Monday, 25 June 2007
Thierry Henri comes of age at Arsenal
For the football fanatics especially English Premier League, well the weekend was a depressing one with the news of one of the most iconic players to grace the League in recent times.
He who was the highest scorer with 226 goals for the club that plays with flair and floss,he who was the club's talisman and inspiration in times of trouble, he who led the team to its first UEFA Champions League Final and even managed to lead his country to a second World Cup Final in less than 10 years.
Yes as I type this allow me to introduce Thierry Henri-latest addition to Barcelona from Arsenal for a fee of 16.1 million British Pounds.
Well some of you might say that you never saw this coming but I could smell this right from last year after the Final of the Champions League where Arsenal lost to none other than Barca-the team which he now joins.
After the Final, he was signed a 4-year deal with Arsenal and asked why, he replied to the something of the effect that he had considered the move but given the resolve and the commitment that the team showed during the campaign and the Final itself. What balderdash ! But if you looked carefully just before the Cup presentation, there was a snap of Henri and Wenger and that image spoke volumes.
After a disappointing summer, Henri looked forward to challenging for the Premiership as well as Champions League having been close enough in the previous campaign. But the slow start and loss of points in the first few matches cost the team the title. Even with decisive wins over Man U and draws with Chelsea, it was not enough to see Arsenal to the top position. The European campaign was even worse with the team being dumped in the knock-out round by PSV Eindhoven. Henri played his last game of the campaign in the 1-0 loss to PSV. This was to be the last game he ever played for Arsenal.Though it may sound defeatist, it was time that Thierry left the team.
Throughout the season, he looked out of focus and was even losing balls that he didn't do in earlier times. He would walk the field like he's above reproach and even wore the captain's arm-band which I think Gilberto Silva rightly deserves.
OK, away from Henri, looking at Arsenal, the team seemed to perform better with Henri not starting. But at other times they just couldn't raise the game to the level that they play at. The passing game yes! Nifty touches, no doubt ! But goals , nada !
This in the end hurt the team badly. The strike force of Adebayor, Baptista,Walcott,Van Persie(got injured mid-way into the season) and Aliadere just couldn't find the net. To make matters worse, the midfield marshals of Rosicky, Fabregas and Silva also seemed to be on a goal drought for the second half of the Premier season.
The drama worsened with the close of the season. David Dein, the influential Vice-chairman quit abruptly after disagreeing with the board about the intended take-over by US billionaire Stan Kroenke.
Gotta go !It was nice playing here.Funny enough Henri stated one of the reasons of him quitting the Gunners was because of the departure of the vice-chair. Now that's something, brother.
So what portends for Arsenal's future;
1. The departure of Thierry Henri has left the strike force blossoming and it can only get better. With the return of Van Persie and the liberation of Adebayor, as well as maturing of Walcott,the goals should start coming.
2.The midfield supremo, Francesco Fabregas will hold the key to Arsenal's success. This kid played his heart out in the last campaign and if he doesn't get distracted he will be the best mid-fielder for Arsenal since Vieira.
3. With more money at the purse, Arsene Wenger may need to consider beefing up the mid-field and also adding one more striker with a wealth of experience. Rumour has it, Anelka or Eto'o.
4.With Henri gone, Gilberto Silva should cement his place as captain of the team. I would propose Fabregas as 2nd option, with Toure and Gallas being 3rd options.
5.Knowing Arsene Wenger,I don't think he would have let go of such an important player, there will be a surprise or two signing for the team. I can't speculate but keep it here for developments.And for all you soothsayers, Wenger is NOT leaving Arsenal this season.
6.The team is young and talented and showed much promise last season, it's time the team made the promise real and take the English League and even the Champions League title which has eluded them for so long.
7. If and when the Board agrees to meet Stan Kroenke,they will have to concede to a return of David Dein maybe in a more influential and powerful role. That way, they might secure more funds and resources, secure a fan base and income source in the US of A, and who knows Arsene Wenger's long-term commitment and signature
The time is now !
Henri acknowledges cheers from 30000-odd fans of Barcelona.Well as for Thierry Henri, thank you for the moments and memories while they lasted. Let's hope to see more in the Spanish League but know that Arsenal will always be your first home.
Au revoir !