Chelsea's defeat at the hands of Newcastle at St James' Park on Saturday ended the talk that Jose Mourinho's team could go the whole Premier League season unbeaten. The title race pace-setters were second best on the day and were punished with two clinical goals.
Immediately prior to Saturday's game, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew expressed confidence that Chelsea would "slip up", not necessarily against his own team as was the case in the end, but at some point and without fail.
For another year at least, it confirms that other than Preston North End in the very first Football League season in 1888/89, Arsenal in 2003/04 remain the only team to have gone through an entire league campaign without registering a single defeat. That Arsenal team also holds the record for English football's longest unbeaten run of 49 games, set between May 2003 and October 2004.
These days, more is often written about the rather bad tempered fashion in which that streak came to an end or the current team's inabilities to get close to matching such achievements. However, with Chelsea, a team widely tipped to walk away with this season's Premier League title, unable to go any further than 14 it proves just how incredible Arsenal's feat was and still is.
At the start of October, Mourinho labelled Arsenal's undefeated season as "something that happens once in a lifetime," adding, "That will stay in the history as the second and the last time."
The fact that no team managed it in the 116 years before Arsene Wenger's Gunners did it and no team has in the 10 years since, suggests Mourinho is right. English football has seen some truly exceptional sides throughout its history - the likes of Manchester United's Busby Babes in the mid 1950s, Liverpool in the 1970s and 1980s and United again in the 1990s and 2000s, Leeds, Everton and others, but none ever managed an unbeaten season, such is the extreme level of competition on these shores.
n the Premier League era, Mourinho's first Chelsea team came very close in a record breaking title winning season in 2004/05, but slipped up after taking their eye off the ball just once in what should have resulted in a routine win over Manchester City.
In the past, teams have no doubt had the ability to do it, with Chelsea this season another prime example. However, the pressure of maintaining an unbeaten run throughout an entire campaign adds a whole different aspect to completing it. Inwardly at least, Mourinho may have believed his team could do it, but the constant public denial may have had more to do with lessening the rapidly growing pressure and expectation on his players.
The longer a team goes through a season unbeaten, the more people take notice and talk about it and the more opponents are inclined to raise their game to be the one that claims a famous scalp. By February and March of 2004, remaining unbeaten was all people could talk about every time Arsenal played and yet the Gunners came through it.
In the closing stretch of the season, many of the games ended in draws, but Arsenal's strength won out as the title made its way to Highbury and the record remained intact. The team started the following season in sublime form, scoring 29 goals in the first nine games, before the historic run finally came to an end at 49 at Old Trafford of all places.
Playing with intelligence and mental strength is certainly what Wenger puts the invincible season down to, having commented earlier this year, "You have players with talent every year, but to achieve something special, first of all you win it by little margins that at some stage of the season become very tight, and you need your players to respond with intelligence to get through these difficulties."
It is arguably a trait Arsenal have been lacking ever since and something that Chelsea are perhaps still a little short of despite their plethora of world class players. The Blues' run of a mere 14 Premier League games unbeaten, 17 if you include a three game stretch at the end of last season, is an admirable achievement in itself, but their failure proves just how incredible an achievement Arsenal's unbeaten season was and still is.
Jose Mourinho and Chelsea couldn't get near it and as Thierry Henry once 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".
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