As Leicester return to Arsenal for the first time since that famous day, it only seems fitting to remember one of, if not the greatest moment in English football history.
It’s 3pm on 15th May 2004.
Arsenal are about to kick off their 38th league game of the season against already relegated Leicester City.
25 wins and 12 draws have already been secured, and the Premier League trophy has been guaranteed for three weeks.
There’s just the small matter of 90 minutes between this Gunners side and immortality.
There’s the odd bitter muttering of Preston’s 22 games back in 1888 but the opportunity to be the first side to go a full league season undefeated is upon us.
Highbury is in something of a party atmosphere – it is three months since construction of the Emirates started and the fans know that in just two years’ time they will be saying goodbye to this famous old stadium.
The evocative atmosphere in the old ground is built from a great history and everyone is well aware that they could be about to see another chapter of that history being written – a chapter which would standard the test of time.
For many, a point or more today will mark this side, not just as the greatest side to grace the Highbury turf, but as the greatest side of all time.
With the sun washing across the pitch, Arsenal make the early running and although the breakthrough is slow the come, the previous 37 games have trained this crowd to anticipate its inevitability.
Arsenal’s biggest tests have primarily come since securing the title at White Hart Lane (wahey!) and so today is again to be a mental battle for the players.
Former Arsenal striker Paul Dickov sneaks in untracked at the far post to plant a Frank Sinclair cross into the back of the Arsenal net with just over a quarter of the game gone. Panic stations.
Arsenal immediately up the ante, with Ljungberg, Bergkamp and Pires all having chances to equalise before the half time whistle. As the interval arrives, there are some more serious faces mixed in amongst a Gunners crowd which for the most part still refuses to believe that this Arsenal side can be beaten.
And so they are proven right, as shortly after the restart we are handed a golden opportunity to get back on level terms. Sinclair turns from hero to villain for Leicester as he clumsily wrestles Ashley Cole to the floor as he prepared to shoot after a stunning Bergkamp through ball.
Thankfully Thierry Henry and Robert Pires choose not to use this moment to try their daft penalty routine out. Henry places the ball firmly to the keeper’s right as he dives in the opposite direction, his thirtieth league goal of a phenomenal campaign. And breathe.
With the Invincibles back on but no margin for error, it is as if the players suddenly realise they are on the brink of something really special. Arsenal ratchet up through the gears as a number of players have chances, but then Bergkamp makes the decisive contribution, playing a defence splitting pass to pick out a marauding Vieira. He makes no mistake.
There is now less than half an hour to play and the heat has gone out of the game. Arsenal resume the vice-like control which has been a trademark of a professional and highly successful season, but every man, woman and child in Red-and-White is simply waiting for the whistle that will signal history. As the famous timepiece in the Clock End ticks towards five o’clock, a hush seems to fall over Highbury as the anticipation builds.
Finally, it is released in one glorious and seemingly never-ending roar as referee Durkin blows.
Although the crowd are going bonkers, many of the players are initially quiet, almost stunned, as the achievement sinks in.
It doesn’t take long for the fans’ exuberance to spread though, and within minutes the players are standing in a circle, arms around shoulders, jumping in synchronisation – a fitting image for a team which has operated as one well-oiled machine for the entire 38 game season.
As Patrick Vieira lifts the Premier League trophy, there is a sense of joy, but also a sense that this is so much more than a trophy, a title, a victory.
It is immortality.
No one had done it before and no one has done it since. Even the current world-renowned Chelsea team managed by the world-famous self-declared ‘Special One’ have already lost two games with almost half the season (and a trip to the mighty Arsenal) still to come. This is a side which according to the media, are the greatest side ever to grace the Premier League, but they have yet been unable to come close to matching the achievement of the Invincibles.
It is likely no one ever will.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 Daily Cannon