Soccer

We Missed the Premier League, too: Remembering the 2003-04 Arsenal Invincibles

We Missed the Premier League, too: Remembering the 2003-04 Arsenal Invincibles

Weekend mornings haven’t been the same since the English Premier League paused its season. The EPL returned over the week with fireworks galore in the opening fixtures of the restart.

To get you through the wait, NBC Sports Washington has devoted a week of stories on each of the Big 6 clubs in England: Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City. Because we miss the Premier League, too. 

Our final week, the one dedicated to Arsenal, kicks off by looking back at one of the most impressive accomplishments in soccer, and frankly all of sports, with the 2003-04 unbeaten Invincibles.

Arsenal fans who grew up with the teams of the last two decades have not had much to cheer about. Two losses in the opening week of the restart is definitely another downer, especially with the way the team capitulated in stoppage time Sunday in a 2-1 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion. Sure, there was the string of three FA Cups in four years which look nice in the trophy cabinet, but for a team competing in European competitions every season, FA Cups don’t hold a candle to winning the Premier League or Champions League.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Arsenal fans though, because they still have one thing over every other club (other than 1888-89 Preston North End): an unbeaten league season.

Nicknamed The Invincibles, Arsenal’s 2003-04 team will go down as one of the best in the sport’s history. Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure, Jans Lehmann and many others combined for 26 wins, 12 draws and 0 defeats to secure the first, and only, 38-game unbeaten season in Premier League history. Juventus is the only other club from a big five European league able to boast an unbeaten season since the turn of the century when they also went 38 matches unbeaten to win Serie A in 2011-12.

Many will remember the season for the goalscoring prowess of talismanic forward Thierry Henry, who tallied 30 times across the 38 games. Only 5 players have scored more in Premier League history and they are a veritable who’s who of the English game’s best players: Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, Mohammad Saleh. But it was arguably the club’s defense that was the biggest star in its unbeaten campaign.

Legendary manager Arsene Wenger, who led the Gunners for 1,235 matches across 22 seasons from 1996-2018, tightened up things at the back with Jans Lehmann taking over for the departing David Seaman in goal. Kolo Toure and Sol Campbell proved a formidable center back partnership that allowed only 26 goals all season.

There are teams before and since that have scored more goals, collected more points and conceded fewer goals en route to Premier League titles, but The Invincibles stand alone as the only unbeaten bunch in the record books.

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D.C. United to return to Audi Field as MLS will host local matches beginning August 12

D.C. United to return to Audi Field as MLS will host local matches beginning August 12

Following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament, MLS will continue its 25th season by having teams compete in their local markets, the league announced on Saturday.

Thus, D.C. United will be returning to Audi Field for regular-season action. The team will open up on the road against FC Cincinnati on Friday, August 21, before having its home opener on Tuesday, August 25, against the New England Revolution. For at least the beginning of the season, no fans will be in attendance. 

“I would like to thank everyone involved with the MLS is Back Tournament -- players, coaches, staff and partners -- for their role in helping us recapture the momentum we had at the beginning of our 25th season and reconnect with our passionate fans,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Since suspending play in March, we have been working on plans to play as much of our season as possible, beginning with the tournament in Florida and resuming in our local markets following the competition. We remain focused on the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff, and look forward to continuing our season in our home markets.”

Though the league is planning to allow teams to travel after holding the tournament in a bubble, it doesn't mean protocols will lessen in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Players will continue to be tested every other day and are strongly advised to limit exposure outside of team facilities and mandated areas.

However, a major complication is how the three Canadian teams (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) will handle the season. Much like how the Toronto Blue Jays had to relocate to Buffalo to play the MLB season, Canada still has tight restrictions in place when it comes to leaving the country and coming back.

MLS states that it will have a clearer picture of the schedule in September, but initially plans to have U.S. teams only square off against one another. That may lead to the three teams north of the border only playing one another for the beginning of the season. PLans there remain uncertain. 

As it stands now, the league is set to kick off on August 12 and each team will play 18 games. Decision Day will be on November 8, and 18 teams will enter the playoffs. That number is four more than last season. The MLS Cup will take place on December 12. 

The MLS is Back Tournament is set to come to a conclusion on August 11 and the Portland Timbers will take on Orlando City for the title on August 11. D.C. United did not reach the knockout stage after finishing last in their group.

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Christian Pulisic continues to shine for Chelsea early in FA Cup Final, leaves match with injury

Christian Pulisic continues to shine for Chelsea early in FA Cup Final, leaves match with injury

Since the resumption of soccer in England, USNMT star and Chelsea attacker Christian Pulisic has been among the best in the sport. He continued that on Saturday, wasting no time giving his team the lead in the FA Cup Final against Arsenal.

Pulisic netted a goal just five minutes into the match.

The FA Cup is a knockout-style tournament that pits the best British soccer teams against one another. Pulisic's goal not only gave Chelsea an early advantage, but put him in the history books as he became the first U.S International player to score in the final.

Pulisic's brilliance on Saturday is just the latest impressive performance by the 21-year old. His effort since the Premier League returned helped Chelsea finish in the top four of the league.

Unfortunately for Pulisic and Chelsea, he did not get the opportunity to further leave his mark on the FA Cup Final and he exited in the 48th minute with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

Though he had to leave the contest early, Pulisic once again proved that he is an emerging star both nationally and internationally.

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