Invincible Arsenal Cruise to Title
The 12th season of the Premier League was won by Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, who finished 11 points clear of runners-up Chelsea. It was the Gunners’ third Premier League title and 13th English crown in total. Arsenal became the first team for 115 years to go through the entire season in England without suffering a single defeat. Wenger’s men won 26 and drew 12 of their 38 Premier League games and were well clear of the chasing pack by the end of the campaign.
Big-spending Chelsea, backed by Roman Abramovic’s millions, finished second behind Arsenal under the stewardship of Claudio Ranieri. Despite guiding the Blues to the silver medal, winning the Premier League Manager of the Month in September and March, and taking the Londoners to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, the Italian was relieved of his duties in May 2004. Manchester United finished third, four points behind Chelsea, while Liverpool ended in fourth, fifteen 15 points further back and a full 30 points behind the winners Arsenal.
Half Time / Full Time Result
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Over / Under
38 Unbeaten for the Gunners
Arsenal were the real deal in the 2003-04 Premier League season. They became the first and only club to go unbeaten in England during a 38-game campaign and were thus dubbed “The Invincibles”. 115 years earlier, Preston North End went undefeated in a 22-match season and added a further five unbeaten cup matches too, just for good measure. Back to Arsenal, and the London outfit picked up 26 wins (two more than runners-up Chelsea and three more than third-placed Man United) and 12 draws. Along the way, they scored 73 times (more than any other side) and shipped just 26 (the fewest of any side in the division).
After missing out on the title the season before, Arsenal meant business from the very first whistle, guiding his side to a blistering start to the campaign with four straight wins. By the turn of the year, Arsenal had won 13 and drawn six of their 19 league matches to take control of the division. The Gunners drew five of their last nine games but ended with wins over Fulham and Leicester City. They went on the longest winning run (nine games) and had the joint biggest home win of the season (a 5-0 victory over Leeds United).
Russian Billionaire Arrives at Chelsea
The start of Chelsea’s rise to the top of English football started in June 2003 when Abramovic became the owner of Chelsea Football Club. Boss Ranieri was given £100m to bolster the squad with world-class talent. The Londoners spent big on the likes of Damien Duff, Juan Sebastian Veron, Adrian Mutu, Hernan Crespo and Claude Makelele, among others, which turned them into a genuine Premier League powerhouse. Suddenly Chelsea were able to compete with the biggest players in the top flight after hovering between fourth and six place finishes for the previous few seasons.
Chelsea kicked off their season with a 2-1 win at Anfield, which sent a real signal of intent to their title rivals. They went on to win six and draw two of their opening eight games before suffering a 2-1 loss at Arsenal in October. Chelsea won 24 games in total, drew seven and lost seven to finish in second place on 79 points. They also reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, losing out to French outfit Monaco. Ranieri was sacked at the end of the season, being replaced by a certain Portuguese manager called Jose Mourinho.
Beckham Leaves Old Trafford, While Ferdinand is Banned
The 2003-04 season was a turbulent one for Alex Ferguson and Man United. The Red Devils were defending champions but had to sit back and watch Arsenal dominate the division. They also had a new title rival to contend with too in the shape of Chelsea.
The pre-season sale of David Beckham to Real Madrid set the tone for a disappointing season to come. The Red Devils were not helped by Rio Ferdinand’s four-month ban for failure or refusal to undergo a mandatory drugs test, either. United suffered nine defeats during the season, winning 23 and drawing six of the other 29. Nevertheless, they still managed to finish in third place to book their place in the 2004-05 Champions League and they also won the 2004 FA Cup.
Leeds Drop Down to Second Tier
Leeds were top of the Premier League at the start of 2002. However, by the end of the 2003-04 season, the famous West Yorkshire club were relegated to the second tier after a disastrous campaign. After 14 successive seasons in the top flight, United were back in the second tier for the first time since 1990.
Leeds struggled to get going, winning only two of their opening 13 games. With big players being sold due to off-field mismanagement resulting in debts, the players on the pitch struggled for consistency all season. The Yorkshire outfit ended with a whimper, losing four and drawing two of their last six games to go down on 33 points. All three relegated clubs finished on 33, six points away from Everton who finished the campaign in that all-important 17th position.
Terrific Thierry Nets 30 Times for Unbeaten Arsenal
Thierry Henry was the main man in the Premier League once again, netting 30 times and showing some real glimpses of genius along the way. The Frenchman’s goals played a huge part in their unbeaten season. Henry finished eight clear of Alan Shearer and 10 ahead of Man United duo Louis Saha and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Nicolas Anelka, Juan Pablo Angel, Michael Owen and Yakubu all finished with 16 goals apiece, while James Beattie helped himself to 14 for Southampton. Robert Pires, who had an outstanding season for the Gunners, ended on 14 goals.
Relegations & European Qualifications
Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leeds and Leicester were the three teams relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2003-04 season, with all three clubs finishing on 33 points. Everton had a poor year, though David Moyes’ men did manage to survive by six points in the end. Manchester City finished 16th, while Tottenham Hotspur ended in 14th spot.
Arsenal and Chelsea qualified for the Champions League group stage via their league positions. Man United and Liverpool went into the qualifying rounds. Newcastle United had a fine campaign under Bobby Robson, finishing in fifth place in the table on 56 points and taking a UEFA Cup place.
Which Teams Were Relegated?
Wolves finished bottom of the pile despite having the same points and goal difference as Leeds, with United picking up more wins to finish ahead. It was a tough campaign for the West Midlands club, who won just seven times. Dave Jones’ side scored just 38 goals, which was the fewest of any side in the top flight.
Leeds were ever-presents in the Premier League since its inception in 1992. However, United’s long stay in the top tier came to an end after a forgettable campaign. Leeds won eight, drew nine and lost 21 games in total. Their 21 defeats were the most in the league, while they also shipped the most goals (79).
Leicester picked up the fewest wins with six and ended their season in 18th place. They stuck with manager Micky Adams all season long, but the Sheffield man could not keep the Foxes in the Premier League. They ended their season with just one win from their last 10 matches.
Which Teams Qualified For Europe?
Arsenal and Chelsea made it into the group stage of the 2004-05 Champions League after finishing in first and second, respectively. Man United and Liverpool had to go into the third qualifying round.
Newcastle’s fifth-place finish took them into the first round of the following season’s UEFA Cup. Middlesbrough won the 2004 League Cup, beating Bolton Wanderers in the final in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. In doing so, Steve McClaren’s men were awarded a place in the UEFA Cup. First Division club Millwall were the other team to qualify for the UEFA Cup after finishing runners-up to Man United in the 2004 FA Cup final.