How did you mark Invincibles Day?

OPINION: Arsenal once had an unbeatable team that Ferguson, Mourinho and Klopp could never assemble – then the Gunners bought Giroud and Xhaka

Thursday, 11th November 2021 — By Richard Osley

Granit Xhaka

PLEASE let us enjoy one thing at a time. Heavens, we have only just lit the pumpkin lanterns of Halloween. Then the rockets filled the sky for Bonfire Night. Why in the modern world is everybody in such a rush to move on to the next celebration so quickly?

Familiar treats are already filling the supermarket shelves and they want you to fill the wine rack with fizzies. Yes, it gets earlier and earlier each year – the annual Invincibles Day. How did you celebrate on Sunday? A roast? Crackers? An exchange of gifts?

Once again, the entire Premier League has managed to show just how preposterous the idea of going through an entire league season undefeated seemingly is. November 7 – and all teams have lost.

Invincibles Day is a mark of what an astonishing achieve­ment Arsenal pulled off in 2003/2004 – the greatest ever team in the history of English football. Other teams may win championships, other teams may score fantastic goals too – but none have a golden trophy like the one handed to Arsene Wenger and his literally unbeatable players.

Invincibles Day, however, is also a day when you reflect on what Arsenal had – and what they have now. Can you put your finger on the one moment when the sea changed and Arsenal drifted from the best in the land to a team fighting to qualify for the Champions League? A tournament they once propped up the bar in, never leaving, always there.

It’s true that Arsenal’s competitors simply dealt with the problem of Arsenal being far better than anybody else by simply spending lots of money.

But the Gunners seemed to make more fuss than any other of new stadium builders for starters – and then seemed even more unlikely to compete financially.

And then on the pitch they signed first, Olivier Giroud, and then Granit Xhaka. These two players, for me, symbolise years of wasted opportunities.

Arsenal persevered with both as if they would one day surely come good, but their just above average abilities were a shadow of what we once enjoyed. We lived with the Giroud smile – the grimace he gave every time he put a free header straight at the keeper.

Now, we live with the confused look of Xhaka when his face is lit up by a red card. Some of the prime years of our lives have been watching those two.

We can only think ourselves lucky then that once upon a time we had a team that Ferguson, Mourinho and Klopp could never assemble: Campbell, Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg Bergkamp, Henry and the rest.

The best ever, no wonder we celebrate every year.

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