When Watford inflicted defeat on Liverpool in March, it ended the Reds’ hopes of replicating the greatest team feat in the history of the Premier League. The 3-0 loss at Vicarage Road was their first loss of the season and it meant they would not go the season unbeaten and match the achievements of Arsenal 16 years earlier.
Of course, the points tally amassed by Jurgen Klopp’s side this season is incredible and in truth, they’ve dropped far fewer points than Arsenal did. The 100 points and 98 points posted by Manchester City in the last two years are equally impressive, standards manager Pep Guardiola believes helped raise the bar for Liverpool.
However, Arsenal remains the only side in the Premier League’s near 30-year history to complete a full league campaign without a single loss to their name. Finishing with 90 points, the Gunners dropped points in 12 fixtures and drew five of their last ten fixtures. But despite their struggles, Arsene Wenger’s class of 2004 will be fondly remembered for generations to come as one of the greatest top-flight teams of all time.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) May 15, 2019
Arsenal headed into their preparations for the new campaign among the favourites for silverware, having lifted the FA Cup in 2003 and finished second to Manchester United in the league. They were fairly well fancied for all four major trophies and ranked highly in Premier League and FA Cup betting.
The signings of stars like Cesc Fabregas, Jens Lehmann, Gale Clichy, Philippe Senderos, and Johan Djourou during the summer had further heightened expectations and Wenger’s men would set an early marker, winning all four of their matches in August.
Back-to-back draws followed, including a hard-earned point at Old Trafford against Manchester United, but it was in the eight weeks that followed that Arsenal would turn on the style and become firm favourites for the title.
The Gunners swept aside Newcastle, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs during an eight-week period that saw them take 18 league points from a possible 21 and extend their advantage at the top of the ladder, ahead of a cluster of challenging teams.
Points were dropped against Fulham, Leicester, Bolton and Everton in the weeks that followed, but Arsenal headed into the new year unbeaten and still clear at the top of the table.
A matter of when
By this point, Arsenal were firmly established as favourites to win the league – it seemed merely a matter of when – and they underlined their dominance with an incredible run of nine consecutive league victories between 10 January and 20 March.
That winning gallop was halted by old rivals Manchester United, who scored an 86th-minute equaliser to cancel out Thierry Henry’s effort at the start of the second half. And draws against Newcastle, Tottenham, Birmingham and Portsmouth would follow as the schedule of fixtures hit the final stretch.
And it was the point away at Spurs in April that sealed Arsenal’s destiny as champions. The game ended in controversial fashion as Robbie Keane netted a 94th-minute penalty to deny the visitors victory, but the Gunners’ disappointment was temporary as they wheeled off to the away section to celebrate success with their supporters at the home of their biggest rivals.
Attention now turned to Arsenal’s unbeaten record and as they headed into their final two fixtures with a new kind of pressure on the players’ shoulders – could they write their names in history? – only Fulham and Leicester stood in their way.
The victory was sealed at Loftus Road, the temporary home of Fulham, thanks to Jose Reyes’ goal in the ninth minute, which set the scene for a potentially history-making afternoon at Highbury, where Micky Adams’ Leicester would be out to spoil the party.
And when former Arsenal player Paul Dickov handed the Foxes a half-time lead, there were fears that the Gunner’s dream would be shattered at the final hurdle. But Thierry Henry’s penalty in the 47th gave the hosts parity and when Patrick Vieira popped up in the 66th minute to put his side in front, the party could really begin.
Arsenal would hold on for victory, completing an unbeaten league season and, though there were no further domestic trophies captured this year, the squad of 2003/04 was forever immortalized as part of footballing folklore.
— Premier League (@premierleague) May 15, 2013