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GCR Books

Unbeaten in the league, but not in the league cup. 3 Feb 2004

By Tony Attwood

By the time the league cup came round in February 2004 Arsenal were really enjoying themselves having won five and drawn one of the last six league games, as well as having won through the third and fourth rounds of the FA Cup (both times by four goals to one).

During the course of these games we had met Middlesbrough on 10 January 2004, beating them 4-1 at home in the league.  By chance we also met them on 24 January and beat them at home in the FA Cup 4-1.

So when it came to the League cup semi final against, of all people, Middlesbrough, there was some considerable hope that we might beat them twice more, possibly 4-1.

Arsenal had got to the semi-final after a 1-1 draw in the 3rd round on 28 October 2003 with the penalty shoot out against Rotherham, which was won 9-8 at Highbury.  The 4th round was easier with Wolverhampton being despatched 5-1 at home on 2 December 2003.

Next up it was WBA 0 Arsenal 2 on 16 December 2003, and so on to the semi-finals.

The first leg was at Highbury on 16 December 2003, and we lost 0-1.

A main part of the reason why was that the manager rotated the team considerably with many of the top names not being there.  Here’s the line up:

  • Graham Stack
  • Pascal Cygan
  • Martin Keown
  • Gael Clichy
  • Kolo Toure
  • Gilberto Silva
  • Ray Parlour
  • Edu
  • Nwankwo Kanu
  • David Bentley
  • Ryan Smith 73
  • Quincy Owusu Abeyie
  • Jerome Thomas 64

Gilberto, Kanu and  Cygan had played in the league match against Villa the previous weekend, and instead of the regulars the five subs named in that game got a match.  Of the three young players (Gael Clichy, David Bentley and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie) only Clichy went on to make a name for himself at Arsenal.  But all three had played in the FA Youth Cup five days earlier.

Sometimes the youngsters of this era worked wonderfully together, sometimes not.   This was a “not” although the team held Middlesbrough until half time, but on 53 minutes Boro attacked in style and Juninho scored their deserved goal.

After that Arsenal applied all the pressure but Middlesbrough had chances on the breakaway.   But there was still a chance in the second leg.

The second leg was postponed on 28 January 2004 and instead played on 3 February.

The team was again young:

  • Graham Stack
  • Gael Clichy
  • Quincy Owusu Abeyie  81
  • Martin Keown
  • Ashley Cole
  • Pascal Cygan
  • Edu
  • Patrick Vieira
  • Ray Parlour
  • Kolo Toure
  • David Bentley
  • Jose Reyes

Martin Keown was sent off at half time for impeding a Boro forward – it was a soft red.  But after that Arsenal actually played better, although it was never going to be enough.

Middlesbrough scored on 69 minutes and that looked like it, but Edu scored and for a moment Arsenal looked like they might just break even, but finally an own goal from  Jose Antonio Reyes ended the adventure.

The other newcomer after the first leg was Cole (Clichy playing in midfield) but the change didn’t really help.  Indeed it was a sad occasion since the players didn’t even have the pleasure of a full stadium. Full some reason Middlesbrough fans didn’t fancy the tie, and only 28,000 turned up to see them book a place in the final – which is rather strange, given their first leg advantage.

So, no League Cup Final for Arsenal, but there was always the league….

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