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Why Arsenal's 'Invincibles' Legacy Is Bittersweet at Best

21/10/2014 17:00 BST | Updated 21/12/2014 10:59 GMT

A full 10 years have passed since Arsenal reached the magical record breaking mark of 49 games unbeaten, but it will always serve as a constant reminder that the future can never be as bright as those amazing few months now long.

The run started with a 6-1 hammering of Southampton in May 2003 after a loss at home to Leeds in the previous game ended that season's title hopes. Incredibly the Gunners managed to go the entire 38 game Premier League campaign unbeaten in 2003/04, lifting the coveted trophy at the season's conclusion.

Arsene Wenger's side had become the first English side to achieve the feat of undefeated since Preston North End in the Football League's maiden year in 1888. Early the following season Arsenal matched Nottingham Forest's 28-year-old English record of 42 consecutive games unbeaten.

The record was broken a week later with a routine win over Blackburn Rovers at Highbury and for the next few weeks every time the Gunners took to the field it was an historic occasion.

The 49th game came at home against Aston Villa, but ultimately the challenge of reaching the half century milestone of 50 proved to be too much. On that infamous day at Old Trafford in October 2004, Manchester United made it their mission to end the run with Gary Neville recalling it was "the only match I've ever been accused of brutalising an opponent".

But regardless of the controversial circumstances in which the 'Invincible' run came to an end, the fact of the matter remained that Arsenal had achieved something no English club had ever done before.

Speaking about what he and his team-mates had accomplished, Thierry Henry later said, "Breaking the record and holding on to our invincibility - that's a hell of an achievement in English football and nobody will ever be able to take that away from us".

In recent weeks, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has denied that his current side, as strong and talented as it may be, has a chance of matching that Arsenal side. The charismatic Portuguese coach, who would surely revel in the praise that comes with guiding a team to an undefeated season, amounted it to "something that happened once in a lifetime. That will stay in the history as the second (after Preston) and the last time."

But whilst other clubs may feel they can never replicate the 'Invincibles', the real problem for Arsenal is that they cannot hope to either, with the past heroics of remaining undefeated now more of a hindrance than an inspiration.

In the decade since their last Premier League title in 2004, Arsenal have won two FA Cups, but haven't come close to challenging over the marathon that is a 38 game season and that doesn't look like it will change any time soon. During Wenger's early years in charge, Gunners fans were so used to seeing success.

But those few years of silverware seem to have given Arsenal fans unrealistic expectations of their club's true level. In a recent interview, Gerard Pique, who won six trophies with Barcelona during the 2008/09 campaign, explained the problem with becoming accustomed to success, "It's only later when you realise winning titles isn't normal".

The fact that Arsenal's last big achievement was so spectacular and virtually completely unprecedented has arguably haunted the club ever since. The club and its fans have a winning mentality, but the constant reminders of the glorious 'Invincibles' is rather like having an older sibling whose achievements are always vastly superior by comparison to your own.

The players all eventually moved on and Arsene Wenger is the last surviving piece of the 'Invincibles' jigsaw, but his continual presence almost seems like a reluctance to let go of what once was.

People are often too pre-occupied with the past and although Arsenal's 'Invincible' season and 49 game run deserves to remembered and celebrated, its current legacy is bittersweet at best and will actually long serve as a painful reminder that the Gunners have no hope of ever reaching that level again.

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