Arsene Wenger believes that he currently possesses his best ever strike force, but is he justified in this belief? 51 goals have been scored by the Gunners in all competitions; an astonishing total given that it is still early in November. But is this attack better than that of the Invincibles? Does the current crop of players compare favourably with Arsenal legends Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pirès and Thierry Henry?
The Invincibles were heavily reliant on Thierry Henry for goals; he scored 30 in the league and 39 in total during that epic season. Pirès and Ljungberg were the only other Arsenal players to reach double-figures. The current squad shares the burden of goalscoring more evenly with 17 different scorers in all competitions. Cesc Fabregas provides more goals from central midfield than either Edu or Gilberto managed during their unbeaten season; Gallas and Vermaelen provide a greater goal threat than the combination of Toure and Campbell, though the latter were stronger defensively.
Man for man, it goes without saying that Henry was a better player than Van Persie, though that is no insult, Van Persie is a great player in his own right and has started this season in fine form. Robert Pirès was one of the world’s great players during his time at Arsenal, but Arshavin has shown that he too possesses world class ability. Ljungberg provided 10 goals during the 2003-04 season but Fabregas has already hit the back of the net 8 times this term; not to mention the fact that Fabregas’ contributions to the side in terms of creativity and leadership are immeasurable.
The best way to illustrate the comparison is to form a team with players from both squads, ignoring the defence and goalkeeper as this is a question of which is the best strike force. In a 4-4-2 formation; Henry, Pirès, Viera and Bergkamp would retain their positions; while Fabregas and Arshavin would replace Gilberto and Ljungberg. In the 4-3-3 formation that Arsenal favour now, Viera and Gilberto would come in for Song and Denilson, while Henry and Pirès would be picked along with Arshavin as the three forwards.
In my opinion, the starting forward line of the Invincibles was superior to the current Arsenal strike force, Henry and Pirès were the best players in their positions at the time and Dennis Bergkamp was a genius. However, the current group of Gunners have the edge overall as their squad is much stronger. With the likes of Eduardo Rosicky, Walcott, Nasri, Vela and Bendtner to call upon, Wenger has the ability to rotate his forward line without having a detrimental impact on the quality of play or the number of goals scored.
The acid test will come at the end of the season; the team of 2004 was a special team of champions and as Fabregas himself stated, the current team will only be special if they go on to maintain their current form and win a trophy.