Thierry Henry: How Much Can Arsenal Fans Expect as Their Hero Returns?
Thierry Henry's loan move from the New York Red Bulls to Arsenal just requires dotting the i's and crossing the t's in the insurance paperwork and Arsenal fans are savoring the thought of seeing the club legend suit up in a Gunners uniform again.
But what exactly can Thierry contribute to the team now?
Fans remembering the glory days where Henry regularly terrorized Premier League defenses should bare in mind that he is now 34 year old and not the 30 year old that left the club in the peak of his powers in 2007.
I've had the pleasure of closely following Thierry since his transfer from Barcelona to New York, seeing him in training, games and interviewing him numerous times so am at a greater vantage point than most as to where Henry is as a player at this stage of his career.
As Arsene Wenger has already stated, Henry is still a couple of weeks away from match fitness as he makes his way back from the MLS off season. Even then, Thierry must once again get used to the fast pace game of the Premier League, compared to the slower and more patient game normally seen in Major League Soccer.
Henry may not still possess the same effortless and deceptive speed he had in his peak, but his acceleration still packs a punch and his ability to receive the ball in a standing position and burst into space around a defender has been seen many times in the last year.
There is a somewhat miss-skewed opinion in Europe that MLS is a poor technical league where once-great players go to retire.
Sure, Major League Soccer (a league that is just 17 years old) is no-where near the level of the Premier League yet, people who have not seen a game would be surprised with the level of technical play.
It's not like Thierry is surrounded by scrubs at New York. Alongside him is Mexican captain Rafa Marquez, US internationals Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream (the latter of the two may be joining Bolton is January for $2 Million if you believe the Daily Mail reports), Estonian international Joel Lindpere (who has attracted attention from the EPL) as well as former Premier League players Teemu Tanio and Carl Robinson.
Therefor, the transition from training with New York and training with Arsenal will not be as huge a jump in quality as many people think, and Thierry has constantly shown in training that the magic, creativity and skill he has possessed his career is still there.
From a technical standpoint, there should be no worries from what Henry can provide, the biggest challenge will be whether he can physically cope with the speed of the game again (particularly after a few hamstring niggles over the last season) and get onto the same page as his team mates in a short period of time.
Time will tell if this is easily done.
It is likely that Thierry will change his game slightly to adjust to the pace of the game. Rather than be the forward who would run at players and get in behind them, he will likely take up the type of role that Dennis Bergkamp occupied during his time there. Playing behind the primary forward and being more of a creative player.
One thing Thierry will certainly bring to the club in abundance is his intangibles; leadership, professionalism and dedication, to not only improving his own game, but of those around him.
Just having Henry back on the training field and in the changing rooms will add a glare of confidence around the Gunners, as if they are complete again.
It will also be a tremendous opportunity for Arsenal's young players to learn from a legend. He showed in New York, following a two hour training session at the clubs training facilities at Montclair State University, he would often stay behind with young Red Bulls, in particularly 18 year old Juan Agudelo who in now a regular in the US squad, to help develop their techniques and give insight into the finer points of the game.
If anything is certain about Henry from the times I have spoken to him, it is his love for Arsenal Football Club. He see's the club as his home and would be delighted to work for the club again when he finally hangs up his boots.
He is not returning for a swansong, or a novelty appearance (like when it was arranged to play the final 10 minutes for Arsenal when they played the Red Bulls in the Emirates Cup last summer, only to have the plan denied by the referees).
Henry is a winner.
He is returning to the club to help Arsenal win and gather as many points at they can during the time he is there.
As we have seen from Thierry many times before. He can never be counted out and he seemingly has the ability to will the ball into the net when needed.
Arsenal will need some of that old magic and something to turn their sole goalscoring threat away from Robin Van Persie.
Henry may not be able to do it week in and week out for Arsenal like he once did, but in my opinion of following over the last year and a half, there is still enough left in those boots to write a few magical headlines in his time back.
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