Picture Lionel Messi running at Sol Campbell.
Dennis Bergkamp dropping off and trying to drag Gerard Pique out of place to free Thierry Henry.
Patrick Vieira leaving one on Sergio Busquets to set the tone of the game.
Arsenal’s 2003/04 side are the standard-bearers when it comes to unbeaten league seasons.
But how do Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles compare to Barcelona’s current Invincibles?
Ernesto Valverde has overseen 24 wins from 31 La Liga games so he’ll join the exclusive Invincible WhatsApp group, containing Wenger and Kolo Toure, among others, if Barcelona can see out the last seven games of the season.
Helpfully both Arsenal 03/04 and this current Barcelona outfit play 4-4-2. So let’s first have a reminder of both first-choice XIs when every player is/was fit.
Goalkeeper: Jens Lehmann (Arsenal) v Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)
The battle of the Germans.
Lehmann is the type of goalkeeper who would take your head off for accidentally looking at his gloves before a game whereas Ter Stegen is so calm you wonder if he’s ever felt the emotion of anger.
Barcelona’s keeper gets the nod for the sake of everyone’s nerves.
Right-back: Lauren (Arsenal) v Sergi Roberto (Barcelona)
Lauren was signed from Mallorca to provide cover in defence and midfield although he ended up taking over from Lee Dixon at right-back.
It’s a similar case for Roberto who graduated through La Masia and narrowly avoided a move to Stokealona in order to become Barcelona’s first-choice right-back.
Lauren’s unbridled energy wins out over Roberto’s technique. He’s also taken up boxing in retirement, so we’ve got to pick him really.
Left-back: Ashley Cole (Arsenal) v Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
Cole was one of the few members of England’s ‘Golden Generation’ to carry his club form onto the international stage which meant regularly wearing shorts large enough to pocket Cristiano Ronaldo.
Alba is a fine player but he doesn’t have the same talent as Cole, although a European Championship medal makes up for that.
Cole wins this one.
Centre-back: Kolo Toure (Arsenal) v Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona)
If there’s a signing to define Wenger’s glory years it’s Kolo- the man who cost cost £150,000 from Ivorian side ASEC Mimosas and became the foundations upon which Arsenal’s Invincibles were built.
Umtiti wasn’t as much of a bargain but the £21million Barcelona paid is looking cheap by modern standards.
He’s still got some way to go to match double Invincible King Kolo’s achievements.
Centre-back: Sol Campbell (Arsenal) v Gerard Pique (Barcelona)
Campbell, or He Who Shall Not Be Named for all you Spurs fans out there, made the Team of the Year during Arsenal’s Invincible season.
Pique isn’t much more popular outside of Barcelona, despite winning essentially all there is to win for club and country.
The fact he’s got a World Cup, European Championship and four Champions League medals around his neck means Pique wins this popularity contest.
Right midfield: Freddie Ljungberg (Arsenal) v Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)
Okay, so you can take corners and penalties with both feet, but how many Calvin Klein ad campaigns have you done?
How many times have you inspired children up and down the country to die their hair red and grow mohicans?
For those reasons, plus being a majestic footballer, Ljunberg wins out, although we’re looking forward to seeing the electric Dembele’s progress.
Left midfield: Robert Pires (Arsenal) v Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)
It was Pires’ dive against Portsmouth that ensured Arsenal’s unbeaten season remained didn’t crumble in September.
Coutinho is still finding his feet at Barcelona which isn’t surprising given he’s now playing with Lionel Messi not Ragnar Klavan.
The Brazilian is a ludicrously talented midfielder who’ll spend a long time at the very top but for now Pires just about shades it.
Central midfield: Patrick Vieira (Arsenal) v Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)
The sight of Vieira’s technical excellence combined so ferociously with physical aggression was enough to turn most midfielders in English football into Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Rakitic has stepped up this season and started dictating play more, but he simply isn’t big Paddy Vieira.
We’re not scared of him, swear.
Central midfield: Gilberto Silva (Arsenal) v Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
If Vieira was the Mike Tyson of football then Busquets is the Floyd Mayweather- widely disliked, impossible to get anywhere near and undeniably world-class.
Gilberto was less subtle but equally important to Arsenal as far as the dark arts were concerned.
For redefining how to play the defensive midfield role Busquets wins this fight.
Striker: Thierry Henry (Arsenal) v Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
Scorer of 30 Premier League goals during Arsenal’s unbeaten season, Henry doesn’t need any introduction.
The same can be said for Suarez, although he lacks a bit of Henry’s je ne sais quoi.
This one goes Thierry’s way.
Striker: Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal) v Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
If we could be anything in life we’d be Bergkamp’s first touch.
But unfortunately Bergkamp has run up against the GOAT. What Messi can’t do with a football isn’t worth doing.
Messi pulls one back, not for the first time.
Verdict: Arsenal 7-4 Barcelona
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