything Keane and friends threw at the back line, the likes of Pires, Henry, Freddie and Bergkamp were free to dominate and caress the football pitch. Compare that brick wall to Cesc, Jack and Alex Song of today… could it be more different?

MR                         Freddie Ljungberg   (9)                  V                             (10)   Samir Nasri

Born of Algerian dissent, Zidane like dare I say, Nasri has the ability to win a game with a magical piece of a skill or a divine pass through the eye of a needle. Freddie is a legend in North London and rightly so, but arguably the best player we currently have on the roster, he lands one on Freddie; just!

FC                           Thierry Henry   (10)                         V                             (9)   Theo Walcott

They both might wear the number 14, but there is only one man who owns that shirt. Theo has never lived up to the boots he was supposed to fill, despite glimpses of Henry-esc class. The fact that Thierry has his own ‘esc class’ pretty much sums up why there isn’t a player in history who would fill that shirt quite like the Frenchman did.

ST                           Dennis Bergkamp   (10)                 V                             (9)   Robin Van Persie

RVP was brought in to replace his compatriot and has done a pretty decent job trying. However you cannot argue that the maestro was, and is quite simply an artist when it comes to painting that football pitch. Dennis had flair, skill, technique, arrogance… he had everything. RVP is a great player, Dennis was an unbelievable player.

 

So, referee Simon Bourne scores the bout 106 – 103, in favor of… still, the champions of 03/04 and the only side to go through an entire Premier League without defeat, THE INVICIBLES!

In all seriousness, there’s not a lot changed over the last eight years in terms of the way Arsenal play. Arsene is still trying to play the same brand of football that we played back in 03/04 and rightly so, but today’s team for me is missing the leader and that brick wall in midfield. Gilberto and Vieria were the reason that Arsenal went unbeaten for so long. Without them we would have been found out eventually, and flair players would have not gotten away with an off day.

So… who can be the new Gilberto/Vieria?

Simon Bourne (Site Editor)

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