Thierry Henry's Assessment of Arsenal's Transfer Requirements Is Unduly Negative

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2015

Associated Press

Thierry Henry is universally adored by the Arsenal fans, but supporters may feel somewhat disappointed by his recent assessment of the team.

Although Arsene Wenger’s team has been the form side of 2015, its 0-0 draw with Chelsea prompted Henry to declare Arsenal are four players away from a title challenge. Speaking in his role as a pundit for Sky Sports on the network's Super Sunday program, he said:

Arsenal need to buy four players, they need that spine. They need a goalkeeper, they still need a centre-back, they still need a holding midfielder and, I’m afraid, they need a top, top-quality striker in order to win this league again.

The best example for me today was Chelsea. They struggled last year and they were still competing to win the league. They now have [Thibaut] Courtois, [Nemanja] Matic, Cesc [Fabregas] and Diego Costa.

For me that speaks volumes, and we saw it today. A team didn’t and a team did, and Chelsea are about to win the league.

Henry’s declaration looks to be somewhat sensationalist. Much of the rebuilding work he is suggesting is already in the process of being undertaken.

He talks about the need for a centre-half, but Arsenal have already added Gabriel Paulista to the experienced pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. The early evidence suggests the Brazilian will make for a highly competent Premier League defender. By the time next season rolls around, he will be fully acclimatised and ready to challenge Mertesacker for a regular first-team place.

Then we come to holding midfield. Although the Gunners could do with a new signing here to add some depth, it would take an extraordinarily successful acquisition to find someone more suitable for the role than Francis Coquelin. Since breaking into the side midway through the season, Coquelin has made himself indispensable to Arsenal. In the recent match at Emirates Stadium, Coquelin looked a match for Matic, breaking up Chelsea counter-attacks with a trademark combination of intelligence and aggression.

Tim Ireland/Associated Press

Henry’s criticism of his compatriot Olivier Giroud is perhaps the most surprising part of his analysis. Since returning from a broken leg in November, Giroud has arguably been the outstanding striker in the Premier League. Henry argues that it’s not possible to win the league with a striker of that calibre, but if you swapped him and Diego Costa around, the likelihood is that Chelsea would still emerge as champions.

He’s right about the need for a new goalkeeper. Wojciech Szczesny is unlikely to be content to remain as little more than glorified reserve, while doubts persist over David Ospina’s long-term viability as No. 1. The most obvious gap in quality between Arsenal and their closest rivals is between the sticks. If the Gunners can land someone in the class of David De Gea or Courtois, they will look like a far sturdier proposition.

Arsenal do need to make additions if they are to challenge Chelsea next year. However, Henry’s appraisal is otherwise unduly negative. Arsenal are closer than he thinks, and that much was evident in the match with Chelsea. Since the turn of the year, Wenger’s side has faced both Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Chelsea without suffering defeat. His words sound like those of a pundit looking to make his mark on the broadcast world. In his desire to appear objective, Henry has gone too far.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and is following the club from a London base throughout the 2014-15 season. Follow him on Twitter here.


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