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The Invincibles (Part Three)

Continuing the look back at some of the key matches involving the Arsenal Invincible team as they went through the entire 2003 – 2004 season unbeaten.

For Part One please click here; and Part Two click here.

October 4th, 2003, Liverpool v Arsenal

Two weeks after their dramatic draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford, Arsenal were back in the North-West again, this time to play another of their main title rivals, Liverpool, at Anfield.

Captain Patrick Vieira missed the trip with injury, Edu deputising in his place, whilst young Frenchman Jeremie Alladiere was preferred in attack to Sylvain Wiltord.

Kewell then almost repeated the trick but fired over the bar, and then Michael Own missed a golden opportunity to extend his side’s advantage, heading an inch perfect cross from Steven Gerrard over the bar.

Liverpool, managed at the time by Gerard Houlier, started brightly, and, after 13 minutes, the home side took the lead. John-Arne Riise crossed from the left, the Arsenal defence failed to deal with it properly, and the ball fell to Harry Kewell on the right side of the penalty area, who rifled it in to the opposite corner.

And Arsenal made them pay for that miss shortly afterwards.

Any unbeaten run, however good the football played, always relies on a bit of luck as well, and this time the chips fell in favour of the Gunners. Robert Pires took a free-kick on the right which was met by Edu. The Brazilian did not get a clean contact on the ball, but it deflected off Sammy Hypia and past a helpless Jerzy Dudek in the Liverpool goal.

There was nothing fortunate though about what proved to be their winner midway through the second-half. A loose ball was played back to Pires on the edge of the area and he sent a curling effort that flew int the top corner.

From there the Gunners controlled the rest of the match, consolidating their position at the top of the table.

December 20th, 2003, Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal

Although it may seem strange now, there was a time when Bolton Wanderers, then managed by Sam Allardyce, were a bogey side for Arsenal, particularly in front of their home fans. They had a physical style of play and a direct approach that was the antithesis of the type of football that Arsène Wenger wanted his side to play.

So, although the Gunners could only manage a draw from this fixture, Wenger could still reflect afterwards that it had been a valuable point on a  ground where his teams often struggled.

The first half, in fact, was dominate by the home side and, but for Jens Lehmann in goal being in fine form, they might well have gone into the break behind.

The Gunners improved after the break and then took the lead when a shot from Freddie Ljungberg was parried by Jusi Jaaskelainen into the match of Pires, who sept the ball home.

Undeterred, Bolton kept pressing forward, and got the rewards their efforts deserved when, a weak defensive header was smashed home from 20 yards by substitute Henrik Pedersen.

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