Arsenal’s incredible Invincibles, the team that went the entire 2003/04 season unbeaten in the Premier League, will always be a part of the club’s folklore. That term they won the league title, made the semis of both domestic cups and the quarter finals of the Champions League. Whilst they “only” won one piece of silverware, they made history by becoming the first, and still only, team to go through a whole PL campaign without defeat.
Preston North End also enjoyed an unbeaten season in the first-ever edition of the Football League, but that was all the way back in 1888/89. More importantly, however, whilst the Gunners’ streak lasted for 38 games, Preston only had 22 matches in their league campaign. For many, therefore, Arsenal are the Invincibles, but where are the members of that great team now?
Humble managers like to point out that it is players who score goals and win games. However, many pundits, fans and even players would argue that the gaffer is the most important cog in a club’s machinery. Arsène Wenger certainly revolutionised both Arsenal and even English football and his role in creating the great Arsenal teams of the late 1990s and early noughties should not be understated.
We are not profiling him or his players, nor discussing their abilities or roles in this article though. So, where is Wenger now? Well, the former Monaco manager left Arsenal in 2018, outstaying his welcome some might argue. Since then he has done media work but for the most part has worked with FIFA. In 2019, he became the global governing body’s Chief of Global Football Development. He has carried out various tasks for FIFA, and continues to do so, including chairing their executive team and helping with possible rule changes.
The Skipper – Patrick Vieira
Vieira played for the club from 1996 to 2005 and was their midfield powerhouse, providing goals, defensive cover and leadership. One of the all-time greats of the PL, he retired from football in 2011, following post-Arsenal stints with Juventus, Inter Milan and Man City.
He took a role with Man City’s development team, before taking charge at New York City FC, and then Nice. He returned to the Premier League as boss of Crystal Palace but was controversially sacked in March 2023. The French World Cup-winner was not out of work for long though and is currently the boss at Ligue 1 side Strasbourg, having signed a three-year deal with the French club in July 2023. At the time of writing (February 2024) they are 10th.
The Star Striker – Thierry Henry
Henry was quite possibly Wenger’s best signing and won the Premier League Golden Boot award four times, including during the Invincible campaign. In 2003/04 he banged in 30 league goals from 37 matches and was crucial to Arsenal’s success.
He left the club in 2007 to join Barcelona for a short but successful spell, then moved to New York Red Bulls in 2010, though he did return to Arsenal for a brief four-match loan spell in 2012. Post-playing he has done a fair degree of media work, alongside various high-level coaching roles. He was Roberto Martinez’s assistant with Belgium from 2016 to 2018, having worked with Arsenal’s youngsters before that. He then took charge of both Monaco and Montreal for brief periods, enjoying very limited success.
In May 2021 he resumed his position as the assistant of the Belgium national side, staying there for two years. He was linked to the job as Head Coach of the French women’s team and the USA men’s team, but in August 2023 he was named boss of France’s under-21s (men), and also boss of the France squad for the home Olympics in 2024. He has started well in that job and will be hopeful of guiding the talented young French team to gold in Paris.
Ashley Cole: World’s Best Left-Back?
For a time, between around 2004 and 2010, Cole was arguably the best left-back in the world. He played 228 games for Arsenal and 338 for Chelsea, as well as turning out for Roma and LA Galaxy, among others. As a player he has won a record seven FA Cups, as well as three Premier Leagues (two with Arsenal, one with Chelsea) and the Champions League. He retired from playing in August 2019, his last game coming under Frank Lampard at Derby.
He has had various coaching roles, including alongside Lampard at Derby and Everton, as well as with Chelsea’s academy and with the England under-21s. In October 2023, Wayne Rooney made him Birmingham’s first-team coach but that proved short-lived and right now we believe Cole is still working with Lee Carsley and his Young Lions.
Other Players of Note
It is no surprise that such a talented, successful and high-profile group has seen many go on to major roles in different areas of the football world. Here are brief details on some of the other members of the Invincibles squad.
- Edu – Not a high-profile Invincible and started just 13 games that season. Now, however, Edu is a key player behind the scenes at the Emirates and is the club’s Sporting Director.
- Martin Keown – Keown is a regular on Match of the Day and does other punditry work, as well. Has had some minor coaching positions but seems happier doing media work.
- Jens Lehman – Invincibles keeper was appointed assistant coach of German side Augsburg in 2019 but didn’t last long. Also worked for Hertha BSC.
- Robert Pires – Has coached Arsenal’s youngsters and was last spotted as one of Pena Deportiva’s coaches. The side are currently in the fourth tier of Spanish football.
- Freddie Ljungberg – Another who has worked on the Arsenal coaching staff, the Swede left the club in 2020 and is believed to be keen on a return to football management/coaching.
- Dennis Bergkamp – The much-loved Dutch star was the assistant coach at Ajax between 2011 and 2017. He has been away from the spotlight for some time, coaching lower-level Dutch sides on a voluntary basis but is believed to be keen to work in football more seriously and even possibly to buy an English club.
- José Antonio Reyes – Never really made it at Arsenal but enjoyed subsequent success with Atletico Madrid and Sevilla before tragically dying at the age of 35 in a car crash.
- Lauren – Lives in Sevilla and does TV work on La Liga, AFCON and in Europe.
- Gilberto Silva – Occasionally works as an Arsenal ambassador and does work for both FIFA and the media.
- Sol Campbell – Campbell has managed several smaller teams since leaving Arsenal and managed Southend until 2020. Has expressed an interest in politics and would also be keen on a return to coaching or management.
- Kolo Toure – Toure took charge of Wigan Athletic for just nine games before being sacked in January 2023 after failing to gain a single win. His son is at Leicester City and Toure is another looking to get into coaching once more.
- Ray Parlour – Parlour does media work, almost entirely on radio, working for Talksport and the BBC.