I'm not sure quite why the publishers chose to call the two previous editions 2002 and 2003 while calling this one 2003/2004, nor am I at all sure that such trivial inconsistencies really matter. As in last year's edition the book comes complete with a forward by the great man himself, Arsène Wenger, who writes as eloquently as ever. This compact 192-page paperback is generously illustrated with around 240 colour photographs, which include match action and all the essential personnel from the 2003-04 season.
As in previous editions the biggest section of the book provides a two-page report for every competitive first team match. The reports, quite apart from showing photos from every game, team line-ups, goal scorers, substitutes, date, kick off time, attendance figures, goal times, form guide, bookings and dismissals tells you who it was who dismissed them. This is an official story of an historic record-shattering season so it can't quite bring itself to slag the referees or tell it quite as the fans saw it. For the example the description of Patrick's dismissal at Old Trafford in September and the subsequent eruption late in the game when Van Diver missed the penalty is quite definitely the sanitised version and not at all how I described it at the time. Interesting to think that Manure, through Van Diver, could have stopped our unbeaten record almost before it had begun. How delightful it is in retrospect to ponder that fact and smile. The reports do however outline sufficient information for the serious fan to hit his or her own recall button and relive these occasions that they may have been lucky enough to have witnessed at the game or on the box. The action photos will probably trigger more memories than the text itself and in years to come flicking through and admiring the pictures will be a far easier way of bringing the happy memories flooding back.
A couple of diary pages for each month of the season remind us who was voted player of the month on the Arsenal.com website. This feature also provides the League table as it stood at the end of each month and a brief outline of unfolding events as they were happening. Profiles and Statistics of all first team players and staff plus statistics are included, including rather minimally the reserves, under 19's and under 17's. The Ladies team are afforded four pages to cover their League and Cup triumphs. Three additional sections have been added for this edition, the first called ‘Travelling with Arsenal' provides the necessary information to reach any of the Premiership away grounds in the coming season. The second new section gives an update on the progress of Gooner Grove, which is now growing visibly on an almost daily basis. Also added are a map of Europe outlining the places we visited in the Champions League plus a map of England showing all the venues we travelled to last season and the results obtained there.
As with any good book you'll be able to order it from any decent bookstore if you quote the following ISBN number: 0 600 61201 5 or alternatively checkout your favourite online bookstore. Or if you can wait till the start of the season I've no doubt all places you'd expect to sell it in and around Highbury will be doing so.
Champions: Arsenal Official Yearbook 2003/2004
Published by Hamlyn 2004