Arsenal’s Invincibles – where are they now?

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15 years ago today, Arsenal beat Leicester 2-1 at Highbury to become the first side to go through a league season unbeaten since Preston North End in the late 19th century.

20 days after we’d secured the league title at White Hart Lane, second-half goals from Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira saw us confirm our ‘Invincible’ status, an achievement that has yet to be matched.

Much has changed since that glorious sunny day in N5. Players and coaches have come and gone. We’ve moved home. We’re owned by an American billionaire. Money has poured into the game. Cash-rich clubs are king. And we no longer sit at the top of the pile. In fact, we’ve not won a championship since.

Oh well…while we shed a tear remembering the good ol’ days, here’s what the players who made up the first team squad are doing now.

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Jens Lehmann, 49

Forced out of Arsenal in the aftermath of Arsene Wenger’s exit, the German took up a coaching role at Bundesliga side Augsburg in January. He last only three months, being forced out alongside head coach Michael Baum with the club hierarchy panicking about the threat of relegation. Does the odd bit of pundit work on German TV.

Ashley Cole, 38

After two years in the MLS, he was handed a one-year deal at Derby County by former teammate Frank Lampard. The Rams play Leeds in the second-leg of their semi-final playoff as they bid for promotion.

Patrick Vieira, 42

Currently manager at Ligue 1 side Nice. Got the gig after being linked with the vacant managerial post at Arsenal in the summer. He’s spent the last few years cutting his coaching teeth with Manchester City’s youth team and two seasons at MLS outfit New York City.

Martin Keown, 52

A well-established pundit who spreads himself across BBC and BT Sport coverage. He flirted with a career in coaching after hanging up his boots, including a short spell in charge of the Oxford University Blues team and a few months at London Colney.

Robert Pires, 45

Robert often pops up at London Colney but has never actually nailed down an official position on the coaching staff. We’re not even sure if he’s allowed at the training ground, but people are probably too intimidated by how dreamy he is to say anything. Does seem to have an ambassadorial position and plays a lot of charity matches.

Freddie Ljungberg, 42

Left his position coaching Arsenal’s under-15s to take up a role with Andries Jonker at Wolfsburg. The duo only lasted six months which gave us the chance to lure him back to Hertfordshire. Freddie now coaches the under-23s and appears to be doing a fine job.

Jose Antonio Reyes, 35

Back in December, Estadio Deportivo claimed Reyes had been spotted outside the Emirates listening to a tape of Unai Emery’s favourite motivational quotes. Having just ended a spell playing in China, he was supposedly in London for a reunion with his former Sevilla coach and was on the cusp of joining our coaching staff. It was all a hoax, released on Spain’s version of April Fool’s Day. We enjoyed it. In January he actually resumed his playing career with Extremadura, a second tier Spanish outfit.

Dennis Bergkamp, 50

The Iceman turned 50 this week. For those of us who remember him signing 24 years ago, that’s quite frightening. Dennis left his position as an assistant coach at Ajax a couple of years ago, pushed out by, of all people, Marc Overmars. He’d worked closely with Frank de Boer but his role under Peter Bosz had changed. We’re assuming he’s probably honing his golf game or something.

Sylvain Wiltord, 45

The Frenchman left for Lyon not long after we won the league and won three Ligue 1 titles on the bounce. He went on to play for Rennes, Marseille, Metz and Nantes before retiring in 2012. He appeared on a French survival reality TV show called Dropped in 2015, a series that hit the headlines when three contestants died in a helicopter collision. Sylvain was fine.

Lauren, 42

Lauren retired from football in 2010 after a single season with Spanish side Cordoba having picked up an FA Cup with Portsmouth to add to his Arsenal honours. A few years ago he was undertaking a business management course at the University of Seville. He should have graduated by now, congratulations if so. We’ve seen him working as a pundit on Sky Sports and he’s also done ambassadorial stuff for the Gunners.

Thierry Henry, 41

Thierry only lasted three months as head coach of Monaco before being replaced by the Leonardo Jardim, the man he’d taken over from, in January. He’s still on TV in the UK as the face of those annoying car adverts on Sky’s football coverage, but otherwise seems to be keeping a low profile while he plots his return to coaching.

Ray Parlour, 46

The Romford Pele, quite worryingly, spends a lot of time with Alan ‘I’m about to pop’ Brazil. He’s also been known to live broadcast the occasional solo drinking session via Twitter. Went for a beer with Robert Pires and Santi Cazorla before the Valencia game. No, really! 

Edu, 40

If rumours are to be believed, he’ll become Arsenal’s Technical Director this summer. Edu is currently the general coordinator of the Brazil national team, which sounds like a pretty cool gig to have.

Pascal Cygan, 45

As far as we’re concerned the high point since he retired from football in 2011 was being the focal point of an Arseblog News April Fool’s story that claimed he was about to join the Gunners board. Last summer he played for the Arsenal Legends against Real Madrid.

Gilberto Silva, 42

Picked up a Greek title and the Copa Libertadores after leaving Arsenal but struggled with serious knee problems in the final years of his career in Brazil. He officially retired in December 2015. He took up a technical director position at former club Panathinaikos but stepped down six months later. He’s the only Invincible to have a giant anteater named after him at London Zoo and he still loves the mandolin.

Gael Clichy, 33

He left Manchester City in 2017 to join İstanbul Başakşehir in the Turkish top tier and is still playing his trade.

Sol Campbell, 44

Campbell, after a long hunt for a managerial gig, took over at Macclesfield Town in November and steered them clear of relegation on the final day of the season. The experience should strengthen his chances of a more glamorous position in the future.

Nwankwo Kanu, 42

Spends most of his time fundraising for the Kanu Heart Foundation, a charity that funds heart surgery for children. Seems to enjoy getting the chance to play for the Arsenal Legends team as well.

Stathis Tavlaridis, 39

He only retired a couple of years ago after making a decent fist of his playing career following a brief spell at Highbury. He settled in France with Lille and Saint Etienne before moving around various Greek clubs, including Panathinaikos. We’re not actually sure what he’s up to these days.

Kolo Toure, 38

The only Invincible to go Invincible a second time. After leaving Manchester City, he played for the Celtic team that went unbeaten in 2016/17. On retiring, he took up a technical assistant role at Celtic Park and has since followed Brendan Rodgers to Leicester.

Jeremie Aliadiere, 36

A regular on Arsenal’s in-house matchday coverage, he’s also a club ambassador and the Legends’ team secret weapon at full-back. We’re glad to see he’s getting regular work after speaking openly about his post-playing career battle with depression.

Michal Papadopulos, 34

The Czech’s playing career is still going strong. He’s currently on the books at Polish side Piast Gliwice. He spent a couple of years at Bayer Leverkusen,  a couple at Heerenveen and picked up six caps for his national team.

Graham Stack, 37

Stack made a name for himself at Barnet during a four-year spell at the Hive and, after stints at Indian side Kerala Blasters and Eastleigh, qualified as a UEFA A & B player and goalkeeper coach. He was appointed head of academy goalkeeping at Watford last year.

David Bentley, 34

Left Arsenal for Blackburn on a permanent basis in 2006 and then moved to Sp*rs for big money. At one point he was in the England squad but when his form dropped he went out on loan to Birmingham, West Ham and, quite randomly, FC Rostov. He ended up retiring at 29 and says he has no regrets. Fair enough. Wikipedia suggests he’s dabbled in the restaurant industry since.

Justin Hoyte, 34

Playing in the MLS with FC Cincinnati. Left Arsenal in 2008 for a six-year spell with Middlesbrough. Has also played for Millwall and Dagenham & Redbridge.

Frank Simek, 34

Left Arsenal in 2005 and made a decent career in England playing for Sheffield Wednesday and Carlisle. Capped five times by the USA, he seems to have retired in 2013.

John Spicer, 35

Switched Highbury for Bournemouth in 2004 after an initial loan spell on the south coast. Went on to play for Burnley, Doncasterl Leyton Orient, Notts County and Southend.

Jerome Thomas, 36

Left Arsenal in 2004 and spent the majority of his playing career with Charlton and West Brom. Portsmouth, Leeds, Rotherham and Port Vale also feature on his CV. He was released from the latter in 2017. Judging by his Twitter account, he seems to be working with Chelsea, possibly in a coaching capacity.

Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, 33

Enjoyed something of a nomadic existence after moving to Spartak Moscow. While on the books in the Russian capital he had loan spells with Celta Vigo, Birmingham City, Cardiff and Portsmouth. He went on to play in Qatar for Al-Sadd, Malaga, Panathinaikos, Boavista and finally returned to Holland with NEC. It looks as though he retired a couple of years ago.

Olafur Ingi Skulason, 36

The former Iceland international is currently on the books at Rejkavik club Fylkir, the club from whom we signed him. Since 2005 he’s featured for Brentford and had spells in Sweden, Belgium and Turkey.

Ryan Smith, 32

His Arsenal career was curtailed by a terrible injury picked up in 2004. He bounced from Derby to Millwall, Southampton and Crystal Palace in successive seasons before two years in the MLS. He last kicked a ball for Greek side Xanthi in 2013. Since retiring he works as a social media consultant.

Cesc Fabregas, 32

Currently playing for relegation-threatened Monaco after moving to the principality in January after five years with Chelsea. Still loves the Arsenal but will pick up a Europa League medal if we lose to the Blues in Baku.

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GYWE
GYWE

The article has Kanu’s age as 42 but it should be 32…

Martin
Martin

He’s now retired. Of course he’s 42

Alexander Taylor
Alexander Taylor

Whoosh

Cultured determination
Cultured determination

He still runs as fast as when he was 22!

Martin
Martin

Why thumbs down. He was born on 1st August 1976 which makes him 42 years old

Kwame Ampadu Down
Kwame Ampadu Down

The thumbs down because most people realised GYWE’s comment was a joke.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2010/feb/21/nigerian-football-age-old-problem

GYWE
GYWE

This guy literally gets it

Man Manny
Man Manny

Why 32? Kanu played in the U17 world cup for Nigeria in 1993 as a 17 year old.
He turns 43 this year.

Richie

Nope, Kanu played in the U17 world cup for Nigeria in 1993 as a seven year old.

bobbyp
bobbyp

I was brushing my teeth whilst reading this and almost spat out the toothpaste from laughing when I read “probably too intimidated by how dreamy he is to say anything”.

Van de beek
Van de beek

Where is van persie?

Exiledgunner
Exiledgunner

Who?

Boom Xhaka Laca
Boom Xhaka Laca

Not an Invincible

Richie

Van Persie signed for us officially on 17th May 2004. We beat Leicester to become Invincibles on 15th May 2004.

Badaab
Badaab

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting five of the Invincibles, and they were all wonderfully gracious considering they were either winding down their playing careers in the MLS (or beginning their coaching careers in the same league). Big shout to Hoyte, who gave my (then) young nephew his shirt after the game.

Cliff Bastin
Cliff Bastin

When most people fill up their team list of greatest XIs of all time with the usual suspects like Messi and Pirlo, it’s always theoretical because we will never know how those players would really sync with each other.

The invincibles right here will always be my greatest XI because of how frighteningly well they fit each other.

Henry – the centre forward who was never in the centre forward position and instead terrorised from the left with,

Pires – who famously cut in for those curlers leaving space for,

Cole – to bomb forward. And these three would drag centre backs to that left side leaving space for

Ljungberg – to make those diagonal runs from the right

Bergkamp – was Bergkamp. Every touch, pass and shot was made with his brain.

Lauren and Gilberto – Steady and reliable while the more flamboyant guys did their thing.

Vieira – How many times have we (unsuccessfully) crowned someone “the next vieira”? Yaya Toure probably comes closest. Pogba maybe if he grew up. Basically people this huge being this skilful should be against the laws of physics.

Campbell and Toure – felt like 3 people.

Even the subs!

Edu – was not quite as good as either Vieira or Gilberto but strangely could cover either of their roles pretty well

Reyes – he faded pretty quickly after that season but a few of the wins/draws but rescued the unbeaten run with a few of his crucial goals.

Palour, Keown, Kanu – what a bench.

Pius
Pius

What a team that was.

Iceberg10
Iceberg10

Agree completely. Just don’t forget Lehmann, what a mad but fantastic last piece of the jigsaw.

Lula
Lula

Fifteen years passed, facilities upgraded, football further internationalized and developed. Yet every single member of that first squad would walk into the starting lineup today without question.

LEFT08
LEFT08

I’d also take Tavlaridis at 39 to replace Mustafi.

Richie

Olafur Ingi Skulason was actually in the Icelandic squad for the World Cup last year.

Richie

Winning the league at White Hart Lane scarred Spurs so much that they had to build a new stadium to get over it.

Vino
Vino

Forgot to mention the important person. Arsene Wenger from the list. How cruel ?

Man Manny
Man Manny

His day will come when Blogs does something about invincible managers.
It might even be on him alone. Such is the rarity of what Arsene achieved.

glory hunter
glory hunter

Brilliant article.
Honestly surprised by a few names in the squad.
Never realised that Jerome Thomas and Quincy were part of the squad and im sure many of them including Cesc didnt play enough games to win a medal!!

if a player doesn’t play enough games to get a medal, can that player be considered a league winner?

Mesut O'Neill
Mesut O'Neill

I believe back then, you had to make 10 appearance’s in order to receive a medal. Not sure if that is still the case.