Return of the King
With the creative talent that Arsenal’s midfield has at its disposal, it’s really sad to know that the team's second-string attack isn’t up to scratch.
The attacking triumvirate of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott has a good goalscoring return of 24 goals, but when Arsene Wenger fielded their deputies against Olympiakos, they were pretty much peripheral figures.
...Chamakh and Gervinho were dismal: save the assist to Rosicky, Gervinho was his usual annoying self. A simple pass would have been great in many situations but he just dilly-dallies and dribbles to a brick wall. Chamakh was worse. Nothing went right for the Moroccan. He is a goner.
...Chamberlain isn’t living up to expectation: he might be 19 but arsenal isn’t a youth championship side. He has been below par this season and I didn’t notice him on Tuesday night. Is he being overhyped or are we being impatient? Ramsey and Coquelin are in the same ship.
You could say that the writer was being harsh on Gervinho, Chamakh and the Ox, judging from the fact that the latter two on the aforementioned list haven’t had much playing time this season. But the lack of attacking cohesion showed in Greece was a cause for concern, as injuries have paved the way for these wingers with below-par performances all season long to strut their stuff yet again.
I really hope that they’ll give that writer a chance to swallow his words when Arsenal hosts West Brom, but we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed on that front. Mike Jones has been appointed as the referee for the contest and we can only hope that the Gunners will come out with all guns blazing this time.
With Arsenal failing to get a center forward that was good enough to fill up van Persie’s big shoes (no disrespect to Giroud), many believe that Arsene Wenger has to delve into the transfer market this winter to get a clinical center forward who would bang in the goals and could propel the Gunners further up the table.
For a striker coming from another footballing culture, Giroud has done well, but he has no able deputy at this point in time. Any injury suffered by the forward would make Arsenal fans press the panic button so hard it would spring from its remote control. Nowadays, Arsenal has been reduced to using Gervinho as a center forward, and we all know how that has panned out.
There must be a reason why Gervinho never seems to look up when he’s with the ball in the final third.
Arsenal will have to make do with Giroud, Gervinho, Chamakh, the Ox and the injured attacking duo (Walcott and Podolski) 'til the January transfer window.
The media vultures have wasted no time in linking Arsenal to several forwards in the football galaxy. The Mirror reports that the Gunners are lining up bids for Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Wilfred Zaha, the Sun reports that Arsenal is set to trigger Demba Ba’s £7.5m buyout clause and the Telegraph reports that the Gunners have Fernando Llorente on their radar.
Articles like this are usually taken with a pinch of salt, but when Goal.com, Football.co.uk, Just Arsenal News, Soccer Without Limits and many more columns out tell you that King Thierry Henry is coming back to Arsenal for a third spell, a few thoughts have to go through your mind.
Last Christmas, I wrote an article giving 5 reasons why Henry shouldn't be re-signed by Arsenal. As expected, the article brought mixed emotions; some Gunners shared the same sentiment with me, while others felt that I was wrong to judge the King.
With Gervinho and Chamakh out in the shores of Africa of the AFCON, Henry had a fairytale debut with a trademark finish against Leeds United. After playing seven games with the Gunners, he signed out of the Premier League in grand style with a 93rd minute match-clincher against Sunderland.
His final game didn't go down well, as the Gunners were humiliated in that 4-0 defeat to AC Milan, and it's fair to say that the Gunners went to Milan "4 nothing." A 3-0 resounding victory in the second leg wasn't enough, as the Gunners crashed out of the Champions League.
Henry solidified his legendary status with the team and Wenger had expressed his desire for the King to stay a bit longer, but the French star had other commitments with his parent club, New York Red Bulls.
One year on, Arsenal is in a similar situation, with Henry’s return imminent. Last time out, I had expressed my concerns about his age, lack of pace, being past his prime, tainting his legacy and ultimately, the fact that there are better players out there.
Whether or not he is past his prime doesn't matter right about now. His stats for the Red Bulls this concluded MLS season shows that he can still be an effective player. With Arsenal's excess reserves of creativity, Henry can still hit the back of the net, provided he receives the right pass.
Henry is actually 35 years young and he hasn't stopped playing the beautiful game, which means that his fitness levels are optimal, and of course, that his experience levels are at an elevated level. His pace can't be compared to what it used to be, but he's no snail.
Nothing can change the fact that he is a legend. It probably makes sense that he plays and scores a few more...and cap off his legendary status. It's also another opportunity to add to his tally of goals for the Gunners.
He still leads Arsenal's goalscoring charts with 228 goals. At the devastating scoring pace Robin van Persie was going, he was odds-on to surpass Henry's record in a couple of seasons—but the little boy inside him made him pantomime villain, as he chose to play for Arsenal's eternal rivals, Manchester United.
This time around, I’m 100 percent behind the King returning to the Emirates yet again, but he should focus on being an inspiration off the pitch—and if afforded a chance—on the pitch. At the age of 35, Henry has seen it all: Premier League titles, FA Cups, La Liga titles, Champions League, you name it.
In this current crop of Arsenal players, no one—I mean, no one—knows what it feels like to stand on a podium celebrating a trophy. Winning your first trophy is like smoking a cigarette for the first time, for some strange reason, you’ll be compelled to take another cigarette…and another, 'til you get to the point where you’ll quit smoking years later.
Funnily enough, some never quit 'til they die.
Translating it back to football, Sir Alex Ferguson is a manager that has won many trophies with this Manchester United side and he had every reason to retire graciously after surpassing Liverpool’s long-standing record of 18 League titles. Despite winning 12 League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, 10 Community Shields, two Champions Leagues, one Cup Winners Cup, one UEFA Super Cup and one Club World Cup, he has not rested on his laurels and his team are currently topping the table, despite having a jersey that looks like a table cloth.
I think Henry would improve his legacy in one aspect. He was a renowned big-head in the changing room. If he goes back and does something selfless, like educating young stars and playing second fiddle, he will be a legend for more than his playing ability. Having a living legend like Henry around will be a positive influence to the lads, because they could do with a lift right about now.
When Olivier Giroud heard about the rumors linking Henry with a possible return, he was overjoyed. When he joined Arsenal this summer, he wasted no time in choosing the No. 12 jersey, and I have a hunch that the decision was influenced by the fact that it was a jersey recently vacated by Henry.
Giroud's deputy striker, Marouane Chamakh has lost the plot at the Emirates, and a move away from North London will be for the good of the player and the club. I'll take Monsieur Henry over Chamakh at the moment and signing him on short term is not a bad idea.
He knows where the net is, and his versatility allows him to be deployed as a center forward or left winger, which is a nice option to have.
Henry has done pretty well to maintain good fitness levels as well as his amazing goalscoring form in the MLS. In the concluded 2012 season, Henry scored 15 goals (including a corner kick) and supplied 12 assists in 25 games. His team finished in fourth place, though.
I don't know about you, but I’ll welcome Henry back to Arsenal in open arms.