Arsenal were at the time regular visitors to the Barnet ground in the pre-season, the game being part of the deal which allowed Arsenal to play reserve fixtures on the League’s smallest ground. It was also typically a time for a bit of a laugh, a conga up and down the terraces, and the taking of a few bets on what health and safety hazard the old place would come up with this time around.
The scorers list from that day takes us back to old times. Reyes got three on 19 minutes, 21 minutes and 42 minutes. Van Persie scored on 29 minutes while Bergkamp knocked in two on 44 and 67 minutes. Jeffers got a second half hat-trick on 53 minutes, 55 minutes and 64 minutes. Quincy Owusu-Abeyie got the other one on 70 minutes.
Arsenal were at the time Champions and had gone the whole of the previous season unbeaten. As maybe you know.
Arsenal were unbeaten throughout the rest of the pre-season, but those other seven games only gave Arsenal eight goals. Most disappointing was the Amsterdam Tournament. The seats we were given made me wish we had binoculars, and quite honestly the visit to the art galleries was a lot more memorable than the two games against River Plate and Ajax – they were both 0-0 draws. But we were sustained by the 10-1.
After that, back in the league Arsenal resumed their stunning form of the previous season, winning eight and drawing one of the first nine games. They scored 26 (a fraction under 3 a game!) and let in eight.
We started out away to Everton on 15 August with a certain Cesc Fàbregas in the lineup – the youngest ever Premier League player. Bergkamp made his 500th league appearance and scored the first. Reyes got the second from a Ljunberg cross. Ljungberg himself got the third and Robert Pirès the fourth in a 4-1 away victory.
All great stuff, but then the fall – or so it seemed. Match 2 was Middlesbrough at home away and Henry opened the scoring. Just before half time Job got the equaliser and four minutes into the second half Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, got the second. Worse Queudrue scored and it looked like the unbeaten run was over with the score 1-3. Until Bergkamp, Reyes and Pirès each scored and we won 5-3, and so equalled Forest’s 42 unbeaten run over two seasons.
Three days later we beat Blackburn 3-0 at home, the record was ours, and you could really feel the belief that this team simply would not be beaten. Norwich, Fulham, Man City, Charlton and Villa all fell before the Unbeaten team, and only Bolton held us to a 2-2 draw by parking the bus. We reached 49 unbeaten.
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