Frank Lampard, Thierry Henry, Ashley Cole… A combined Chelsea and Arsenal XI from when they were Premier League’s most feared clubs December 24, 2020 – Posted in: Soccer
It might seem like a distant memory, but Chelsea and Arsenal were the two best clubs in the land not too long ago.
The Gunners’ invincible team of 2003/04 and the Blues’ record-breaking 2004/05 side can both claim to be the best in Premier League history.
Since then, well, it’s not been all that bad for Chelsea, although they have never recaptured that total dominance of the mid-to-late noughties.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have been on a slippery slope to obscurity ever since Patrick Vieira held the Premier League trophy aloft in 2004.
That remains the Gunners’ last league title, and they have fallen to new lows under Mikel Arteta this season, currently languishing in 15th after almost half the season has passed.
Ahead of their match against Chelsea on Boxing Day – live on talkSPORT – it’s difficult to remember a time both teams were so low in the league table when meeting, with the Blues meandering in fifth place.
Remember that 2-2 draw in December 2004? When Thierry Henry did that ingenious quick free-kick and John Terry scored the most John Terry header ever? Those were the days.
Some of the players on the field that day have gone down in history as some of the greatest in Premier League history.
But who were the best? In a bid to remind Chelsea and Arsenal fans of the glory days, we’ve put together this combined XI from the naughties.
Goalkeeper – Petr Cech
Probably the easiest decision, this one.
If the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ had a weakness, it was Jens Lehmann in goal.
The German had nothing on Petr Cech, who went a record-breaking 1,025 minutes without conceding a goal in the 2004/05 season.
Cech kept a staggering 24 clean sheets that campaign, on his way to becoming the goalkeeper with the most shutouts in top-flight history.
He played for Arsenal too later on, so we’re sure Gunners fans won’t mind this one too much.
Right-back – Lauren
Arguably the most underrated and underappreciated member of the ‘Invincibles’.
It was a very tough call between Lauren and Gallas, but the Cameroonian gets the nod.
While Gallas was versatile and able to play anywhere across the back line, Lauren was up there with the best out-and-out right-backs in the league at the time.
Plus, unlike Gallas, Lauren didn’t refuse to play for his club and kick up a fuss when they didn’t accept transfer request!
Centre-back – John Terry
Whenever pundits bang their heads together and try to come up with one of those all-time Premier League XIs, the same old issues crop up.
Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard? Rio Ferdinand or Sol Campbell? Thierry Henry or Alan Shearer?
One thing that is never up for debate is John Terry’s place in the side.
While many disagree over whether he should be accompanied by Tony Adams, Ferdinand or Campbell – Terry is always there.
That’s because he’s the most successful captain in top-flight history – and around 2005 – probably the best centre-back in world football.
Centre-back – Sol Campbell
Kolo Toure and Ricardo Carvalho certainly wouldn’t look out of place in this team, but Campbell was just something else.
An extraordinary defender, Arsene Wenger signed Campbell from Tottenham because the Gunners’ attackers just couldn’t get past him.
Wenger later said ‘it was as if he was indestructible, such a power spread from him’.
Left-back – Ashley Cole
Another man who has played for both clubs, but only remains loved by one.
Incredibly, Cole was a member of that famous ‘Invincibles’ squad but went on to achieve more success at Chelsea, winning another league title and adding the Champions League to his trophy cabinet.
Like quite a few players in this team, Cole was considered the best in the world in his position around about 2005.
Midfield – Patrick Vieira
Many believe the departure of Vieira signalled the start of Arsenal’s slow decline over the last 16 years.
While the Gunners have been blessed with talented strikers in that time, they have never really replaced the iconic French midfielder.
His exit led directly to the loss of Arsenal’s aggressive edge and without him, they developed a reputation as a soft touch.
Vieira never would’ve stood for that. What a player he was.
Midfield – Frank Lampard
A midfielder, and yet he has more Premier League goals than every player in this team, including (spoiler alert) Henry.
Just the 177 top-flight goals for Lampard, which we think is enough to earn the current Chelsea boss a place in this team.
Forward – Robert Pires
We’ve gone with Pires on the wing in a 4-2-3-1 system, rather than adding an extra midfielder in a 4-3-3.
It was difficult to overlook Claude Makelele, given the Frenchman literally had an entire position named after him during his time in the holding role at Chelsea.
But we figured a team with two defensive midfielders would be a mighty disservice to some of the attacking play these teams were capable of – and Pires was just so good.
Don’t worry, our manager of choice Jose Mourinho will replace Pires with Makelele the minute we go 1-0 up.
Forward – Dennis Bergkamp
You can explain why most players in this team were great with cold, hard stats – but Bergkamp was different, you sort of just had to watch him.
Bergkamp is one of the most magical players ever to wear the Arsenal shirt – somehow his touch, vision and skill was just better than everybody around him.
Only he could do a lot of the things he did.
There’s a reason Bergkamp has a statue outside the Emirates: his best moments will also be immortalised in the memories of Arsenal fans.
Forward – Didier Drogba
Arsenal fans can testify to the quality of Drogba, he scored against the Gunners every time they played Chelsea!
Yes, we’ve got three traditional centre-forwards on the pitch and they don’t exactly fit into your classic 4-3-3, but we would have Drogba at centre-back if it was the only way to get him in the team.
The way he used to defend corners, that might not actually be the worst idea.
Forward – Thierry Henry
The Frenchman had a swagger and audacity about him which, you could argue, hasn’t been matched since.
He was one of those rare players who did things just because he could and others couldn’t, for the simple joy of entertainment.
Wrong-foot passes, fancy flicks, mazy dribbles, and through-balls that would make Kevin de Bruyne jealous – that’s what sets Henry apart.
There was something magical about watching him – and we bet there would be a similar feeling watching this team, if we ever got the chance.
talkSPORT will bring you FOUR live and exclusive Premier League matches this Boxing Day, including Arsenal vs Chelsea at 5.30pm!