The Invincibles

by Anand Jay

Preface

In 2004 nothing embodied spirit, togetherness and greatness more than Arsene Wengers team of Invincibles. As an older fan a father had the most difficult task of explaining to his son that he once supported the greatest team in the world.


"Dad what team is that?"

A young boy and his father were lying on the bright green grass, having just finished kicking a ball around in the park. The son was pointing at the jersey his father was wearing, a red top with white sleeves. On his chest sat a golden cannon floating on the sea of crimson. The colours on the shirt were faded, as though they hadn't seen the light of day in years.

"Tell me Dad," the son asked eagerly, his face shining with anticipation.

The father sat up cross legged and smiled.

"Many years before you were born the Premier League was the most dominant league in the world. It was full of fantastic teams, incredible players and intelligent managers. It was the golden age of football. Teams battled hard on the football pitch and there was no such thing as an easy game. There was one team however that stood head and shoulders above the rest."

"What team Dad?"

"This team my son," he said tapping the badge on the shirt. "My team. The Arsenal."

The son sat up eagerly and watched as his father smiled looking up the heavens.

"In 2004, Arsenal played the most dominant football ever seen in this country. Their specialist brand of one touch football was mesmerising to behold and perfect for the hallowed Highbury ground where they played. Their style of play was devised by their manager, a true great and a legend of the game. He was known as the professor of football. The incomparable Arsene Wenger. Now Arsene's brand of football was synonymous with quality and this shone in particular when it came to picking players for his squad. And what a squad he built my son, what a squad."

"Who was in the team Dad?"

The father's eyes widened with excitement. He could feel his skin tingling as though he had been transported back in time.

"In goal was the many handed German Jens Lehman, a student of arguably the greatest goalkeeper ever - Oliver Kahn. He kept us in many games with his athleticism and skill."

He jumped up and dived on the ball that sat between them as his son clapped, imagining his father being a goalkeeper.

"Before they could reach Jens Lehman however there was a terrifying line of defence. They were rock solid in the middle and had frightening pace on either flank. Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure and Lauren were the men entrusted to keep the ball out and build the attack from the back."

He sprinted for a few metres and jogged bag, out of breath.

"You get tired quickly Dad," the boy said laughing.

"I do son," he said panting. "But the Arsenal midfield could never be accused of that. The players that sat in the middle of the park were like machines. They had the perfect blend of rock solid toughness and immense creativeness. They were embodied in the form of Freddie Ljunberg, Gilberto Silva, Patrick Viera and Robert Pires, the original band of goal scoring midfielders. Many games were won from the laces of their boots."

"And what about up front Dad? What about the strikers."

"Well this is where things get really interesting my boy. The two men up front were a match made in heaven. Complete opposites in terms of what they brought to the table, but when put together the things they did with a football were incredible to behold. The first man was from Holland. He controlled the ball like it was a part of his own body. His brain worked a million times faster than anyone around him. He was the Flying Dutchman - Dennis Bergkamp."

He stood up and did a couple of keepie uppies with the ball, as his son watched mesmerised.

"That's only one of them Dad. Who was the last guy?

The father could do nothing at that point. He merely sat down on the grass again, tears of happiness in his eyes. The son came and sat next to him, resting his head against his father's arm. The father patted him on the head. When he spoke, for the first time his voice broke slightly.

"The last man was something of a legend son. He was a man who held the team together and brought them back from the depths when things were going wrong. A man whose pace terrorised defenders and gave them nightmares. A man who's finishing struck fear into the hearts of opposing goalkeepers. A man whose passion oozed on and off the field. Fans will chant his name forever my son. His name - Thierry Henry."

They sat in silence, daydreaming about the great Gunners. The boy imagined the heroes his father spoke of. He dreamed of giants, walking through the tunnel at Highbury, standing ten feet tall and towering over the opposition.

The father sat back and remembered the specific details of that rollercoaster season. The 0-0 draw versus the mighty Manchester United and the 4-2 victory over the legendary Liverpool were two of the greatest days in the clubs history.

"What happened to them Dad," the son asked after a while.

"What do you mean?" he replied quickly.

"You've never talked about them before," his son replied. "About Arsenal. What's happened to them Dad?"

The father looked down at his son. A flash of anger appeared in his eyes as they blazed red. He clenched his fists as bright blue veins began to appear up and down his forearms like small rivers. The son backed away as he saw his father begin to shake with rage. An ugly look appeared on his face as he stared into his son's frightened eyes, muttering five chilling words.

"Theo Walcott son. Theo Walcott."

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