Thierry Henry Wins Emirates Cup with Red Bulls on His Return to Arsenal

Craig HutchinsonContributor IIIJuly 31, 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31:  Thierry Henry of New York Red Bulls lifts the Emirates Cup after the match between Arsenal and New York Red Bulls at the Emirates Stadium on July 31, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The Emirates Cup, in its fifth season of competition, invited its first non-European clubs to enter this year's competition. One of them, the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer, caused an upset by taking home the title.

There was no disguising the fact that the reason for New York's inclusion in the tournament was because of its captain and star player, former Arsenal legend Thierry Henry.

Yet few expected them to put up a challenge, let alone win the competition, especially given their mediocre showing in the MLS season thus far.

Draws have been the specialty of the Red Bulls this season, tying 12 of their 23 league games.

And a draw was all it took against Arsenal to clinch the silverware. The game ended 1-1 in front of 60,000 fans at Emirates Stadium.

A positive showing against Paris Saint-Germain in the first half of Saturday's game and a defensive shutdown second half saw the Red Bulls come away with a 1-0 win thanks to Joel Lindpere's goal.

The Estonian international sat out Sunday's game against Arsenal, with former Barcelona defender and Mexican captain Rafa Marquez replacing him in midfield.

Henry entered the side at the expense of 18-year-old US international Juan Agudelo and was treated to a rapturous applause when he led out his new team against his former.

No one would disagree heading into the game that Arsenal are the stronger side, backed with 125 years of history compared to New York's 16, not to mention a payroll that dwarfs the salary cap-enforced Red Bulls roster.

To help combat this, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe sent out his team in a defensive 4-1-4-1 formation to help pressure the Arsenal midfield and then hit on the break using the speed of Henry and Dane Richards.

The tactic resulted in a game that was frankly quite dull, with the Red Bulls battling and harassing every pass, yet unable to put together and meaningful minutes of possession themselves. So it was little surprise when Arsenal took the lead in the 42nd minute with a goal from their captain, Robin Van Persie.

It was also not a surprise that the goal came from a set piece, which has been a source of major issue for the Red Bulls all season.

Another consistent problem for New york this season has been their goalkeeping.

Fingers can be pointed at the recently signed goalkeeper Frank Rost for his indecision of whether to come for the cross that resulted in the goal, but several key saves made by the German kept New York in the game.

Another recent new comer to the team, Dax McCarty, has been desperate to prove himself in his new home. He was acquired via trade a month ago and was told he was being given only a handful of games to prove himself, otherwise New York would be looking to replace him with another European signing.

On this occasion, McCarty failed to show what he can do with a ball at his feet as New York struggled to maintain possession, yet his was a constant nuisance to the Arsenal midfield and provided strong defensive help all afternoon.

In the end, it was two players that joined the Red Bulls last season that combined for the equalizing goal.

It was no surprise that Henry was involved, providing a defense-splitting pass to full back Roy Miller, whose cross was turned in at the front post by Arsenal defender Kyle Bartley.

In the end, a disappointing curtain raiser for Arsenal who finish the tournament third and fail to win it for only the second time since its inception. Yet the fans were able to enjoy seeing their former maestro in the flesh again, albeit, in different colors.

For the Red Bulls, a lot of controversy was made of their decision to enter a tournament in another continent midway through the season.

Yet they emerge injury free and as champions.

Maybe this trip will help the team jell and inspire confidence for the rest of the season.

As nice as the Emirates Cup is, the MLS Cup should be the only one that matters from here on out.