Arsenal FC: A Fan's Perspective on the Signing of Thierry Henry
Speaking as a devout Arsenal fan, I was delighted to hear that Arsenal Football Club had signed former Arsenal Striker Thierry Henry. His value to me lies in the fact that Henry is a club legend, symbolic of the new face of the club and Arsene Wenger's style of football.
He is also considered by many to be Arsenal's greatest ever player.
Let me start with a description of Henry as a player. Henry was a mercurial, speedy, skilful striker. He came to Arsenal from Juventus in 1999, famously suffering a bad patch at the Italian club. Arsene Wenger knew the then-young winger from their time together at Monaco in France.
After a shaky start, Arsene Wenger converted him to a striker and he established himself as the key player at Arsenal, taking the spot as Dutch playmaker Bergkamp declined. He was at the centre of the double win in 2002 and was a key figure in their Invincible season in 2004.
Henry was known at Arsenal for his versatile skill set. Due to his primary football education as a winger, and his re-education as a striker, Henry never really played as an out-and-out central striker, drifting to the left most of the time in a 4-4-2. In retrospect, this probably combined all his strengths, allowing him to run at the defence while not having to take on the crossing duties of a winger, and also he did not have to shoulder the hold-up play duties and rigidity of an out-and-out striker.
Henry reached godlike status with Arsenal fans not least for his talent and goals against key rivals, but also for his ability to just humiliate opposition defenders. See his trick against Liverpool—he turns Jamie Carragher three times, making him fall over in the process. He just sidestepped past several Tottenham defenders to score one of the greatest Arsenal goals of all time.
Last of all, Henry is symbolic of so much more.
He heralds the completeness of the transition to a more cosmopolitan, influential and global era of Arsenal football club, qualities he epitomises in himself. His suaveness on and off the pitch is reflected in the ethos of Arsenal since (and during) his tenure .
However, on the implications for him signing for Arsenal today, my feelings are mixed to say the least. I hark back to the great Thierry of old and I fear for his legacy. On one side, I fear for his validity as anything but an impact substitute, as he must have lost his lethal pace and some of his skill with age—losses which might not render him able to compete in the intensity of the Premier League today.
On the other hand, it is Thierry Henry. He could be the badly needed pickup to a tired and stretched squad. The King might still perform his greatest miracle.
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