Just a few weeks after winning the World Cup, Brazilian midfielder Gilberto Silva arrived at Arsenal and in his second season would go on to play a major part in the club’s finest achievement.
Silva will forever be known as one of the ‘Invincibles’, the Gunners’ defensive midfield linchpin during a campaign that took them to the Premier League title without losing a single game. It was the first time a club had gone a full league season unbeaten since Preston North End did it more than 100 years earlier.
It was recently the 13th anniversary of Arsenal clinching the title after their remarkable run and the last time they lifted the Premier League trophy.
Silva, along with teammates Robert Pirès and Jens Lehmann, are all preparing for a return to action in London this summer when they play for their countries at the inaugural Star Sixes tournament at The O2.
And the Samba legend believes that, while another unbeaten season isn’t impossible, until a club does it again the feat of his Gunners side will remain iconic.
“It was not easy, of course,” admitted the Brazilian, who spent six years in North London.
“We had a group of players who were at their very best for both club and international teams.
“Everyone was mentally strong and technically very good, and it is not easy to find that combination.”
He added: “They say records are there to be broken and that is the challenge for future generations. Until that happens we will enjoy our special place in history.”
In Silva’s first game for the Gunners he came off the bench to net the winning goal against Liverpool in the 2002 Community Shield game at the Millennium Stadium.
By the end of that campaign they had added an FA Cup to their haul, warming them up for their historic unbeaten run to the title the following season.
Arsenal are now on the verge of claiming the outright record of FA Cup wins after seeing off Manchester City in the semi-finals.
And with Premier League leaders Chelsea now standing in their way of an unprecedented 13th FA Cup success, Silva reckons a victory at Wembley in May would be a massive achievement for the Gunners.
“Winning the FA Cup would be really big,” said the 40-year-old, who earned another winners’ medal in 2005.
“Some people, especially the younger fans, don’t always appreciate how difficult it is to win, and how important it is.
“It is still possible that Arsenal won’t end the season with empty arms, but with a trophy!”