Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have heard that Manchester City were massacred by Leicester City this weekend. If this was not enough, City shipped five goals in their own back yard.
Aside from conceding the most goals in Pep Guardiola’s 600+ game managerial career, a home defeat of this magnitude is simply unthinkable in City’s modern era.
The last time City conceded five at home in the Premier League was a long time ago. Forget the Etihad, forget the dancing feet of Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, forget summer spending sprees, we are talking about a completely different era.
The Invincibles at Maine Road
On 22nd February 2003, all of 17 years ago, Kevin Keegan’s blues welcomed Arsene Wenger and his squad of refined athletes to Maine Road.
Unbeknownst to fans at the time, Wenger was prepping his team for an undefeated 38 game campaign in 2003-04. Indeed, the City faithful were about to be hit with the full force of this now iconic team.
Within 20 minutes; Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell had made it 0-4 to the Gunners. Meanwhile, keeper Carlo Nash was wishing he had stayed at home. The 6’5” northerner had spent the first quarter of the game peering out from his cap to pick the ball out of the back of his net.
Legendary Frenchman, Henry, was then at the peak of his powers. In 2002-03 he notched a record breaking (now record equalling) 20 assists. The almost comical centre-half duo of Richard Dunne and Steve Howey allowed him to notch two of those in the opening stages. Minutes later, he latched onto a ball over the top, took one touch to control and fired it across the ‘keeper with his left foot. Classically clinical, poetry in motion; Henry brought a slightly different spectacle to the ruthless and calculating Jamie Vardy on Sunday.
In the second half, Patrick Vieira calmly finished a one-on-one to make it five. Ironically, it took a former Gunner to bring City any joy that afternoon as Nicolas Anelka notched a consolation.
To Eastlands and Beyond
Only five more Premier League games would ever take place at Maine Road after Arsenal’s 1-5 victory in 2003. Although Blues fans had no way of knowing, their move to The City of Manchester Stadium (as it was then known) would see them embark on a drastically different period of success.
Star names Robbie Fowler, Nicolas Anelka and Shaun Wright-Phillips headlined City’s squad all those years ago. However, some of the more obscure names make more sense of the Gunners demolition. David Sommeil, Djamel Belmadi and Sun Jihai put up a weak fight that afternoon, whilst their subsequent careers would show they were already living on borrowed time at the top level. The elegant, devastating Arsenal were the chalk to City’s cheese in the early-2000s, an exercise of the football elite against a team of forgotten men.
Fast forward 17 years past Stuart and Sven, Welcome to Manchester, Why Always Me, 93:20, four league titles and a domestic treble under the tutelage of a managerial great, and City have come full circle… at least for a brief moment.
Defensive frailty cost City on both occasions, but there is room to bounce back. In 2003, City won their next home game against Birmingham City. Here and now, a date with a dangerous Leeds side beckons. Much has changed, although City will hope they can follow the old guard and return to winning ways. Here’s to another 17 years.