By Nick Wilson
It is a fact universally acknowledged that the Invincibles side were better in nearly every department than the team Arsenal now. We’ve already seen the incredible happen twice – a permanent return for Sol Campbell and latterly a loan move for Jens Lehmann when both were definitely the wrong side of thirty and had left Arsenal long ago. But now, the man who took Arsenal to the top even before the 03/04 season has signed on for a precious two months with the Gunners, two months which will see Arsenal host Manchester United in the league and go to the San Siro in search of Champions League glory against AC Milan. Thierry Henry is once again an Arsenal player. But will he score goals?
The modern Henry is markedly different from the disillusioned but highly talented captain sold to Barcelona in the summer of 2007 – technically, mentally and physically. Henry himself admits that he won’t be able to glide past numerous players anymore and cites Berkgkamp and Giggs as the precedents for how he’ll cope with a loss of pace: by capitalising on his touch, a formula which has failed for other aging Premier League strikers.
This begs the question, what role will he play for Arsenal? Selling shirts and raising the profile of the club is surely high on the agenda with this one because tactically, we could do better in terms of getting strikers in – it makes one wonder what Arsene Wenger saw in Henry that was special enough to take him on loan over European quality forwards.
However, when you think about it, Arsenal as a football club have nothing to lose. Aside from an intial undisclosed insurance payment and a share of his wages, the Reds have brought in cover for Gervinho and Chamakh at no cost, which means it’s no tragedy if Henry doesn’t even leave the bench during this short stint until late February, as he’s said himself. Another way of looking at it is that the gamble element of bringing in a legend on the wane would be diffused by the signing of a younger player on a permanent basis.
In summary, although Henry back at Arsenal has led to criticism and apprehension regarding papering over cracks and moving on from the past, it’s hard to see how this move doesn’t benefit everyone involved. An in form forward in the early part of the season will enable to Red Bulls to keep pace with LA Galaxy who’ve sent Landon Donovan to Everton, Henry himself is back at Arsenal playing at a world class level, the club have additional firepower to go some way to compensating for the loss of Gervinho and Chamakh and perhaps most crucially, the younger players are playing alongside someone who has been there, done it, and won it all. And if this loan move even goes some way to rubbing off some of the new number 12′s magic on Arsenal’s squad, it was a roaring success.