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Last Updated: Monday, 23 August, 2004, 06:41 GMT 07:41 UK
Wenger repeats Clough feat

By Jonathan Stevenson

Ex-Nottingham Forest boss Brian Clough (left) and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger's awesome Arsenal equalled one of English football's longest-standing records on Sunday.

Between 26 November 1977 and 9 December 1978, Brian Clough's unfashionable Nottingham Forest side went 42 games unbeaten in the old Division One.

It was an achievement, claimed Clough, that outshone even the double European Cup success that soon followed.

Now - after Wenger's side battled back from 3-1 down to beat Middlesbrough 5-3 at the weekend - Arsenal will join Forest in the record books as having repeated that feat.

BBC Sport compares the two teams and the contrasting styles they have used to dominate the domestic game.


Clough's Forest was built on a rock-steady backline. Having gained promotion in May 1977 he splashed out 270,000 on Peter Shilton, even though England Under-21 stopper John Middleton was already in residence at the City Ground.

Forest's Kenny Burns (left) and Arsenal's Sol Campbell
Solid stoppers Kenny Burns and Sol Campbell

Shilton's remarkable save at Coventry won Forest the title in April 1978 and over the 42 games the Reds conceded just 22 goals, assisted by a back four of Viv Anderson, Frank Clark, Larry Lloyd and 1978 Footballer of the Year Kenny Burns.

Forest's style of play often allowed teams to enjoy greater possession, but Clough knew his defence could stand firm under any onslaught and would catch teams on the break.

Wenger's most important defensive signing was Sol Campbell. The England star made the short move from Spurs in 2001 and has not looked back, producing consistently impressive displays to cover for the occasionally-erratic Jens Lehmann.

Kolo Toure slotted in seemlessly alongside Campbell last season and with Ashley Cole and Lauren providing pacy cover down the flanks, the Gunners defence has been breached just 31 times.


Having built the Forest side on a dogged defence, Clough packed his midfield with workaholics who would provide the backline with cover - the epitome of this ideal being captain John McGovern, a no-frills, hard-working ball-winner.

Forest's John Robertson (left) and Arsenal's Patrick Vieira
Key pair John Robertson and Patrick Vieira

The task of providing invention in the Forest team fell to John Robertson.

The left-winger stuck tight to the touchline to torment his full-back, and his clever dribbling and cunning crossing produced many a goalscoring chance.

The rock of the Arsenal side is France captain Patrick Vieira. The 28-year-old covers every blade of grass with his giant strides and has the rare ability to turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye.

Important too are the contributions of the wide players, who often end up further infield to make up a central quartet.

In particular Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg, who provide pace down the flanks when required but also have the ability to make late runs into the box and get ahead of the strikers.


This is where the two teams explicitly differ. Clough's team managed 58 goals in their run, while Arsenal have already netted an astonishing 93 times from their 42 unbeaten games.

Forest's Tony Woodcock (left) and Arsenal's Thierry Henry
Star strikers Tony Woodcock and Thierry Henry

Defence started with the two strikers at the City Ground, with Tony Woodcock and first Peter Withe then Garry Birtles given crucial responsibility.

But Woodcock was a quick, skilful forward too and he showed a natural instinct for goals which Forest came to depend on until the arrival of Trevor Francis in 1979.

Arsenal can rely on the goals of the prolific Thierry Henry, the Frenchman having scored 32 goals in the Gunners' run so far.

Henry's blistering pace, great awareness of those around him and breathtaking finishing make him just about the complete centre-forward and a model for young players.

The influence of Dennis Bergkamp should not be underestimated either, the Dutchman's cunning link-up play central to the Wenger masterplan - a role which Jose Antonio Reyes has also proved capable of taking on.

Arsenal 5-3 Middlesbrough
22 Aug 04  |  Premiership
Wenger pays tribute to team
22 Aug 04  |  Arsenal

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