Robert Pirès: Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ team was better than ‘98 World Cup winners

Updated 6:01 AM EDT, Tue June 5, 2018
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(CNN) —  

France’s shock World Cup final win over Brazil in 1998 sparked wild celebrations across the country – with the triumph hailed as a unifying force for French multiculturalism.

But just how good was the French team of 1998? If it has cemented its place in footballing history, for one member of that immortalized les bleus squad – Robert Pirès – a team from the English Premier League was stronger than the World Cup winners: Arsenal’s “Invincibles.”

The 2003-04 team earned the nickname after it went through the Premier League season undefeated – with 26 wins and 12 draws. Its unbeaten run was eventually extended to 49 games, with Pires appearing in 40 of those matches, finding the back of the net 23 times.

“It was a privilege to play for my national team but the strongest (team I played for) was the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ because it was very difficult, very hard – firstly to win the Premier League, but if you win the Premier League unbeaten then of course that’s an amazing record, ” Pirès told CNN Sport in an interview in May.

Arsenal's 2003-2004 team earned the nickname the 'Invincibles' after it went through the Premier League season undefeated -- with 26 wins and 12 draws.

READ: Your country needs you! The scramble for World Cup talent

For Pirès – who had a distinguished 18-year footballing career and played for Arsenal from 2000 to 2006 – former Gunners coach, Arsène Wenger, was one of the best managers he played under.

“Arsène Wenger is a real manager. It was a real privilege to work with him every morning, I learned a lot,” said Pires, who was also a key member of the French team that won Euro 2000.

“He was like a second dad to me when I used to play for Arsenal. He was my mentor because I learned a lot about football (and) I think I reached my best level with Arsenal.”

Arsenal’s new chapter

Fourteen years have passed since the Gunners’ undefeated Premier League season – the club haven’t won the title since – and European glory has also eluded them. But now, the team is entering a new era under recently appointed coach Unai Emery, who brings new hope after Wenger’s 22-year reign.

READ: ’Wenger Out’ campaign finally gets its wish

Unai Emery was recently appointed as Arsenal
Unai Emery was recently appointed as Arsenal's new coach.
PHOTO: David Ramos/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

Prior to Emery’s appointment, Pirès said transforming the team to its former glory won’t be easy.

“They have a lot of work to do and now is very important to prepare for the future, to build the new team – with the new players, new talent,” he said.

“It will be very intense for Arsenal during this summer, and very interesting.”

READ: Unai Emery succeeds Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said the 46-year-old Emery was the “ideal” person for the north Londoners.

“Unai has an outstanding track record of success throughout his career, has developed some of the best young talent in Europe and plays an exciting, progressive style of football that fits Arsenal perfectly,” Gazidis said in a statement.

“His hard-working and passionate approach and his sense of values on and off the pitch make him the ideal person to take us forward.”

Emery’s first match in charge will be on July 26 in Singapore, when Arsenal take on Atletico Madrid in a pre-season friendly.

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