Why Chelsea Will Always Have Bragging Rights Over Arsenal's 'Invincibles'

History may remember Arsenal's 03/04 team as unbeatable, but all Chelsea fans will remember one night in the Champions League when Wenger's boys buckled.
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History may remember Arsenal's 03/04 team as unbeatable, but all Chelsea fans will remember one night in the Champions League when Wenger's boys buckled.

In recent years Chelsea have been relatively dominant against Arsenal with much being made of Jose Mourinho's hoodoo over Wenger and the west London side eclipsing their North London to rivals to become the first side from the capital to win the Champions League.

However, as a Chelsea fan born in the late 80s the opposite was pretty much par for the course most of my life until one night in April 2004.

Whilst it may be hard to be particularly moved either way by Oliver Giroud or Santi Cazorla, back then Arsenal still had a team worthy of hatred, from brilliant players like Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Viera and Robert Pires who could get right under your skin to utterly contemptible b****rds like Freddie Ljungberg and Sol Campbell.

Equally, before the social cleansing that followed their move to the Emirates and the lack of trophies that defined Wenger's second decade, they still had a fan base that valued success more than net spend and moral superiority and gleefully sung about how we'd 'won the league in black and white' every year.

This was a team that we hadn't beaten since 1998, a team that had beaten us in the FA Cup for four successive seasons (including the 2002 final). A team for whom Winterburn, Kanu and Silvinho had all scored heartbreaking last minute goals against us in recent memory. To do the same to them, against their 'Invincibles' in what was to surely be 'their year' in the Champions League is up their with any night I've had at football.

We had already played Arsenal four times that season. Losing 3 and drawing once, indicative of form against them for much of the the previous decade. In the league and FA Cup defeats at Highbury that season, stunning individual goals by Crespo and Mutu had looked like getting us decent results before goalkeeping errors from Carlo Cudicini and Neil Sullivan cost us dearly. In the first leg Gudjohnsen had put us 1-0 up before Pires equalised and then Desailly had been sent off.

I was 16 and had been to all four of the aforementioned games against them that season. This was my first season of following Chelsea away everywhere and despite initial doubts about whether I'd get one I'd also secured a ticket for the second leg. Unlike the league and cup games where I'd stood in the Clock End, my ticket was at the back of the West Stand where the view was 'severely restricted', however I was just buzzing to have one. Nowadays big midweek Chelsea games tend to mean half a day off work and a session to settle the nerves and looking back it seems mad that I went just went straight up there after school and met my dad.

The first half was frantic and a fading memory, combined with my obstructed view mean that much of it is a blur to me before Reyes put them ahead in injury time, and as the Arsenal supporters in the same stand to my left celebrated deliriously it seemed like it would be another one of those nights.

However, as Gronkjaer replaced Scott Parker there seemed to be a defiance on the pitch as we begun the second half in the ascendancy, and this was matched in stands as a seemingly endless chant of 'Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea' reverberated around Arsenal's famous old ground.

This resolve was only deepened when Lampard equalised. They hadn't been beaten in the league that season but they were there for the taking and the players and the away crowd could sense it.

Chelsea continued to press. Lampard went close. Gudjohnsen had one cleared off the line as the fans willed them forward.

However the game seemed to be edging towards extra time when suddenly Wayne Bridge played a clever one two with Gudjohnsen and broke into the box shaping to shoot...then there was pandemonium. Limbs went everywhere as seats smashed and bodies tumbled. The celebrations the clock end and the corner of the west stands hat night were amongst up there with anything in Barcelona, Bolton and Munich.

Claudio Ranieri cried tears of happiness on the touch line and there were plenty of other grown men on the verge of the same in the away end.

Arsenal may have been invincible that season, but they weren't that night and the tide had turned.