11 July 2003: Peterborough 1 Arsenal 0 – the prelude to greatness

By Tony Attwood

The 2003/4 season has a certain ring to it.  Something about the number of defeats in a season as I recall.

But it didn’t start that way with the pre-season friendlies.  They started with a 0-1 defeat to Peterborough followed by a 0-0 with Barnet – neither of which really foretold the future.

In the game on this day, Peterborough United scored on 29 minutes, and Arsenal only once or twice looked like equalising.

This was one of those games where Arsenal put out two teams, one in each half.  Arsenal even had Matteo Guardalben, a 29-year-old keeper who was on trial at the club – obviously not one of those who made it!

Although you won’t read about Guardalben in many places he did have a decent footballing career, playing 244 first team games for teams as varied as Verona, Piacenza, Palmero, Treviso and Modena.  He retired from playing in 2012.

The reason for this interest in Guardalben was that both David Seaman and Guillaume Warmuz left the club at the end of the previous season, meaning Arsenal had, Stewart Taylor, Graham Stack and Rami Shaaban on the books.

Beyond the keeper, Arsenal did have the likes of Martin Keown, Francis Jeffers and Jeremie Aliadiere on the pitch, but still they couldn’t stop Peterborough scoring.

In the second half Jeffers was the only Arsenal player who stayed on.  So we got a good look at Philippe Senderos, making his Arsenal debut and playing alongside Cygan, and Gael Clichy, who at 17 was on trial from AS Cannes.  You might remember him.

First-half team

Arsenal: Matteo Guardalben; Moritz Volz, Martin Keown, Sol Campbell, Ashley Probets; John Spicer, Sebastian Svard, Ray Parlour, Paulinho; Jeremie Aliadiere, Francis Jeffers.

Second-half team

Arsenal: Stuart Taylor (Matteo Guardalben 84) ; Lauren, Philippe Senderos, Pascal Cygan, Gael Clichy, Sebastian Larrson, John Halls, Edu, Stephen Bradley, Dean Shiels, Francis Jeffers (Frankie Simek 65).

It wasn’t memorable at all – indeed I struggle to recall anything of the game although I know I was there and it rained, and I didn’t even bother to go to the follow-up Barnet match.  It all looked a bit ordinary.  I do remember that when I got back to my car I had a flat tyre.

But when six weeks later, on 31 August, The Times reported the league match against Man City as containing “the worst 45 minutes [by Arsenal] that any of their fans could remember” I felt they were missing a point.   That game ended Man City 1 Arsenal 2 and was the 4th league match of the unbeaten season. And really… the worst 45 minutes “ANY of their fans could remember?”

That surely must be one of the all time classic anti-Arsenal bits of journalism in the history of journalism.

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever

Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.

100 Years: 100 Years in the First Division

Arsenal today: Untold Arsenal 

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