Anyone who saw Thierry Henry quiver his way through a speech to mark the unveiling of his statue at the Emirates Stadium recently will recognise that he’s a rare breed – a player that means it when he says he loves a club. After 226 goals, five major trophies and countless breathtaking moments, it’s fair to say he’s loved back.
Now though, a situation has arisen that could test how strong Henry’s love is. Arsenal need a striker, Henry’s been training at the club, and there are serious noises being made that a one-month deal throughout January could happen. The really exciting thing for Arsenal fans is that Arsene Wenger has yet to rule it out.
When leaving Arsenal for Barcelona in 2007, Henry spoke in a way that secured his place in the hearts of Gooners and ensured his legendary status wouldn’t be tainted – “Arsenal will always be in my blood, and in my heart. Once you are a Gooner, you are always a Gooner,” – he said in his last interview at the club.
So the love is there, but so is the logic. Medical history tells us the form of Robin van Persie can’t last forever. The oft-crocked Dutchman has been in phenomenal form this season, but Arsene Wenger prefers to protect him with a one-start-a-week rule, and with games piling up over Christmas, a niggling injury looks scarily inevitable.
But will bringing back your greatest ever goalscorer, who at 34-years-old no longer has the pace he once utilised to such shattering effect, just be convenient nostalgia trip? Arsenal’s other options tell you it won’t be. Even if Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho weren’t off to the Africa Cup of Nations in January they wouldn’t be able to provide reliable cover, but they are, so the options stand at:
Park Chu-young – hasn’t even made the bench for the last six games and is yet to play a minute in the league.
Walcott down the middle - Wenger seems reluctant, plus he’s playing well on the wing.
Arshavin as a false nine - the Russian has worse form than Ronnie Biggs.
Recall Carlos Vela/Nicklas Bendtner/Joel Campbell - had enough chances/is s***/is completely unproven.
To have one of the best players in the world of the last decade, who loves the club, who would provide better quality than what we already have and who would be free could not be more perfect.
Plus, for Henry, the pace thing may not even be an issue. Instead of bursting past defenders from the left flank like he once did, his responsibility would be to play more centrally and finish moves off. He’s still a deadly close range finisher, as 14 goals in 26 games in the last MLS season will testify, and would thrive as a poacher, feeding off the service provided by Arteta, Ramsey and Walcott. All Gooners would prefer the ball to fall to Henry in the six yard box if they were given the choice between him and Bendtner, who like I said, is s***.
It’s a known secret that Henry has been keeping fit at Arsenal’s training ground, where reports have been so positive that when asked if he could still cut it in the Premier League, Wenger emphatically replied “yes.” He’s been partial to a resigning in the last two seasons as well, with Sol Campbell and Jens Lehmann both pulling on the red and white for one last swansong to add experience and depth.
Most importantly of all is though, is that Henry, with all his experience and quality, wouldn’t cost a bean. To have one of the best players in the world of the last decade, who loves the club, who would provide better quality than what we already have and who would be free could not be more perfect.
What then is there to lose? Well, Arsenal are playing well at the moment, and what’s not needed is for a new signing to upset the good harmony and spirit that’s been created since the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford. This wouldn’t be the case with Henry though. The club’s interests would be at heart, and he won’t kick up a fuss about not playing or have a pop at a team mate in the media. He’d sit on the bench for four games in January, and if called upon, he’d lead the line with the effort and class he always did.
Who knows, he might even score the winner at home to Man United on January 22. A few more tears may be shed if that does happen. Come on Arsene, make it so.
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