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When Arsenal led the table on alphabetical position

The story of 10 January 2004
by Tony Attwood
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What’s the difference between Arsenal, The Arsenal and Woolwich Arsenal?
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According to legend, (which we long ago showed to be untrue) Herbert Chapman changed the club from “The Arsenal” to “Arsenal” to get Arsenal’s result read out first on the 5pm sports report show on saturdays.   Woolwich Arsenal would have satisfied the old man even less (had the story been true) because Woolwich would have been last (had their been radio in those days).
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But let us move on to a day when – at least for a day – it did matter.  The day when Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 4-1 to go top of the league on alphabetical position.  10 January 2004.
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If I say that the goals were scored by Thierry Henry (pen), Robert Pires,
Fredrik Ljungberg (plus an own goal) you’ll know the era.
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To focus a bit further here is the top of the league before this game…
P W D L F A GD Pt
1 Manchester United 20 16 1 3 40 14 +26 49
2 Arsenal 20 13 7 0 36 13 +23 46
3 Chelsea 20 13 3 4 36 17 +19 42
4 Charlton Athletic 20 8 7 5 28 23 +5 31
5 Liverpool 19 8 5 6 29 21 +8 29
6 Newcastle United 20 7 8 5 27 22 +5 29
7 Fulham 20 8 4 8 31 28 +3 28
8 Southampton 20 7 6 7 18 15 +3 27
9 Aston Villa 20 7 6 7 21 24 -3 27
10 Birmingham City 19 7 5 7 17 24 -7 26

Arsenal needed to win by four clear goals to go top by the normal means of points, goal difference and then goals scored.  And it happened, except that having taken a 4-0 lead Arsenal let one slip.  

To say that Arsenal dominated would be stating the obvious.  This was the team of Vieira and Henry.  If they didn’t score in the first 20 minutes, they would score in the next 25, and in this case it was both.  In fact the goal recorded as an own goal was actually another for Henry – it was going in but Franck Queudrue got a touch that slightly changed the trajectory – and it when in a different part of the goal.  But o.g. is what is says in the records.

There was never any doubt, there were smiles all round, and doubly so when Freddie Ljungberg got the last, his 50th Arsenal goal, after 209 games.

Even Jeremie Aliadiere almost got one, running past the defence to shoot dead on target.   Schwarzer moved the wrong way but managed to stop the shot with his trailing foot.

It’s strange, I feel, to think that at that moment we saw (well I saw) Aliadiere (who started this match instead of Kanu) as an up and coming forward who would in due course fit into the ever evolving team.  How could he have slipped away so much?  Injuries is the answer I suppose, but I remember seeing the talent on that day, and thinking – another amazing Wenger finding.

Mind you this was also a team which had Ashley Cole doing his stuff with Henry, and look what happened to Cole’s career, his criminal driving record, his pornographic activities, taking a loaded gun to work…  Makes you think.

It was a game where everyone wanted to have a go – Vieira, Pires, Freddie, everyone wanted a shot, everyone believed, everyone knew this was another victory on the way. 

In the second half Kanu replaced Aliadiere, Pires got his goal, and that was it in terms of any possible slip up by Arsenal, and it was now a case of how many.  Kanu did a twist and turn and twist and turn and (well know you…) and when he was tired of that, gave the ball to Freddie who scored off the post.  Arsenal were top of the league… until Massimo Maccarone got a rather soft penalty by falling over Lehmann.  .

And that gave us the table of…

 
P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 21 14 7 0 40 14 +26 49
1 Manchester United 20 16 1 3 40 14 +26 49
3 Chelsea 20 13 3 4 36 17 +19 42
4 Charlton Athletic 21 9 7 5 30 23 +7 34
5 Liverpool 20 9 5 6 30 21 +9 32
6 Fulham 21 9 4 8 33 29 +4 31
7 Newcastle United 20 7 8 5 27 22 +5 29
8 Birmingham City 20 8 5 7 19 25 -6 29
9 Southampton 21 7 6 8 19 17 +2 27
10 Aston Villa 21 7 6 8 21 25 -4 27

Of course, Man U still had a game in hand, and were playing on the Sunday, so they could still go above us, but just for a day, we were there on the foresight of being the team that started its name with A.

There’s just one other thing – one thing I always enjoy doing when I look at an old league table… the quick “where are they now?” bit.

The 1, 2, 3 (or in this case 1, 1, 3) is pretty much as we might expect, but this was the era when Charlton were challenging way above their normal position, soon after which the fans started calling for the manager’s replacement so that a new man could “take us to the next level”.

Birmingham are the other major casualty from the top 10 – a club that was also going to move up to the next level by bringing in a billionaire businessman from the Far East who would invest and invest in the team and really show everyone what the Blues could do.

Sadly that man is still in the dock facing money laundering charges, and although they did manage to win a trophy at our expense, the world for them has crumbled.

Sometimes stability rather than constant revolution is what is needed.  (Although Trotsky would never have agreed).

Arsenal anniversaries on 10 January…

  • 10 January 1840: The Penny Post started – important when considering how Arsenal arranged the first fixture in 1886.
  • 10 January1891: Part of the Old Westminsters saga of appeals against results
  • 10 January 1900: Bristol City 1 Arsenal 3 – Southern District Combination
  • 10 January 1905: Andy Ducat joined from Southend Athletic
  • 10 January 1910: Stories about Arsenal’s financial demise circulate
  • 10 January 1914 FA Cup 1st round.  Bradford City (away)  Lost 0-2.
  • 10 January 1920: For second year running FA Cup match played at Highbury although Arsenal drawn away.   Arsenal 4 Rochdale 2
  • 10 January 1948: Arsenal 0 Bradford 1 (Bradford then in Div 2, Arsenal top of division 1)
  • 10 January 1970: Marinello debut, scores in first game – his only goal in 14 as Arsenal endure 10 game run without a league win.
  • 10 January 2004: Arsenal beat Middlesboro 4-1 to go top of the league alphabetically with points, goals and GD the same.  Wenger calls is the performance of the season.
  • 10 January 2012: Luke Freeman sold to Stevenage

 

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