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Sunday, 09 June 2013

Arsenal's Invincibles: Where are they now?


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Ten years ago this summer Arsene Wenger and Arsenal Football Club were on the verge of completing something special. The Frenchman had talked before about his dream of going the whole Premier League season unbeaten but was universally laughed at. However, in the 2003/04 campaign Arsenal did the unthinkable and became the Invincibles.

The Gunners went 38 games without defeat, winning 26, drawing 12 and finishing 11 points clear of second placed Chelsea to write their name in football history. Those Arsenal players had achieved immortality, but where are the Invincibles now?

Jens Lehmann

The mad-capped German played a huge role in Arsenal's record-breaking season but left the club in 2008. He returned as an emergency keeper in 2011 and made his 200th appearance for the club against Blackpool - becoming the oldest Gunner in the Premier League. He has also appeared in a movie, Themba, and is currently working towards his FIFA coaching licence alongside his media duties as a pundit.

Lauren

Signed in 2000 for £7m, the Cameroon defender played 32 times in the Invincible season, although he never scored at all during that campaign. Lauren left Arsenal in 2007 to join Portsmouth's revolution. He retired in 2010 and can now be seen occasionally on television as a football pundit. 

Sol Campbell

The former England international got his just rewards for walking out on Spurs in 2001 by winning the Double in his first campaign. And it got even better for him two seasons later. He left the Emirates in 2006. Spells at Portsmouth and Notts County followed before returning to the Emirates in 2010. He retired in 2012. He recently spent six months working on a BBC Panorama programme exploring why there are twice as many black youths than white kids looking for work.

Kolo Toure

The Ivory Coast defender joined the club in 2002 but really came to the fore in the Invincibles season thanks to his solid partnership with Campbell. Toure, who went on to captain the Gunners, left the Emirates in 2009 to join megabucks Manchester City. He has just agreed terms to join Liverpool for the coming season.

Ashley Cole

One of the greatest left-backs England has ever produced, Cole swapped Arsenal for Chelsea in 2006 after the Gunners only offered him a contract of £55,000 a week. It has turned out to be a good move for him as he has gone on to win everything in club football, while Arsenal are still searching for their first piece of silverware since 2005. He will be playing for Chelsea next season.

Freddie Ljungberg

The cool Swede arrived at Arsenal in 1998, costing the club £3m, but what a signing he proved to be. Freddie scored 71 goals in all competitions over nine seasons and played 30 Premier League games in the Invincible season. Ljungberg, who left in 2007 to join West Ham and also played in Scotland for Celtic, used his good looks to model for Calvin Klein and currently represents Puma, ESPN and Pepsi. He retired in 2012 and is now used in an ambassadorial role by Arsenal. 

Patrick Vieira

Arguably one of the greatest midfielders to have graced the Premier League, Vieira was recently crowned the fifth best Arsenal player of all time. The Frenchman dominated the midfield area and chipped in with some stunning goals too. He was spot on in the 2005 FA Cup Final, slotting the ball past Manchester United to win the cup, which turned out to be his last kick in an Arsenal shirt. Vieira left after nine years at Arsenal to join Juventus, then Inter Milan before ending up at Manchester City. He retired in 2011 and is now a football development executive at City.

Gilberto Silva

The Brazilian played 32 times for the Gunners in the Invincibles campaign and spent six happy years overall at Arsenal. He departed north London in 2008 and joined Greek side Panathinakos. In 2011 he left Europe to return to his motherland with Gremio before going back to Atletico Mineiro, the club where it all started for him.

Robert Pires

Arsenal beat Real Madrid and Juventus to bring Pires to the club in 2000 and what an inspired decision that turned out to be. The Frenchman made 36 appearances for the Gunners in the 2003/04 Premier League winning side and scored 14 times. His trickery with the ball at his feet and shooting prowess were a joy to behold. Pires played his final game for Arsenal in the Champions League final defeat to Barcelona before moving to La Liga with Villareal. In 2010 he made a sensational return to the Premier League with Aston Villa but failed to reproduce the goods for Gerard Houllier's side. He retired in 2011. Pires is an ambassador for Grassroot Soccer and  

Dennis Bergkamp

The non-flying Dutchman spent 11 glorious years at Arsenal and lit up the Premier League with his wonderful wizardry and skill, winning three Premier League titles and four FA Cups. He only missed 10 games of the Invincibles campaign bust scored just four times. Bergkamp, voted Arsenal's second greatest player ever, is currently the assistant manager to Ronald De Boer at Ajax.

Thierry Henry

The greatest player to have represented Arsenal and the club's all-time goalscorer hit the target 30 times in 37 Premeir League appearances for the Invincibles. The Frenchman was moulded into one of the greatest strikers of our generation by Arsene Wenger and now classes himself as an Arsenal fan. Henry was signed from Monaco in 1999 for £11 million and left in 2006 to join Barcelona for £16m. He returned to the Emirates for a brief loan spell in 2012 but has spent three happy years dazzling the Americans in the MLS with the New York Red Bulls.

Gael Clichy

The French left-back made 12 appearances for the Gunners in the Invincible season but soon established himself as the first choice in that position. In 2011 Manchester City lured the last-surviving member of the Invincibles away with the prospect of winning silverware and pocketing some serious dough.

Edu

The lovable Brazilian took to the field 30 times during the Invincibles season, scoring twice in the process. Edu only spent four years at Arsenal but his legacy lives on. He joined Valencia after being released from Arsenal and retired in 2010. A year later it was revealed that Edu would become the new director of football at Corinthians.

Ray Parlour

The Romford Pele spent 12 years at Arsenal and left the club following their Invincible campaign. Parlour will forever be associated with that curling strike in the FA Cup Final in 2002 against Chelsea. In 2004 he joined Middlesbrough before playing for Hull City. He was recently a part of the Wembly FC team - a side full of ex pros - to play in the FA Cup. However, the less said about that the better. Parlour is now a radio broadcaster.

Pascal Cygan

The French defender was nothing more than a squad player but picked up his Premier League winner's medal having played 18 times for the Gunners. He signed for £2m in 2002 and left in 2006 for the same price to join Villareal. He retired in 2009. 

Sylvain Wiltord

The man who won the league for Arsenal at Old Trafford in 2002 only made 12 appearances in the Invincibles season but still raked in with three goals. He left Arsenal in 2004 to return to France with Lyon. Spells at Rennes and Marseille followed before he hung up his boots in 2010 with Metz. 

Jose Antonio Reyes

The Spaniard was Wenger's big move in the January transfer window and featured in 13 Premier League games, scoring twice. The £11m move was hardly a success with Wenger loaning him out to Real Madrid in 2006 before sanctioning a deal with Atletico Madrid the following season. Reyes is still playing for Sevilla in La Liga.

Kanu

The Nigerian joined Arsenal in 1999 before leaving at the end of the Invincibles campaign. Kanu scored 43 times in all competitions for the Gunners before joining West Brom. Kanu, who boasts a Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Cup, FA Cup and an Olympic gold medal to his name, retired from the game in 2012 after a six-year spell with Portsmouth. He is now an ambassador to the Unicef.

Martin Keown

The no-nonsense defender caused a stir in the Invincibles season following his actions towards Manchester United's Ruud Van Nistlerooy after the Dutchman missed a late penalty. He only featured 10 times during that Premier League campaign and is now a pundit for the BBC and is working at Arsenal towards gaining his coaching badges. 

Jeremie Aliadiere

The French youngster only scored one Premier League goal for the Gunners before being sold to Middlesbrough for £2m in 2007. Following loan spells at West Ham, Celtic and Wolves, Arsene Wenger lost faith in him. Aliadiere spent three seasons at the Riverside before joining French side Lorient. The 30-year-old enjoyed the best year of his career last season, scoring 19 in 34 appearances. 

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