Yeah, this seems like a century ago, the 2004-2005 season, the last (but not the least) time we won a piece of footballing silverware, to adorn our trophy-room.
For me, it was just the start of my incredible journey as an Arsenal fan!!
I didn’t get to watch just a handful games that season, cos’ of reasons I don’t really remember now. However, what I did watch was the Invincibles of 03-04, continuing in full flow and swagger, their defence of the title.
The Community Shield against Manchester United, won 3-1 at the Millenium, the first league game of the season was at the Goodison, a game I remember watching, as I remember some Spanish goon with long hair, called Fabregas or something, was marshalling the midfield, with players double his size, Carsley and Gravesen, trying to get a hold of him!!! Well, we did run out comfortable 4-1 winners that afternoon!!
Next up was Middlesbrough, with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and the quick Joseph Desire-Job manning the attack. I didn’t watch the game, but I did watch the game later in Final Score, and a hell of a game it was!This was the record-equalling game, and Arsenal were 3-1 down at HT. On came the sun, and on came Jose Antonio Reyes. His pace turned the game on its head, as he scored Arsenal’s 4th, with the commentator screaming “REEYYYEEEESS!!”
Record-equalled, and record-broken, against Blackburn at home, Arsenal chalked up wins against lowly sides of the league, namely Norwich, Fulham, Man.City(In those days, lowest of the low), Charlton (Remember the backheel?) and Aston Villa, and a draw with Bolton. We had reached 49 games unbeaten. And, as they say “Irony strikes hard”, the game we needed a result to reach the magical 50, was against Manchester United at OT!!
Years on, I still remember the date, October 24, 2004, probably the first time I watched a game from start to finish, and it was to be one of the most painful games I ever saw. To be fair, it was United who did much of the attacking. However, Ferdinand deserved a red, when he pushed down Ljungberg off his feet,as he was the last man. As Old Trafford and referees go, the first talking point of the game ended in a free kick to ManU. 73 minutes gone, it looked like Arsenal would go through, taking a vital point. And then, disaster!! Wayne Rooney, United’s new upstart, just signed for a record £27million, after his exploits at the European Championships, showed his diving skills, at the slightest of Sol Campbell’s touches. The crowd beamed, and the referee obliged and up came the f***ing Dutch cunt van Nistelrooy, to score!!United made it 2-0 before FT, and to an end came the modern game’s most brilliant feat. The next few days, I remember , were spent in depression, for me, as I just couldn’t stop thinking “What if we had made it to 50?”!!
For a team with the habit of not losing, one defeat would signal a major physiological effect, two would be a devastating blow. Southampton nearly dealt that. The only part of the match I saw, was Robin van Persie announcing his arrival in the league, with an amazing stoppage-time goal at Highbury, to salvage a 2-2 draw. He danced past 2 defenders before smashing a left-footer past Antti Niemi. The celebration was amazing!! van Persie slid down, with the entire team pouncing upon him!
A major factor to most of Arsenal’s success was the understanding and the cohesiveness of the team. Every player would go and hug every other player in the team, a tradition which continues to this present day.
I still vividly remember my first North London Derby, as it was a day before my 15th birthday, Arsenal emerging 5-4 winners at White Hart Lane, in a pulstaing game, with 9 different scorers, and ofcourse Robert Pires scored. Boy, he had a masters degree of scoring against Spuds!!
Liverpool inflicted Arsenal’s second defeat of the season, as Neil Mellor, scored a 92nd minute screamer. That was the only highlight of his career, I guess!!
Thierry Henry scored one of the cheekiest goals ever, as he took a quick free kick against Chelsea. Petr Cech was still organizing his defence, as the ref gave Henry the opportunity to shoot. However, it was to no avail, as the game ended 2-2.
Over the next few games, Arsenal picked up vital wins, before crashing against the mighty Bolton Wanderers.Mighty, cos they were our bogey team. They had these huge, physical, ox-like players namely Kevin Davies, Kevin Nolan, El-Hadji Diouf,Bruno N’Gotty, Jay-Jay Okocha and Ivan Campo. It always used to rile me, the way the played, with their ‘into your face’ kinda approach. They played so many long balls, which was so frustrating to watch, more like a rugby team in footballing disguise. I used to especially despise this short bald Greek Stelios Giannakapouolous (hope I got that right), not just for his name, but for the fact he had a knack of scoring, every time he played us!
Manchester United did the double over us, as Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira flared up in the cramped tunnel of Highbury. It was an eternally frustrating game, as Arsenal succumbed to 10-man United, who did rise up to the occasion. Ronaldo and Rooney, were particularly effective that evening, as the former bagged a brace. The tension in the game was as thick as garlic, as both sides looked to prove its superiority over the other, after the tunnel bust-up.
That season, I din’t follow the Champions League much, cos the games were so late in the night, and I would have to sleep through my last year in school, if I were to watch them. Arsenal got knocked out 3-2 by Bayern Munich that season!!
Arsenal, by then had much behind in the race for the Premiership title, as Abrahamovich sponsored Chelsea, seemed to be frontrunners in the race, looking to win the title after a wait of 50 years. Yes, 50 years and it had taken gazillions of Russian money, for the Blues, to be termed as champions. The ‘so-called pride of London’ (I still laugh at this!! ) had made expensive acquisitions. A plethora of superstars, goalkeeper Petr Cech, midfielders Claude Makelele and Tiago, defenders Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho, strikers Kezman and Drogba, and a pacy, young Dutch winger Arjen Robben. And yes, Champions League-winning manager, the flamboyant Jose Mourinho, who had taken his Porto side to the pinnacle of European football glory. Chelsea had splashed nearly £100 million on their squad revamp. Compare this to the Gunners, whose only acquisitions were Robin van Persie, Mathieu Flamini and Manuel Flamini; for a combined fee of £5 million. Seems laughable, doesn’t it!!
The last home game of the season, was one game I had watched in totality, while on vacation in Muscat. It was not only the last match Arsenal played in their red and white jerseys at Highbury, but also Brazilian Edu’s last game. Dennis Bergkamp was magnificent that night, as Arsenal routed the Everton boys 7-0, with Edu saying bye with a penalty. Arsenal finished second, but the last shot at silverware that season was just 10 days away, and all that stood in the was was, yes, Manchester United.
Well, the results that season against United were pretty mixed, with 3 wins for United and 1 for Arsenal.
Man. U 1-3 Arsenal – Community Shield
Man. U 2-0 Arsenal – Premiership
Man.U 1-0 Arsenal – Carling Cup
Arsenal 2-4 Man. U – Premiership
An even contest expected, United took the game to Arsenal and parked themselves at Arsenal’s goalmouth, as they maintained attack after attack. The battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lauren was entertaining in the least. Arsenal were living off the skins of their teeth, as Ashley Cole, bough down Wayne Rooney, only for Rooney, to fly high, and the referee ruling it out as a dive. Rio Ferdinand had a goal disallowed for offside and Ruud van Nistelrooy’s header was cleared off the line, by the Super Swede, Freddie Ljungberg. United could have scored a bucket load of goals that afternoon!! Mind you, we were missing Sol Campbell and Thierry Henry for the final! Jose Antonio Reyes also became the second man to be sent off in a FA Cup Final! And for the first time, the FA Cup Final had to be decided on penalties. If you were to go by the run of play, United thoroughly deserved a win, but there was no denying the Gunners that afternoon, as Paul Scholes’ penalty was halted by a brilliant Jens Lehmann, and the FA Cup announced its arrival to Highbury!! Fittingly enough, Patrick Vieira took the decisive penalty, which also turned out to be his last kick for Arsenal!!
Thus ended my first season as a Gooner, Arsenal lifting the trophy at the Millenium!!!The 2005-2006 season promised a lot, and it being the last season at Arsenal’s famous old Highbury ground, I had lots to look forward to!!
So, till I post my next review, Jai Arsenal !!! 🙂
Premier League – 2nd place
FA Cup – Winners
Carling Cup – Quarter Finals
Champions League – Round of 16
Top Scorer – Thierry Henry (30 goals in all competitions)