The new season is about to get up and running, and whilst every opening day fixture can claim to be important for every team, there’s only one that can claim the undisputed tag of top dog – Arsenal v Liverpool, unarguably a massive game of football in any season.
Perhaps the most memorable Arsenal Liverpool game in history happened before the Premier League era began, with the Gunners pipping Liverpool to the title after an obscenely late goal from Michael Thomas to win the title on goals scored.
That was before Arsene Wenger strolled into Highbury to make his name as a manager in England, and since that day Arsenal have played some of the best football in the country as Wenger won title after title and established the Gunners as one of Europe’s top clubs on both a financial and footballing level.
This season, after last year’s second place finish and with a state of flux amongst all the other big hitters, Arsenal are gearing up for an exciting season ahead!
And as if the excitement couldn’t increase further, we’ve teamed up with 7 Of The Best to bring you a footballing treat for the coming campaign. It’s free to play and the best team each week wins £1,500, as well as monthly prize of £4,000 for the best individual. Want to win bigger? Nab yourself a whopping £500k if you get all seven of your selections correct for seven consecutive weeks.
How do you play? All you need to do is pick seven teams each week, one being your banker, five being teams you expect to win and one you believe will draw.
So on the back of that, here are seven of the best things to happen at Arsenal since Wenger rocked up in North London…
49 undefeated as Arsene Wenger led Arsenal to a league title, the dethroning of Manchester United as Premier League champions and the ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ and the establishment of a feat that will surely never be repeated: an unbeaten season in the Premier League.
Wenger’s biggest achievement, Arsenal’s biggest achievement. And to be so obviously the best for quite so long might go down as one of football’s biggest achievements.
After the invincibles season, Arsenal suffered a big drought. They weren’t to know it at a the time, but the 2005 FA Cup final would represent the Gunners’ last trophy for nine years.
But just one year later that could have been so different. After Jens Lehmann was sent off after 18 minutes, Arsenal never really stood a chance.
They battled magnificently and took the lead, but the numerical superiority was enough to see Barcelona bag two second half goals to beat the Gunners and lift the trophy – will Wenger get another chance to lead Arsenal into a Champions League final again?
The first penalty shootout in an FA Cup final saw Arsenal lift the FA Cup the year after they’d won the league without losing a game. It’s one of the high water marks of the club’s history, and certainly in Arsene Wenger’s time at the club.
This was the period in which Arsenal were at the top of the tree. Chelsea won the league under the reins of Jose Mourinho for the first time that season, but Arsenal’s undefeated season was still fresh in the memory.
Manchester United had suffered two successive third place finishes, Arsenal were above them and beat them in the shootout – Sir Alex Ferguson never got the chance to rectify that defeat and never won the FA Cup again.
When Wenger took over, Arsenal weren’t even contenders. But within a year he made them contenders, bring something new to English football: a new style, a new attention to detail, a new way.
In Wenger’s first full season 1997/98, Arsenal became just the second club to do the double twice in their history, winning the league and the FA Cup.
These days Arsenal seem to hit a glass ceiling in the Champions League first knockout round. It’s like there’s some ‘no Arsenal allowed’ forcefield around the quarter finals. But it wasn’t always this way. Beating the big teams used to be routine for Arsene Wenger.
In 2006, perhaps Arsenal’s crowning moment in Europe came as they beat Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Perhaps it wasn’t the greatest moment by itself, but given the context it probably was. An Arsenal side depleted by injuries made its way to the Champions League final that year. Wow.
The more recent history of Arsenal has usually been characterised by disappointment, but there are some moments of fleeting glory. In 2015/16, Arsenal’s poor start in the Champions League looked like it would cost them their place in the next round for the first time since 1999.
But thanks to some heroics from the Gunners, beating Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich at the Emirates before going on to beat both Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos 3-0 to qualify for the next round. It may not sound like a lot on paper, but the pressure and the nature of the escape certainly made it feel special!
After so long without a trophy, Arsenal’s first in nine years was pretty special.
It wasn’t simply because they won, or because they won after so long. Nor was it because it was an FA Cup final at the new Wembley stadium. It was down to the fact that Arsenal had to come from two goals behind so early on to win the game.
The headlines were written when Hull went 2-0 up so early in the game. After so long without a trophy, Arsenal had become something of a punchline, and losing to Hull in a final would have been exactly what the nay-sayers wanted.
But they showed the sort of steel that Arsenal hadn’t shown in years and came away with the trophy thanks to an extra time goal from Aaron Ramsey.