2003/04 was a memorable season for Arsenal Football Club. Arsene Wenger had assembled a side which played ‘champagne football’ every week. The team was full of world class players who were at the top of their game and they thrilled fans with their sublime touches, mesmerising skill and supreme finesse on the ball.
Thierry Henry had one of his best seasons in an Arsenal shirt and won the Golden Boot that year. The Frenchman was simply unstoppable and gave opposition defenders nightmares. Liverpool bore the brunt of Henry’s brilliance on a bright Friday afternoon at Highbury as Arsenal asserted their dominance over the The Reds.
Liverpool scored early from a well-orchestrated set piece. Steven Gerrard headed a corner across the 6 yard box and Sami Hyppia was present to turn in the ball into the net. Arsenal though kept the pressure on Liverpool and found a break-through just after the half hour mark. Robert Pires played a delightful chipped ball through to Henry who needed just one touch to control it and then send the ball through the legs of Jerzy Dudek into the net.
Liverpool found themselves in the lead again just before half time thanks to a well taken goal from Michael Owen. Steven Gerrard was once again the provider for Liverpool as he played an exquisite pass through the Arsenal defence. Owen used his pace to find a yard of space and rifled his shot past goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.
Arsenal were shocked but recovered from the sucker-punch like true champions. Shortly after the restart, Arsenal once again drew level thanks to a goal from winger Robert Pires. Arsenal’s incisive passing had started to reap dividends and Pires was able to capitalise on Ljunberg’s defence splitting pass.
The stage was set and game was there to be won. Arsenal’s talisman needed no further invitations as he scored one of the best goals in Premier League history. Picking the ball up from just inside the opposition half, Henry started to charge at the Liverpool defence. The Frenchman dribbled and feinted past four Liverpool players to calmly slot the ball into the far post as supporters watched in ecstasy.
Henry added further insult to injury and notched up his hattrick on the 70 minute mark. Dennis Bergkamp turned provider as he lofted another ball into the penalty area. The Frenchman ghosted past the Liverpool defenders and took down the ball with another excellent first touch. Dudek was out quickly to smother the ball but the ball luckily rebounded off Henry into the net. Liverpool were well and truly beaten by a superior side.
Arsenal had just been knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea in midweek and a loss could have resulted in their whole season falling apart. But, buyoed by the comeback victory against Liverpool, The Gunners went on to win the Premier League without registering a single defeat. The team later on came to be known as “The Invincibles” and will go down as one of the greatest to have played for Arsenal.
Sadly, several key players departed in the following seasons and Arsene Wenger was once again forced to rebuild from scratch. While the team has been competitive in the league in the following seasons, it has never pushed on to win the title. Arsenal now find themselves struggling for a Champions League spot and this weekend’s match against Liverpool could be vital to keep their hopes alive.