Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville believes that Arsenal FC transformed in 2003 and started believing that nobody could touch them. According to the Sky Sports pundit, the Gunners became a little more ‘precious’ and the player’s lacked the mental strength to stand up for themselves.

The North London club made history in 2003-04, when they became the first English club to go an entire season unbeaten in over a century. However, the club have since failed to win the Premier League in 11 years and Neville believes that it’s a result of the squad softening up. The 40-year-old remembers the Gunners squad prior to 2003/04 to be more aggressive and fearsome.

‘In 2003 they became a little more precious’ – Gary Neville on Arsenal FC

Neville retired from football in 2011 and has been working with Sky Sports as a pundit ever since. Speaking to FourFourTwo, the former English international said:

a I remember when Martin Keown, Tony Adams or Steve Bould would give our forwards a real whack. In a game between Arsenal and Manchester United, you’d expect both sets of defenders to be aggressive.

a Between 1996 and 2001 they were the best encounters because there were no holds barred a everyone was battling and nobody was whinging.

a Then Arsenal changed. In 2003 they became a little more precious a they thought nobody could touch them. They didn’t have players who could stand up for them as much and that’s what we still see today.a

The Gunners are looking to win their first Premier League since 2003/04

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Arsenal FC won their first trophy in nine years, when they claimed the FA Cup last year. They repeated last year’s feat this year, winning back to back FA Cups and have looked on the ascendancy since the turn of the year. Following the arrival of Petr Cech from Chelsea FC for a reported fee of A?11 million, the Gunners would now look to mount a serious title challenge.

The North London side have been in scintillating form in the pre-season, winning back to back trophies while maintaining a 100% win record. First they beat Singapore XI and Everton to claim the Barclays Asia Trophy and followed it up with victories over Lyon and Wolfsburg to lift the Emirates Cup.

The Gunners are set to face Chelsea FC in the FA Community Shield on Sunday, and Arsene Wenger would be hoping to register his first win over Jose Mourinho, when the two teams face-off at Wembley.