The years 2002/3 were to say the least eventful for Arsenal. The club ended 2001/2 as champions, and by 2 March 2003 with an 8 point lead at the top of the first division looked like they might not only win it again, but also win the FA Cup as well.
On 8 May 2002 the unbeaten away record was secured, while on 11 May 2002 Arsenal became the first club to score in every league game in a season.
So buoyant were things that on 20 September 2002 Mr Wenger made his famous (or at the time the AAA said “infamous”) “unbeaten all season” speech and within the week he was celebrating another record when on 26 September 2002 the club achieved the all time record of scoring in 47 consecutive games.
But then it went wrong as on 19 October 2002 the run of three defeats began, and Wenger, for a while was the butt of jokes in the media.
However Mr Wenger, as we know, is never detracted from his purpose and during the season he continued to plug away at both league (where we came second) and the FA Cup (which we won).
The FA journey was particularly interesting for the 5th round tie against Manchester United in which Sir Alex Ferguson kicked a boot which hit David Beckham during the half time pep talk.
Indeed it wasn’t Man U’s day as Giggs missed a total sitter into an open net in the first half – and this on a day when Dennis Bergkamp was left out of the squad and Thierry Henry sat happily relaxing on the bench. That put Wiltord up front next to Jeffers, with Ray Parlour on the right.
Man U came out with, what shall we say, boots flying. Paul Scholes and the awful van Nistelrooy were booked within the first ten minutes, as Keown and Van Nistelrooy exchanged pleasantries.
The Giggs miss should be on YouTube everywhere – if you have a link to it do send it in. The goal was open, there was no one in sight, and it goes over the bar.
Then not for the first time Roy Keane knocked Patrick Vieira to the ground. Edu aimed the free kick straight at the heads of the defenders – it hit one, bounced off and into the net. Perfection.
After that we had half time, and unseen, Sir F kicks a boot. David the Pretty turns up with a plaster for the second half.
Then straight into the second half Edu passed to Wiltord who sent the ball into the goal with a simple side foot.
Henry did make it onto the pitch with 17 minutes left, and that did enough to distract an increasingly distracted Man U. At the end of the game, the home fans had nothing to savour on the long journey back to Cornwall.
Here’s the overall campaign for the cup:.
|4 Jan 2003
|Oxford Utd (h)
|25 Jan 2003
|15 Feb 2003
|Manchester U (a)
|8 March 2003
|25 March 2003
|13 April 2003
|17 May 2003
* At Highbury by arrangement
By the time of the final the 49 unbeaten run had started – on 7 May to be exact.