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Ten years on – The 2001/2002 Double winning Arsenal side (Part 2)

Friday 30th November 2012
Marc Davies takes a step back into time to review the first half of Arsenal's magical Premier League and FA Cup double success a decade ago

Arsenal began the New Year with two consecutive 1-1 draws in two tough encounters against fellow title challengers Liverpool and Leeds United as they relinquished top spot but still remained well placed in the race for the title. The Gunners responded in fine fashion with away league wins at Leicester City and Blackburn Rovers while they also managed to progress to the 5th round of the FA Cup after knocking out Watford and holders Liverpool. The cup victory against Liverpool included extra significance after Arsenal's loss against the Reds in the final of the competition in the previous season as a Dennis Bergkamp header was enough to claim redemption for the Gunners in 1-0 victory as Highbury. Despite the victory there were real concerns over Arsenal's lack of discipline following two red cards handed out to Bergkamp and Keown during the game as the number of suspensions gradually increased throughout the season.

Arsene Wenger's men started February with a 1-1 home draw against Southampton, but the disappointment was short lived as the result eventually proved to be the Gunners' final dropped points of the Premier League season. February also saw the Gunners back in European action with a double header against German side Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League. Arsenal looked set to end their dismal away record in Europe and seal a win against the Germans after the impressive Robert Pires had fired them ahead early in the second half at the BayArena. However Ray Parlour's third red card of the season put the Gunners under relentless pressure from the home side and ultimately led to them agonisingly concede a last minute equalizer as the game finished all square. Thankfully Arsene Wenger's side responded to this disappointment by producing a classy display at Highbury a week later against the same opponents as they eased to a 4-1 victory courtesy of goals from Robert Pires, Thierry Henry Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp as they placed themselves on the brink of qualification to the quarter finals of Europe's elite club competition.

Arsenal entered March with a league and cup double header away against Newcastle United after setting-up an FA Cup Quarter final tie at St James' Park following a 5-2 fifth round triumph against Gillingham. Their task was made a little harder following a combination of injury and suspension to star striker Thierry Henry which ruled out the French international striker for the clashes against the Toon Army. The first game proved to be a vital top of the league clash with both sides within touching distance from top spot, and one which proved to be successful for the Gunners. The game will always be remembered for the brilliance of Dutch legend Dennis Bergkamp who scored one of best goals in Premier League history. After receiving a low pass from Robert Pires on the edge of the penalty area with his back to goal and under close scrutiny from his marker Nikos Dabizas, Bergkamp controlled the ball with one flick and went around the other side before placing the ball smartly into the bottom right-hand corner to put Arsenal ahead. It was simply a phenomenal goal from a phenomenal player. The Dutchman also delivered a free kick cross in the penalty area onto the head of Sol Campbell who put Arsenal 2-0 in front to seal a memorable victory. The FA Cup quarter final tie a week later saw the Gunners field a much changed side which ultimately had to settle to a 1-1 draw after an early strike by Edu was cancelled out by Newcastle's Laurent Robert to set up a replay at Highbury two weeks later.

With Arsenal doing well domestically, many expected the Gunners to fire their way into the quarter finals of the Champions League with ease. However things certainly didn't go to plan after defeats at home to Deportivo La Coruna and away to Juventus saw Arsenal disappointingly finish 3rd in the second round group and ultimately eliminated from Europe. They thankfully bounced back immediately from this disappointment by comfortably winning the FA Cup quarter final replay 3-0 against Newcastle, although the victory was overshadowed by a serious broken cruciate ligament injury suffered by star player Robert Pires during the game. This was a cruel blow for both the club and player after the French international had performed outstandingly all season and was eventually forced to watch from sidelines after being ruled of action for the reminder of the season.

Arsenal luckily didn't allow this setback to derail their season as they continued their fantastic league form and eventually climbed to the top of the Premier league following a 3-0 victory away to Charlton Athletic on Easter Bank Holiday Monday. The following game proved to be a tense North London derby against a Tottenham Hotspur side who were desperate to stop their neighbours from clinching the title. The impressive Freddie Ljungberg fired Arsenal ahead in the first half before the visitors levelled the score in the 81st minute through a Teddy Sheringham penalty with the game looking likely to finish all square. However Arsenal had other ideas and won a spot kick themselves five minutes later after Thierry Henry was fouled in the penalty area. Lauren converted the resulting penalty to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory for Arsenal and send the Highbury faithful into jubilation as they edged closer to the title. The Gunners then headed to Old Trafford for the FA Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough where they were fortunate to sneak a 1-0 victory courtesy of a Gianluca Festa own goal as Arsenal sealed their spot in the FA Cup Final for the second successive season.

Arsenal finished April with three successive 2-0 victories against Ipswich Town, West Ham and Bolton Wanderers as they came within a point of sealing the Premier League title for the first time since 1998. Freddie Ljungberg in particular hit top form in the title run-in as he scored in five successive league games and ensured that the absence of Robert Pires didn't hurt the team as much as many first thought. The Gunners headed into May with two huge games in the space of 5 days with an FA Cup final encounter against Chelsea followed by a titanic league clash away against bitter rivals Manchester United. The FA Cup final allowed Arsenal to redeem themselves after losing in the final against Liverpool in the previous season, and they made no mistake this time round as superb goals by Ray Parlour and man of the moment Freddie Ljungberg sealed a 2-0 win at the Millennium Stadium thus ensuring that Arsenal claimed their first silverware of the season and their first in four years. Their attention soon turned to the league encounter at Old Trafford knowing that a win or draw would secure the Premier League title on Manchester United's own patch. Things looked difficult for the Gunners ahead with the match with Bergkamp, Henry and Tony Adams all being ruled out of the match through injury. However the positive spirit installed within the team over the previous weeks carried them through to a priceless 1-0 victory as Sylvain Wiltord's goal sealed the Premier League crown. Arsenal completed the season by beating Everton 4-3 at home as they completed a 13 league games winning run.

The 2001/2002 season proved to be a phenomenal success for Arsenal as they claimed their second league and FA Cup double triumph in five years. Arsenal achieved the title success in style by scoring in every single game and boasted an unbeaten record away from home. Arsene Wenger managed to scoop the Barclaycard Premier League Manager of year award while Robert Pires won the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award and Freddie Ljungberg achieved the Barclaycard Premier League Player of the Year award. The season also proved to be a final swan song for Arsenal veterans Tony Adams and Lee Dixon as they announced their retirement from the game. All in all, it was certainly a season to remember for all Gooners.
Marc Davies
Marc is a passionate Arsenal supporter and keen follower of Welsh football. Marc has experienced the highs and lows of supporting the Gunners and regularly attends their matches both home and away. As a native of Cardiff, Marc also regularly attends games involving the Welsh sides in both the English and Welsh football leagues. Marc also travels around the globe to follow the Welsh international side. Marc’s favourite moments include the Arsenal’s 'Invincibles' 2003/2004 season and the Welsh International side's run to the 2016 European Championships Semi Finals. Marc’s favourite players are Aaron Ramsey, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira. Marc has achieved a BA (Hons) Degree in Broadcast Media and Popular Culture and a Masters in International in Journalism.

Total articles: 42

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