The Invincibles (football)

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In English football, "The Invincibles" has been used to refer to the Preston North End team of the 1880s managed by William Sudell,[1][2] and the Arsenal team of the 2003–04 season managed by Arsène Wenger.[3] Both teams earned the nickname after completing an English league campaign unbeaten, the Preston team also remaining unbeaten in cup competition during the same season.

Preston North End[edit]

Preston North End became football's first "Invincibles" when they won the inaugural English football league competition, completing the season unbeaten in both the League and FA Cup, which also made them the first team to achieve the English "Double". Preston's league record was 18 wins, 4 draws and 0 losses, out of 22 games played, while their cup record was 5 wins out of 5 rounds played. Preston also won the Cup without conceding a goal.

Of the seven teams to have completed the Double in England, Preston remain the only one to have done so unbeaten.

In 2008, Preston opened a new 5,000 seater stand at their Deepdale stadium, named the Invincibles Pavilion in honour of the unbeaten 1880s team that had also played their home matches at the same site.[4]

The team that won the 1889 FA Cup Final at the Kennington Oval, beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0, was as follows:

GK Wales Robert Mills-Roberts
DF England Bob Howarth
DF England Bob Holmes
MF Scotland George Drummond
MF Scotland David Russell
MF Scotland Johnny Graham
FR Scotland Jack Gordon
FW Scotland Jimmy Ross
FW England John Goodall
FW England Fred Dewhurst (c)
FL Scotland Sam Thomson

Matches[edit]

Football League

Match Date Opponent Venue Result Attendance Scorers
1 8 September 1888 Burnley H 5–2 5,000 Gordon, Ross (2), Dewhurst (2)
2 15 September 1888 Wolverhampton Wanderers A 4–0 5,000 Gordon, Ross, A Goodall, J Goodall
3 22 September 1888 Bolton Wanderers H 3–1 5,000 Gordon (2), Drummond
4 29 September 1888 Derby County A 3–2 6,000 Robertson, Ross (2)
5 6 October 1888 Stoke H 7–0 3,000 Ross (4), Whittle, J Goodall, Dewhurst
6 13 October 1888 West Bromwich Albion H 3–0 10,000 Dewhurst, Edwards (2)
7 20 October 1888 Accrington A 0–0 6,000
8 27 October 1888 Wolverhampton Wanderers H 5–2 6,000 Gordon, Ross, J Goodall (3)
9 3 November 1888 Notts County A 7–0 7,000 Gordon (3), Ross, J Goodall (3)
10 10 November 1888 Aston Villa H 1–1 10,000 J Goodall
11 12 November 1888 Stoke A 3–0 4,500 Ross, Thompson, Robertson
12 17 November 1888 Accrington H 2–0 7,000 Gordon, Dewhurst
13 24 November 1888 Bolton Wanderers A 5–2 10,000 Ross (2), Robertson, Dewhurst, J Goodall
14 8 December 1888 Derby County H 5–0 4,000 Inglis, J Goodall (2), Dewhurst (2)
15 15 December 1888 Burnley A 2–2 8,000 Ross, Thompson
16 22 December 1888 Everton H 3–0 8,000 Dewhurst, J Goodall (2)
17 26 December 1888 West Bromwich Albion A 5–0 5,150 J Goodall (2), Ross (2), Gordon
18 29 December 1888 Blackburn Rovers H 1–0 8,000 J Goodall
19 5 January 1889 Notts County H 4–1 4,000 J Goodall (2), Edwards
20 12 January 1889 Blackburn Rovers A 2–2 10,000 Dewhurst, Thompson
21 19 January 1889 Everton A 2–0 15,000 J Goodall, Ross
22 9 February 1889 Aston Villa A 2–0 10,000 Dewhurst (2)

FA Cup

Round Date Opponent Venue Result Attendance Scorers
1 2 February 1889 Bootle A 3–0 1,000 J Goodall, Gordon, Thompson
2 16 February 1889 Grimsby Town A 2–0 8,000 J Goodall, Ross
3 2 March 1889 Birmingham St George's H 2–0 8,000 Holmes, Thompson
Semi-final 16 March 1889 West Bromwich Albion N 1–0 22,688 Russell
Final 30 March 1889 Wolverhampton Wanderers N 3–0 25,000 Dewhurst, Thompson, Ross

Arsenal[edit]

The most used Arsenal players in the 2003–04 season, positioned in a 4–4–2 formation.

In May 2002, Arsenal beat Manchester United to regain the Premier League and equal Preston's record of not losing an away match all season. In assessing the team's achievement, Tim Rich of The Independent wrote: "Invincibles, they called the last team to go through a season unbeaten away from home, although it is a word which belongs far more to the Arsenal side of 2002 than it ever could to the Preston team of 1888–89."[5] Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger wanted his team to push on for more honours and described the defeat of Manchester United as a "shift of power" in English football.[6] The team began the following season in good stead; a 4–1 win against Leeds United in September 2002 meant Arsenal broke the domestic record for scoring in consecutive games (47), and away league games without defeat (22).[7] Such was their effective start to the campaign, Wenger suggested his team could remain the whole season undefeated:

"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're exactly the same. 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."[8]

Arsenal lost to Everton in October 2002 and failed to win their next three matches in all competitions, representing their worst run of form in 19 years.[9] By the turn of the year Arsenal's form had picked up and established themselves as league leaders; nearest challenger Manchester United however overhauled them to win the title.[10] Arsenal finished the season with league wins against Southampton and Sunderland, later consoled with success in the FA Cup – they beat the former team 1–0 in the 2003 final.

"Somebody threw me a T-shirt after the trophy was presented which read 'Comical Wenger says we can go the whole season unbeaten.' I was just a season too early!"

Arsène Wenger, May 2004[11]

Wenger sought to strengthen his team with minor additions: goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, as well as a number of young players from academies abroad, namely Gaël Clichy and Phillipe Senderos. In comparison to their rivals Chelsea, bankrolled by new owner Roman Abramovich, and Manchester United, Arsenal's transfer activity was quiet. The financial constraints that came with the Ashburton Grove stadium project meant Wenger had little income to strengthen his squad.[12] Once funding was found amidst the season, the club added to its roster: José Antonio Reyes arrived in the winter transfer window, later joined by Robin van Persie.

In 2003–04, Arsenal regained the Premier League without a single defeat. Over the 38 games played, their league record stood at 26 wins, 12 draws and 0 losses. The unbeaten run came close to ending six matches into the season against Manchester United. Striker Ruud van Nistelrooy missed a penalty in injury time; the match then ended 0–0. At the turn of the calendar year, Arsenal won nine league matches in a row to consolidate first position; they secured their status as champions with a draw against local rivals Tottenham Hotspur in April 2004. Their form did not carry over into the domestic cups, exiting at the semi-final stage of the Football League Cup and the FA Cup to eventual winners Middlesbrough and Manchester United, respectively. In Europe, Arsenal reached the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Champions League but did not advance any further, after defeat to London rivals Chelsea.[13]

Continuing into the next season, Arsenal beat Middlesbrough to equal Nottingham Forest's record of 42 league matches unbeaten; the feat was eclipsed with a win at home to Blackburn Rovers. The run extended to six more matches, coming to an end with a controversial 2–0 defeat to Manchester United.[14]

Matches[edit]

Premier League

Match Date Opponent Venue Result Attendance Scorers
1 7 May 2003 Southampton H 6–1 38,052 Pirès 8', 22', 46', Pennant 15', 18', 25'
2 12 May 2003 Sunderland A 4–0 40,188 Henry 7', Ljungberg 39', 78', 88'
3 15 August 2003 Everton H 2–1 38,014 Henry 35' (pen.), Pirès 58'
4 24 August 2003 Middlesbrough A 4–0 29,450 Henry 5', Gilberto Silva 13', Wiltord 22', 60'
5 27 August 2003 Aston Villa H 2–0 38,010 Campbell 57', Henry 90'
6 31 August 2003 Manchester City A 2–1 46,436 Wiltord 48', Ljungberg 72'
7 13 September 2003 Portsmouth H 1–1 38,052 Henry 40' (pen.)
8 21 September 2003 Manchester United A 0–0 67,639
9 26 September 2003 Newcastle United H 3–2 38,112 Henry 18', 80' (pen.), Gilberto Silva 67'
10 4 October 2003 Liverpool A 2–1 44,374 Hyypiä 31' (o.g.), Pirès 68'
11 18 October 2003 Chelsea H 2–1 38,172 Edu 5', Henry 75'
12 26 October 2003 Charlton Athletic A 1–1 26,660 Henry 39'
13 1 November 2003 Leeds United A 4–1 36,491 Henry 8', 33', Pirès 18', Gilberto Silva 50'
14 8 November 2003 Tottenham Hotspur H 2–1 38,101 Pirès 69', Ljungberg 79'
15 22 November 2003 Birmingham City A 3–0 29,588 Ljungberg 4', Bergkamp 80', Pirès 88'
16 30 November 2003 Fulham H 0–0 38,063
17 6 December 2003 Leicester City A 1–1 26,660 Gilberto Silva 60'
18 14 December 2003 Blackburn Rovers H 1–0 37,677 Bergkamp 11'
19 20 December 2003 Bolton Wanderers A 1–1 28,003 Pirès 57'
20 26 December 2003 Wolverhampton Wanderers H 3–0 38,003 Craddock 13' (o.g.), Henry 20', 89'
21 29 December 2003 Southampton A 1–0 32,151 Pirès 13'
22 7 January 2004 Everton A 1–1 38,726 Kanu 29'
23 10 January 2004 Middlesbrough H 4–1 38,117 Henry 38' (pen.), Queudrue 45' (o.g.), Pirès 57', Ljungberg 68'
24 18 January 2004 Aston Villa A 2–0 39,380 Henry 29', 53' (pen.)
25 1 February 2004 Manchester City H 2–1 38,103 Tarnat 7' (o.g.), Henry 83'
26 7 February 2004 Wolverhampton Wanderers A 3–1 29,392 Bergkamp 9', Henry 58', Touré 63'
27 10 February 2004 Southampton H 2–0 38,007 Henry 31', 90'
28 21 February 2004 Chelsea A 2–1 41,847 Vieira 15', Edu 21'
29 28 February 2004 Charlton Athletic A 2–1 38,137 Pirès 2', Henry 4'
30 13 March 2004 Blackburn Rovers A 2–0 28,627 Henry 57', Pirès 87'
31 20 March 2004 Bolton Wanderers H 2–1 38,053 Pirès 16', Bergkamp 24'
32 28 March 2004 Manchester United H 1–1 38,184 Henry 50'
33 9 April 2004 Liverpool H 4–2 38,119 Henry 31', 50', 78', Pirès 49'
34 11 April 2004 Newcastle United A 0–0 52,141
35 16 April 2004 Leeds United H 5–0 38,094 Pirès 6', Henry 27', 33' (pen.), 50', 67'
36 25 April 2004 Tottenham Hotspur A 2–2 36,097 Vieira 3', Pirès 35'
37 1 May 2004 Birmingham City H 0–0 38,061
38 4 May 2004 Portsmouth A 1–1 20,140 Reyes 50'
39 9 May 2004 Fulham A 1–0 18,102 Reyes 9'
40 15 May 2004 Leicester City H 2–1 38,419 Henry 47' (pen.), Vieira 66'
41 15 August 2004 Everton A 4–1 35,521 Bergkamp 23', Reyes 39', Ljungberg 54', Pirès 83'
42 22 August 2004 Middlesbrough H 5–3 37,415 Henry 25', 90', Bergkamp 54', Reyes 65', Pirès 65'
43 25 August 2004 Blackburn Rovers H 3–0 37,496 Henry 50', Gilberto Silva 58', Reyes 79'
44 28 August 2004 Norwich City A 4–1 23,944 Reyes 22', Henry 36', Pirès 40', Bergkamp 90'
45 11 September 2004 Fulham A 3–0 21,681 Ljungberg 62', Knight 65' (o.g.), Reyes 71'
46 18 September 2004 Bolton Wanderers A 2–2 37,010 Henry 31', Pirès 66'
47 25 September 2004 Manchester City A 1–0 47,015 Cole 14'
48 2 October 2004 Charlton Athletic H 4–0 38,103 Ljungberg 33', Henry 48', 69', Reyes 70'
49 16 October 2004 Aston Villa H 3–1 38,137 Pirès 19', 72', Henry 45'

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The History of Preston North End". Preston North End official website. 
  2. ^ Taw, Thomas (2006). Football's Twelve Apostles: The Making of The League 1886–1889. p. 17. ISBN 1-905328-09-5. 
  3. ^ Hughes, Ian (2004-05-15). "Arsenal the Invincibles". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  4. ^ "Deepdale". Preston North End FC. 15 February 2012. 
  5. ^ Rich, Tim (9 May 2002). "Wenger's Invincibles claim grand prize in bare-knuckle title fight". The Independent (London). p. 28. 
  6. ^ "Wenger hails 'shift of power'". BBC Sport (BBC). 9 May 2002. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  7. ^ "Arsenal blow away Leeds". BBC Sport (BBC). 28 September 2002. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  8. ^ "Arsenal can go unbeaten all season, says Wenger". Associated Press (CNNSI.com). 20 September 2002. Retrieved 18 July 2010. 
  9. ^ Brodkin, Jon (31 October 2002). "Arsenal qualify with little celebration". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  10. ^ "How the title was won in photos". BBC Sport (BBC). 4 May 2003. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  11. ^ "Wenger has last laugh on victory parade". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 17 May 2004. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  12. ^ Bose, Mihir (19 September 2003). "Ashburton Grove costing Arsenal". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  13. ^ "Arsenal 1–2 Chelsea". BBC Sport (BBC). 6 April 2004. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  14. ^ "Man Utd 2–0 Arsenal". BBC Sport (BBC). 24 October 2004. Retrieved 3 October 2013.