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Arsenal were famously “invincible” in the mid-2000s. What the hell happened?

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Lee Hendrie scored in the third minute to put Aston Villa in front, but it didn’t matter. Arsenal would score and score again, and Arsenal would win. Because Arsenal always won.

Sure enough, Robert Pirès equalised from the penalty spot, and after Thierry Henry had given the home side the lead on the stroke of half-time, Pirès swept home his second goal to seal a routine 3-1 victory. “I don’t think they would have panicked at even two goals down,” beaten manager David O’Leary said. “They’ve got such belief.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

It was Oct. 16, 2004, and Arsenal had just extended their record-breaking unbeaten run to 49 Premier League games. The defending champions were five points clear at the top of the table, having scored almost twice as many goals as any other team in the division, and with Villa duly dispatched, thoughts quickly turned to a midweek trip to Panathinaikos in the Champions League.

With the benefit of 15 years’ hindsight, that mild, overcast October afternoon in north London turns out to have been the last time Arsenal looked unbeatable. Eight days later, their unbeaten run came to an end in a 2-0 defeat at Manchester United — Ruud van Nistelrooy converted a penalty dubiously won by Wayne Rooney, who added a second goal in stoppage time — and Arsenal have never been the same since.4

Arsène Wenger’s side won only one of their next four league matches in the 2004-05 season — a chaotic 5-4 success against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane — and eventually finished 12 points behind José Mourinho’s Chelsea in second place.

Since coming second to Chelsea at the end of the 2005 season, Arsenal have finished in the top two only once, in 2016, and even then it took a spectacular collapse from Tottenham for them to claim the step on the podium below Leicester City. Only the FA Cup, which Wenger won three times in his last five seasons, has provided any solace.nfl nike jersey cheap

Over the course of Wenger’s first 11 seasons (including the 1996-97 campaign, in which he took up his role in October), Arsenal conceded 369 league goals at an average of 33.5 per campaign. In his last 11 seasons, those figures jumped to 446 and 40.5 respectively.

Fifteen years on, Arsenal have yet to mount a serious title challenge, with the latter years of Wenger’s tenure serving only to earn the club a reputation for psychological flimsiness and defensive fragility that remains very much intact despite his departure and Unai Emery’s arrival. Once renowned for their robust back four, Arsenal are now the epitome of how not to defend. And it has been a long time since they looked anything close to invincible.

More damning than the statistics, though, were the defeats. The 8-2 at Old Trafford, the 5-1 at Anfield, the 6-0 at Stamford Bridge. The slapstick manner of defeat against Birmingham City in the 2011 League Cup final. The 10-2 evisceration by Bayern Munich on aggregate in the Champions League.

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