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FA Premier League
Season 2003–04
Champions Arsenal
3rd Premier League title
13th English title
Relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers
Leeds United
Leicester City
Champions League Arsenal (group stage)
Chelsea (group stage)
Manchester United (third qualifying round)
Liverpool (third qualifying round)
UEFA Cup Newcastle United (first round)
Middlesbrough (first round)
Matches played 380
Goals scored 1012 (2.66 per match)
Top goalscorer France Thierry Henry (30)
Biggest home win Arsenal 5–0 Leeds United (16 April 2004)
Chelsea 5–0 Newcastle United
Portsmouth 6–1 Leeds United
Biggest away win Leicester City 0–5 Aston Villa
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0–5 Chelsea
Highest scoring Manchester City 6–2 Bolton Wanderers
Middlesbrough 5–3 Birmingham City
Tottenham 4-4 Leicester City (22 February 2004)
(8 goals)
Longest unbeaten run Arsenal 38 games
Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira lifting the trophy at Highbury

The 2003–04 FA Premier League season was mainly contended between Arsenal, Chelsea and to some extent, Manchester United. In the end, Arsenal went through the season without a single defeat - only the second ever team to do so (the first was Preston North End in 1889 - 115 years earlier) and were crowned champions once more, at the expense of Chelsea, who had spent heavily throughout the season.

Chelsea had been bolstered by a £100 million outlay on world-class players, a spree funded by the extensive financial resources of their new owner Roman Abramovich. Manchester United's attack was as strong as ever thanks to free-scoring Ruud van Nistelrooy, but the midfield was weakened following the pre-season £25million sale of David Beckham to Real Madrid, and the centre of defence suffered a more severe setback after Rio Ferdinand was ruled out for the final four months of the season after being found guilty of the "failure or refusal to take a drugs test". The case of Rio Ferdinand started a debate about punishments relating to drug testing in football, with there being differing views on whether the punishment was too harsh or too lenient. Ferdinand's club sought to make direct comparisons with an earlier case of Manchester City reserve player who had in fact committed a lesser drug testing offence and as a result escaped with only a fine.[1]

Arsenal, meanwhile, had only signed German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann in the 2003 close season, but French striker Thierry Henry was instrumental in Arsenal's success. Away from the Premiership, Arsène Wenger's team suffered disappointment in the cup competitions. They lost their defence of the FA Cup (which they held for two seasons in a row) after losing to eventual winners Manchester United in the semi-final. Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions League quarter-finals by Chelsea (3-2 on agg). These two blows came with a few days of each other and it was feared that Arsenal might squander their lead of the Premiership for the second successive season, but Arsenal thumped Liverpool only days later and never looked back. Arsenal's Invincibles finished the season with 26 wins, 12 draws, 0 defeats and 90 points.

The three relegation points were occupied by three teams bracketed together on 33 points. Wolves and Leicester City followed the trend of many other newly promoted Premiership clubs and were relegated just one season after reaching the top division. But the other relegation place went to Leeds United, whose playing fortunes had dipped in the past two seasons after David O'Leary was sacked as manager and club debts had risen so high that many star players had to be sold. As a result, Leeds were finally relegated from the Premiership after 14 years of top division football - just three seasons after they had reached the Champions League semifinals.

In his third season as Middlesbrough manager, Steve McClaren had guided the Teessiders to their first ever major trophy - sealed with a 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers in the League Cup final. McClaren was also the first English manager to win a major trophy since Brian Little guided Aston Villa to League Cup success in 1996. He was also the first manager to take Middlesbrough into European competition - they would be competing in the 2004-05 UEFA Cup.

2003-04 saw a number of managerial changes in the Premiership. Glenn Hoddle was sacked as manager of Spurs in September, with Director of Football David Pleat taking over as temporary manager until the end of the season. He was then replaced by French national coach Jacques Santini, who was in the charge for five months before being replaced by assistant first team coach Martin Jol. At the end of 2003-04, Frank Arnesen was appointed Director of Football for Spurs.

Leeds United sacked Peter Reid in November and installed first team coach Eddie Gray as interim manager until the end of the season, as they could not afford to buy another team's manager out of his contract. Gray was unable to save Leeds from relegation and was sacked by the club's new owners, who installed Gray's assistant Kevin Blackwell as their new manager.

Gordon Strachan quit as Southampton manager in March and was replaced by Plymouth Argyle's Paul Sturrock. Just after the start of 2004-05, Sturrock handed in his resignation and was replaced by Steve Wigley who spent three months at the helm before being replaced by Harry Redknapp.

At the end of 2003-04, Gérard Houllier was sacked as manager of Liverpool despite having won four cup competitions (including three in one season) during his six-year spell as manager. Liverpool then turned to ex-Valencia coach Rafael Benítez as the man they hoped could win the league title which has eluded Anfield since 1990.

Despite guiding Chelsea to second position in the Premiership (their highest league finish for half a century) and to their first ever Champions League or European Cup semifinal, Claudio Ranieri was sacked after four years in charge at Stamford Bridge. Roman Abramovich then appointed José Mourinho as Chelsea's new manager. Mourinho, who won the 2004 Champions League with Porto of Portugal, was given a three-year contract.

Contents

Final league table

Pos
Club
Pld
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
Pts
Comments
1
Arsenal
38
26
12
0
73
26
47
90
UEFA Champions League 2004-05 Group stage
2
Chelsea
38
24
7
7
67
30
37
79
3
Manchester United
38
23
6
9
64
35
29
75
UEFA Champions League 2004-05 Third qualifying round
4
Liverpool
38
16
12
10
55
37
18
60
5
Newcastle United
38
13
17
8
52
40
12
56
UEFA Cup 2004–05 First round
6
Aston Villa
38
15
11
12
48
44
4
56
7
Charlton Athletic
38
14
11
13
51
51
0
53
8
Bolton Wanderers
38
14
11
13
48
56
-8
53
9
Fulham
38
14
10
14
52
46
6
52
10
Birmingham City
38
12
14
12
43
48
-5
50
11
Middlesbrough
38
13
9
16
44
52
-8
48
UEFA Cup 2004–05 First round1
12
Southampton
38
12
11
15
44
45
-1
47
13
Portsmouth
38
12
9
17
47
54
-7
45
14
Tottenham Hotspur
38
13
6
19
47
57
-10
45
15
Blackburn Rovers
38
12
8
18
51
59
-8
44
16
Manchester City
38
9
14
15
55
54
1
41
17
Everton
38
9
12
17
45
57
-12
39
18
Leicester City
38
6
15
17
48
65
-17
33
Relegation to
Football League Championship 2004-05
19
Leeds United
38
8
9
21
40
79
-39
33
20
Wolverhampton Wanderers
38
7
12
19
38
77
-39
33

Pld = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points

1. Middlesbrough qualified for the UEFA Cup as League Cup winners

Season Statistics

Total Goals: 1012
Average Goals per game: 2.66

Results

Club-by-club review

Arsenal

Arsène Wenger described it as immortality, and he wasn't far wrong. Arsenal completed an entire Premiership season without losing a single game. Their final record read 26 wins, 12 draws and 0 defeats. Only twice before had any English club completed a professional league campaign unbeaten, since the Football League was first founded in 1888. Striker Thierry Henry was undoubtedly the finest player in a brilliant side, though the likes of Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira earned similar plaudits for their own excellent performances.

But it hadn't always looked like this. Until February, Arsenal had bounced between first and third place, as the three-way race with Chelsea and Manchester United seemed unpredictable. At one stage before Christmas, the gap had been so tight that Arsenal and Chelsea had the same points total, as well as an identical goal difference and number of goals scored, which meant that Arsenal led the table as they began with an 'A'. But Arsenal got even better in the second half of the season while their rivals faltered, and the title was wrapped up before the end of April.

Early April, however, saw two successive games that threatened to derail Arsenal's perfect season. First they were eliminated from the FA Cup by Manchester United in the semi-final, and then they were knocked out of the European Cup by Chelsea in the quarter-final. However a 4-2 victory over Liverpool reinforced Arsenal's form. Arsenal came within 1 point of Manchester United's record of most points in a season finishing with an impressive 90.

In the last game of the season they sealed their Invincible status, coming from a goal behind to defeat Leicester, Patrick Vieira with the winning goal. A special gold version of the Premier League trophy was commissioned to recognise their achievement.[2]

Aston Villa

Manager Graham Taylor's unsuccessful second spell as manager had come to an end in June 2003, and chairman Doug Ellis recruited David O'Leary as Taylor's successor. The first few months of O'Leary's reign suggested that he was not the man to revitalise a Villa side that had been habitually underachieving for several years. Indeed, they entered December on the brink of the relegation zone, but a great run of form beginning over Christmas took them into the top six during March. They even went as high as fourth at one stage, and there was talk of Champions League qualification. But defeat on the final day of the season saw them finish sixth - this season not enough for even a UEFA Cup place.

Birmingham City

After finishing 13th in their first top flight campaign for nearly 20 years, Birmingham continued to impress. For much of the season, they looked good bets for a top six finish, though ultimately their squad did not stand the ultimate test and their less spectacular form in the final weeks of the season meant that they finished 10th in the final table - not enough for European qualification, but an improvement on the previous season's already good finish.

Blackburn Rovers

Finishing sixth in the Premiership at the end of 2002-03 had booked Blackburn Rovers their second successive UEFA Cup campaign, but it was short-lived. And their Premiership form was far too dismal to give the side any hope of a third successive European qualification. Indeed, much of the season was spent battling against relegation, but a decent finish to the season saw relegation fears eradicated by the end of April and Rovers finished 15th in the final table, putting intense pressure on manager Graeme Souness to turn things around.

Bolton Wanderers

After two near misses with relegation, Sam Allardyce finally established Bolton as a Premiership team. A side that had been tipped to struggle at the wrong end of the Premiership soon looked like outsiders for a UEFA Cup place, and qualification for the Carling Cup final saw this dream look even closer. A 2-1 defeat to Middlesbrough ended Bolton's dreams of glory at the Millennium Stadium, and in the end they didn't quite finish high enough for a European debut. However, an eighth place finish was the club's highest final position for some 50 years.

Charlton Athletic

For the third season running, a late slump in form ended Charlton Athletic's hopes of European qualification. In 2001-02, they had finished 14th after failing to win any of their final 10 games. In 2002-03, they had finished 12th after a not-quite-so dramatic slump. 2003-04, however, did bring Charlton's best Premiership finish to date, as well as their highest league finish since the 1950s, as they came seventh. For much of the season, they had occupied the Champions League and UEFA Cup places, but the familiar end-of-season setback pushed them out of the European places.

Chelsea

Roman Abramovich's £150million takeover of Chelsea Football Club in June 2003 was perhaps the biggest footballing story of the close season. The Russian billionaire's open cheque book saw manager Claudio Ranieri spend a total of more than £100million on the likes of Damien Duff, Glen Johnson, Joe Cole and Claude Makélélé. Chelsea were most people's favourites for the Premiership title, but in the end they couldn't match the brilliance of unbeaten Arsenal. They did reach the European Cup semi-finals, and in the quarter-finals they overcame Arsenal to become the last remaining English side in the competition, and in the process ended an 18-game winless streak against the Gunners.

The Premiership's biggest-spending side failed to lift a major trophy in 2003-04, and consequently Ranieri was sacked and replaced by FC Porto's European Cup winning coach Jose Mourinho.

Everton

In 2002-03, all the talk at Goodison Park was about how David Moyes was restoring some pride to the blue half of Merseyside thanks to a seventh place finish. 2003-04, however, was quite a different story, as Everton struggled at the wrong end of the Premiership and finished the season one place above the drop zone with 39 points (a tally which in many seasons has seen teams relegated, even under the 38-game format).

18-year-old striker Wayne Rooney was England's key player in their run to the quarter-finals of Euro 2004, but fast-growing rumours that he was about to be sold to Manchester United put Everton's top flight future under increasing doubt.

Fulham

Two seasons of bottom half finishes had fallen well short of expectations at Fulham, who had won promotion in 2001 with ambitions of becoming one of the country's top sides. These disappointments had led to the dismissal of Jean Tigana as manager in March 2003, and the appointment of 32-year-old former Fulham captain Chris Coleman (who had no previous managerial experience, subsequently becoming the youngest top-flight manager ever) as Tigana's successor saw Fulham among most people's tips for relegation in 2003-04. But 2003-04 turned out to be one of Fulham's most successful seasons ever, as they finished ninth in the Premiership to secure their highest-ever final league position. For much of the season they had been in contention for European qualification, but things tailed off after the sale of leading goalscorer Louis Saha to Manchester United in January. Still, it was a very good season for a club who had been tipped by so many observers to go down, and an excellent first full season in management for Chris Coleman.

Leeds United

The financial crisis at Elland Road saw Leeds United's debts reach the £100million mark, and consequently the sell-off of key players continued. Manager Peter Reid was sacked on 10 November after Leeds collected 8 points from their first 12 games, and former player, coach and manager Eddie Gray was brought in on a temporary basis. Some initially improved results saw Leeds climb out of the relegation zone by the end of 2003, but a dreadful run of seven straight defeats after the turn of the year saw them cast adrift at the bottom of the table, and from that point onwards the club had no real hope of surviving in the Premier League.

Some decent results late in the season saw them at least move off the bottom of the table , but a 4-1 defeat by Bolton on 2 May confirmed relegation, and Gray was soon on his way out of the club for good, to be replaced by Kevin Blackwell, who had been brought to the club a year earlier as Reid's assistant. Few observers gave Leeds much hope of an immediate promotion back to the Premiership, with Blackwell's ultimate task being seen as one of avoiding a second successive relegation.

Leicester City

Micky Adams had guided Leicester City back to the Premiership at the first attempt, despite the club spending part of their Division One campaign in receivership before a takeover safeguarded their future. But he was unable to keep them there, and their relegation was confirmed at the beginning of May. It was a traumatic end to a season which had seen the club plagued with crises on and off the field, including the La Manga controversy when players Keith Gillespie, Frank Sinclair and Paul Dickov were accused of sexual assault following an alleged incident at a hotel in Spain (all charges were finally dropped).

Liverpool

Gerard Houllier secured his fourth top-four finish in six seasons as Liverpool manager, but it wasn't enough for the Liverpool board of directors, who terminated his contract on 24 May, a week after the end of a campaign which saw Liverpool pip Aston Villa and Newcastle United to the fourth and final Champions League place. The season was marked by the combination of one of three local stars like Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and striker Michael Owen, with the majority of a the foreign talents that Houllier had signed, including the arrival of El Hadji Diouf. The season was marked for a League Cup success, but fans continued to claim the club played poorly in terms of entertainment, with long ball strategies and over defensive qualities. By the end of the campaign, the greatest shock besides that of Houllier's termination was that of Owen being sold to Real Madrid shortly afterwards. By the close season, the task of building a Liverpool side capable of ending the title wait that began in 1990 fell to Spaniard Rafael Benítez, who had just achieved domestic league title glory with Valencia.

Manchester City

After finishing ninth in their final season at 80-year-old Maine Road, Manchester City's debut season at the City of Manchester Stadium was a major disappointment. A side which had been tipped by some to qualify for the UEFA Cup having embarked on a new era having signed a host of experienced players (Claudio Reyna, Steve McManaman), to combine with the burgeoning talents from the City youth academy (Stephen Ireland, Shaun Wright-Phillips), ended up spending the season battling against relegation. Winning their 36th game of the season left them six points clear of safety, but survival was effectively confirmed due to them having a far greater goal difference than Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leeds United. It took victory in their penultimate game of the season to put survival beyond all doubt, but even then the future was not looking bright for under pressure manager Kevin Keegan.

Manchester United

A 3-0 win over Millwall at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on 24 May ended Manchester United's five-year wait for their 11th FA Cup triumph, but this success only partly compensated for a failure to win the Premiership title which for at least the first half of the season had looked likely to end up at Old Trafford. Ruud Van Nistelrooy was on song as usual with more than 30 goals in all competitions, but the loss of Rio Ferdinand for the final four months of the season (his penalty for missing a drugs test on 22 September) coincided with United surrendering their Premiership crown and finishing third in the final table. Their European Cup hopes were ended in the Second Round knockout stage thanks to a last-gasp winner by FC Porto at Old Trafford, but it was clear that United were preparing for a transition period, largely epitomised by the arrival of young Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon, following the high profile departure of David Beckham the previous year.

Middlesbrough

After 128 years in existence, Middlesbrough Football Club finally won a major trophy when on 29 February 2004 they beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, to lift the Carling Cup. It was a case of third time lucky for manager Steve McClaren, who in his first season as manager had seen Middlesbrough exit the FA Cup in the semi-finals and in his second season had watched them slip out of contention for a European place due to a slump in form late on.

Middlesbrough's first major trophy also brought them their first European campaign, as they qualified for the UEFA Cup.

Newcastle United

For the third season running, Sir Bobby Robson secured European qualification for Newcastle United, but there was a slight disappointment this time, as their place in Europe was the UEFA Cup rather than the Champions League, as had happened in the previous two campaigns. Their fifth-place finish was achieved despite a bad run at the end of the season, failing to win in their last five games. Their erratic away form prevented them from finishing higher, with only two wins and a staggering 12 draws.

Portsmouth

Portsmouth's Premiership debut (and only their second top division campaign during the last 45 years) was a fine one, as they finished 13th and established Fratton Park as one of the hardest Premiership grounds to get a result at. Only their dismal away form prevented them from finishing even higher and challenging for a European place, but it was still a very good season for the only newly promoted side to preserve their Premiership status.

Southampton

The previous season's FA Cup runners-up failed to make an impact in any of the cup competitions, and their 12th place finish was a something of a disappointment after the previous season, when Southampton were eighth in the league - their highest ever in the Premiership and their highest in the top flight since 1990. The club was thrown into further turmoil in March, when Gordon Strachan announced his resignation as manager. There was talk that Glenn Hoddle would be returning to the club for a second spell, but the job went to Plymouth Argyle's Paul Sturrock instead.

Tottenham Hotspur

A dismal start to the season cost Glenn Hoddle his job and he was sacked as manager on 21 September after two-and-a-half years at the helm. Director of Football David Pleat took over first team duties until the end of the season, but was unable to inspire Tottenham to a challenge for European qualification nor either of the cup competitions, and a 14th place finish in the final table was Tottenham's lowest since 1998. New Sporting Director Frank Arnesen and Head Coach Jacques Santini were appointed at the end of the season to bring some hope to fans of a club that had so far underachieved in almost every season since the 1991 FA Cup triumph.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Back in the top flight after 20 years away, Wolverhampton Wanderers did not win any of their opening seven Premiership fixtures and it was obvious that the season was going to be a long and hard struggle. There were some good results during this difficult season, including a 1-0 home win over a full-strength Manchester United on 17 January in which Kenny Miller scored the only goal of the game, but Wolves failed to win any of their 19 away fixtures and this counted heavily against them and their relegation was finally confirmed in early May.

Promoted teams

These teams were promoted from the First Division at the start of the season:

Relegated teams

These teams were relegated to the First Division at the end of the season:

Top goal scorers

Scorer Goals Team
France Thierry Henry 30 Arsenal
England Alan Shearer 22 Newcastle United
France Louis Saha 20 Manchester United/Fulham
Netherlands Ruud van Nistelrooy 20 Manchester United
France Nicolas Anelka 17 Manchester City
England Michael Owen 17 Liverpool
Finland Mikael Forssell 17 Birmingham City

Awards

Monthly awards

Annual awards

League Managers' Association Manager of the Year

The LMA Manager of the Year award was won by Arsène Wenger, he made history in doing so being the first manager to win the award twice.[3]

PFA Players' Player of the Year

The PFA Players' Player of the Year award for 2004 was won by Thierry Henry of Arsenal for the second successive year.[4]

The shortlist for the PFA Players' Player of the Year award was as follows:

PFA Young Player of the Year

The PFA Young Player of the Year award was won by Scott Parker of Chelsea F.C..

The shortlist for the award was as follows:[5]

PFA Team of the Year

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard (Manchester United)
Defence: Bisan Lauren, Ashley Cole Sol Campbell (all Arsenal), John Terry (Chelsea)
Midfield: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires (both Arsenal), Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
Attack: Thierry Henry (Arsenal), Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Manchester United)

PFA Fans' Player of the Year

Thierry Henry of Arsenal was named the PFA Fans' Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. Henry was the first player to win this award twice.[6][7]

FWA Footballer of the Year

The Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award for 2004 was won by Thierry Henry. The Arsenal forward picked up a remarkable 87% of the votes.[8]

Barclays Premier League Fair Play Award

The Fair Play Award is merit given to the team who has been the most sporting and best behaved team. Champions Arsenal won this.[9]

Behaviour of the Public League

Given to the best-behaved fans. Arsenal won this, thus achieving a fair play double.[9]

Barclaycard Manager of the Season

Arsène Wenger won this award. His team won 26 games, losing 0 and drawing 12 scoring 73 goals, conceding 26.[10]

References

  1. ^ Motive is always considered in deciding guilt - Business News, Business - Independent.co.uk
  2. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-303236/Arsenal-given-special-trophy.html
  3. ^ "BreakingNews.ie - 2004/05/17: Wenger gets Managers' Association award". Archived from the original on 2009-09-25. http://www.webcitation.org/5k4GgyOIJ. Retrieved 2009-09-22. 
  4. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/3628905.stm
  5. ^ "Henry leads PFA nominations | BreakingNews.ie". Archived from the original on 2009-09-25. http://www.webcitation.org/5k4GhKN9O. Retrieved 2009-09-22. 
  6. ^ "Thierry is the tops again - and it's a big 'hats off' to divisional winners Darren Huckerby, Neil Moss and Lee Harper! | The PFA Awards | Give Me Football". Archived from the original on 2009-09-26. http://www.webcitation.org/5k5GYErBT. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  7. ^ http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11670_2297593,00.html
  8. ^ "Henry named FWA player of year | Article from Xinhua News Agency | HighBeam Research". Archived from the original on 2009-09-30. http://www.webcitation.org/5kAsWCurI. Retrieved 2009-09-28. 
  9. ^ a b http://web.archive.org/web/20041027082515/http://www.thefa.com/Features/EnglishDomestic/Postings/2004/08/Arsenal_FairPlay.htm
  10. ^ "BreakingNews.ie - 2004/05/17: Wenger gets Managers' Association award". Archived from the original on 2009-09-26. http://www.webcitation.org/query?id=1253937293876879. Retrieved 2009-09-28. 

See also


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