Arsenal: Why Fans Should Be Happy Thierry Henry Won't Be Coming Back in January

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Arsenal: Why Fans Should Be Happy Thierry Henry Won't Be Coming Back in January
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

After Arsenal's draw against Swansea on Sunday, Arsene Wenger was asked about the need for reinforcements during this hectic part of the season. The tight-lipped manager said this:

[Abou] Diaby’s coming back, and if we find one or two on the transfer market then why not.

Let’s first keep the players we have and maybe add one or two. We lost [Marouane] Chamakh and [Johan] Djourou now, so there’s some room.

That seems to be fairly promising. Wenger is infamously frugal, but he is now on the record saying that there is room in the squad for new additions, and he would be open to bringing a couple new faces in.

Watching Arsenal's recent matches, including the Swansea draw last weekend, it is obvious that the Gunners' threadbare squad is in need of bolstering.

After all, the manager rotated his squad very little for the past few matches. Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs, Thomas Vermaelen and Lukas Podolski started all of those matches.

All but Podolski and Vermaelen were in the starting XI against Swasnea.

Yet the team's most glaring area of weakness has been at striker. Theo Walcott started up front against Wigan, Newcastle and Southampton, but only looked lively against the Magpies.

Olivier Giroud got the nod against Swansea with Walcott on the right, but seemed to be marginalized by the Englishman's constant invasion of his space during the first half. Without a clear positional role, he was utterly ineffective.

But that was not the main problem for Arsenal. Wenger did not have a single true striker on the bench he could add in the second half to change the Gunners' formation or simply add a different element to the team.

Swansea, by contrast, had a man named Michu, who happens to be taking the Premier League by storm this season with his goalscoring feats. 

Let's be honest: Theo Walcott isn't a true striker. At least, not in the sense that Giroud is. He might be able to operate as the more direct partner in a 4-4-2 system, but he is not the ideal lone striker in the 4-3-3 that Arsenal play. He simply does not have the height, strength nor technique.

So, with no other option but to stand pat, Wenger added only Lukas Podolski into his mix of forwards, intelligently removing the more conservative Aaron Ramsey.

But then what?

Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Henry had a successful swan song last winter—and that's how it should stay.

Therein lies the reason why Arsenal have been linked with so many strikers during this transfer window and before it even began. And one of the most prominent names to be linked with the Gunners is that of their all-time leading goalscorer and consensus best-ever player: Thierry Henry.

Henry's second spell at the Emirates Stadium last season seems to lend automatic credence to these rumors.

Why wouldn't Arsene Wenger want his majestic presence in the team? It's not often that one can bring in a player so revered and respected that he is cast in bronze inside one's own stadium.

But Henry is immortalized within the Emirates to commemorate his past contributions to the club. And that is firmly where his productive days lie: In those glorious seasons during the early 2000s when Arsenal dominated England.

He is still a talented, eminently classy striker. And we were able to witness that last season, when he produced a few final moments of magic for us to savor before it all ends.

As every career inevitably does, Henry's is drawing to a close. The master is 35 years old now, devoid of his signature pace and a good deal of leg strength.

Meanwhile, Arsenal struggle on, working ever harder to maneuver their way past incisive teams like Swansea.

The Gunners have two essential problems: depth and quality.

Theoretically, Arsene Wenger had extra strikers at his disposal, but he deemed Chamakh so poor that the Moroccan could not make the bench for almost any Premier League game this season.

It's not like this is a new issue: Henry was brought in on loan at this time last year to solve the exact same problem.

He performed his task as well as he was capable of then, before leaving for America right before the start of the new Major League Soccer season.

So here we are today. Henry is a year older, a year slower, a year's more stamina shaved off his legs.

Arsenal need to actually face facts for once. Their squad does not have the depth required of a team that wants to finish in the top four and challenge for trophies every season.

Instead of skirting around the problem by bringing in a 35-year-old man who can only play for a month-and-a-half, Arsene Wenger must use the considerable transfer funds at his disposal to purchase a quality, long-term solution.

The good news is that the first half of this advice seems to have been heeded. Wenger stated definitively after the Southampton match on New Year's Day that Thierry Henry will not be coming back for a third spell.

That shows that Arsenal are not looking to the past and for temporary, band-aid solutions to serious problems.

Now, we actually have to see the club make the more substantial decision: to actually dip into its pocket and solve the massive depth problem at striker.

We still have a few more weeks to see if the second half of that equation is solved.

 

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