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Robert Pires: Arsenal's 'Invincibles' had more talent and spirit than current Manchester City team

In an exclusive interview with BTSport.com, the Gunners legend looks ahead to Sunday's Carabao Cup final and explains why his 2003-04 side were superior to Pep Guardiola's runaway Premier League leaders.

Arsenal celebrate a goal at White Hart Lane on the day they wrapped up the 2003-04 Premier League title

Who would win in a hypothetical match between Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ and the current Manchester City vintage?

In the red corner: the remarkable Gunners team that went through the entire 2003/04 Premier League season without losing a single game, winning the title at White Hart Lane - home of bitter rivals Tottenham - for good measure.

And in the blue corner: the present City, shoo-ins for the title, the bookmakers’ favourites to win the Champions League and widely regarded as potentially the club’s greatest side to date.

The cast list is glittering and one thing is for sure - it would be a hell of a battle.

It wasn’t long ago, of course, that some critics were tipping Pep Guardiola’s men to emulate the ‘Invincibles’ this term.

January’s madcap 4-3 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield ended that particular dream for another year, halting their unbeaten start at 22 games.

But would Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and company really be able to run rings around the likes of Patrick Vieira, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole?

Could Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi truly expect to keep Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp at bay?

Ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final between the two clubs, BTSport.com decided to put the question to one of the most decorated stars of that legendary Arsenal side.

Robert Pires, a two-time Premier League winner and world and European champion with France, contributed 14 league goals and seven assists across the 2003/04 campaign.

And for him, the answer is clear.

“Us,” he says, looking almost affronted by the temerity of the question.

“I think we had more talent. More aggression. More warriors. More spirit.

“Why do I say spirit? Because when you play in England, you need English players.

“[Today’s] Arsenal are missing that a little bit, I think. This is just my opinion. I love the squad, I love the players. But in the future it will be very important to buy English players.

“We talk about the Invincibles season. If you see the English players - Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole, Ray Parlour - they were warriors, and you need warriors on your team.”

I suggest to Pires that with every year that passes without the Invincibles achievement being matched, the appreciation of its staggering magnitude widens.

“Yeah,” he says. “Even for Man City, if you see the name on the paper, you can say: ‘Yeah, Man City, I think they will win the title unbeaten’. But look what’s happened.

“It was an amazing achievement. It’s very difficult to win the Premier Legaue but to win it unbeaten – amazing. I’m not arrogant but yeah, it’s unbelievable. It’s a great record.”

Will it ever be repeated in the hyper-competitive world of the Premier League? Pires pauses for a moment.

“I think maybe one day, a team can break it,” he says.

“When? Who? I don’t know. But it’s not for now.”

What certainly is 'for now' is Sunday’s collision at Wembley and the small matter of whether the current Arsenal crop can beat City to the first piece of silverware of the season.

The Gunners are hoping it will form one half of a double as they also chase Europa League glory, which could yet prove their only hope of returning to next season’s Champions League.

City, meanwhile, believe victory - and a first trophy for Guardiola - could signal the start of a golden era of dominance under the shrewd guidance of the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona boss.

With the Premier League title all but wrapped up and one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals after their 4-0 win at Basel, the game could yet provide the first leg of a treble of their own.

City are well fancied by most pundits, particularly considering they sit a whopping 27 points clear of sixth-placed Arsenal in the league table.

But the Gunners head to Wembley buoyed by nine straight wins at the national stadium in FA Cup and Community Shield matches, including a deserved 2-1 triumph over City in last season’s FA Cup semi-final.

Does Pires think they can upset the odds again?

“Yes, I hope – I wish!” he says with a smile.

“I always believe in Arsenal. I’m always positive when I talk about Arsenal. Sometimes it’s very difficult, sometimes the team has problems and trouble during the season, but it’s a final.

“On one side you have Man City and on the other you have Arsenal. I don’t know who the favourite is. This is one game. A final. Wembley. So everything is possible.

“Look what’s happened this week - Wigan beat Man City. It was of course a surprise – but this is football.

“That’s why everything is possible and I think Arsenal can beat Manchester City, of course.”

Pires is working with UEFA Europa League partner Enterprise Rent-A-Car on their Backseat Pundit competition. To find out how you can ride to a game with a football legend and enjoy special rates on car hire across Europe, visit www.backseatpundit.co.uk

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