Henry the Second
Bernard Dowling on the return of a legend
On January 6, 2012 Thierry Henry rejoined Arsenal on a six-week loan with an option to extend his stay to February 26, which would cover the home Premier League game against Tottenham that very day. If that extension is employed, at the time of writing (after the win versus Leeds) we know he will be around for at least nine matches (should Aston Villa knock us out the FA Cup at the Emirates) and as many as eleven (should we reach the fifth round after beating Villa in a fourth round replay). So it isn’t a particularly long loan spell, but somewhere around ten games represents a relatively significant proportion of the season. For this reason I feel it’s important to look at the possible pros and cons of the signing, and that’s the primary focus of this article.
The first thing to consider is the player we are getting in Henry at his age. Quite simply, at his peak
6 onlinegooner.com he was unquestionably the greatest Arsenal player I have ever seen, and I’ve been attending matches for nearly 45 years. I thus didn’t see the likes of Alex James and Cliff Bastin, and my dad always used to tell James was the best Arsenal player he ever saw until Liam Brady got in the team during the 1970s. But I watched the majority of Brady’s games for the club, and if he was the equal of Arsenal’s best player from the 1930s (in my dad’s view anyway), then however good Brady was (and he was a genius), in my opinion Henry was even better. So I’m comfortable in claiming that Henry is Arsenal’s greatest player of all time and I would even say that anyone who considers someone else to be, including superb players like Dennis Bergkamp, are either mistaken or otherwise their judgment is influenced too heavily by who their favourite player is.
Henry is 34 now so clearly isn’t going to have the pace that he once had, when he was astonishingly fast and probably ranks alongside Walcott as one of the two quickest players I’ve seen at Arsenal (although to be fair to him Nicolas Anelka was also very speedy). Yet the difference is that Thierry was never just about pace. If you took Theo’s pace away I reckon you’d be justified in asking what else is there. In short, if Walcott wasn’t as quick as he is, I’m not convinced he has the general quality in the rest of his game to play for a club at the top level. So I wonder if it’s possible that Theo without pace would be at a middle range club. However, take Henry’s pace away and you are still left with wonderful ball control, the football intelligence to see openings in opposition defences, the passing talent to deliver the ball accurately in order to take advantage of those opportunities, physical presence and strength, plus deadly finishing ability (the goal against Leeds conclusively proved that). Henry also has enough about him to play a central role if Wenger wants to rest Robin van Persie for the odd game here and there, or worse still if Robin gets injured, as well as playing in a wider role.
likely to be away longer than Chamakh who, despite a decent enough start at the beginning of last season, looks to me like he’s at the wrong club for a player of his style. I suspect it could be to his own and Arsenal’s benefit if Chamakh left for pastures new this summer. Moving on to Andrey Arshavin, taking into account his lack of effort on the pitch these days (albeit the Leeds game was a welcome exception) he gives me the firm impression that he doesn’t want to be at the club and therefore isn’t really interested in playing for Arsenal anymore. So to say the least, it appears to me that currently Arshavin isn’t doing much to stop us being a bit short up-front.
Furthermore, there is Ju Young Park, our South Korean signing last summer. He got a fine goal against Bolton in the Carling Cup, but hasn’t done anything else particularly noteworthy in his relatively few and far between cup games. But I’d say the most relevant observation one can make about Park is that Arsène Wenger has not given him a single second on the pitch in the Premier League, and the league campaign is now over half way through. I’ve no idea what Wenger’s reasons have been for that, but there are a various possibilities. For example, after seeing Park in training on a day-to-day basis, in addition
Another point worth mentioning is that we’ve lost Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh to the 2012 African Cup of Nations. While Chamakh played against Leeds, Gervinho went earlier and neither shall return until their respective teams – Ivory Coast and Morocco – are knocked out. Moreover Gervinho’s team, Ivory Coast, are one of the favourites to win the thing. So not only would most supporters surely consider him the more serious loss, he’s also highly onlinegooner.com 7