Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has come out publicly to insists the 36-year-old Frenchman will not be signed on a short-term loan this season, as he was last year producing one of those fairy tale moments as he scored the winning goal ten minutes from time in the FA Cup tie with Leeds United at the Emirates.
I was in attendance that January afternoon and it really was a highlight of the season for Arsenal fans who otherwise would have had little to remember fondly, finishing just third above Tottenham to qualify for the Champions League following the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the summer and suffering the horror show that was their 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford.
That moment in the 78th minute of the game against Leeds was bittersweet – it was nostalgia not for Henry himself but for times past when the Gunners were title winners, invincible. Those days were a distant memory that season that, in many ways, was a ruler to measure how far the North Londoners had fallen from grace. This season, however, there is a different vibration around the Emirates.
Arsenal currently sit top of the Premier League, four points clear of Chelsea and Liverpool and have lost just two out of their 12 games played so far. The record signing of Mesut Ozil this summer boosted the entire red side of North London and the form and confidence of the team along with individual improvements by Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, Wojceich Szczesny and their back four have the home fans singing rather than sighing this season.
However, what cannot be overlooked is the fact that Arsenal are over reliant on Giroud as their only senior centre-forward (other than Nicklas Bendtner) and, whilst the return of Theo Walcott from injury gives the boss a little more room to manoeuvre and rotate, it cannot be denied a 36-year-old Henry is better than nothing.
When Henry returned in 2012, it only really served to highlight how limited the Gunners were at that moment in time – if he came back this time around, it would likely be a very different story and a very different atmosphere. It would be to cover for Giroud if and when the Gunners needed to rest him for the last twenty minutes of a game the were already winning and, sentiment aside, that wouldn’t be a bad idea as the games start to come thick and fast.
In reality, Wenger will likely sign a striker in January – whether its on a loan deal or a permanent transfer, the names like Karim Benzema, Fernando Llorente and Edin Dzeko are cause for excitement but that would still mean the Gunners had Giroud plus one other proper centre-forward of quality – Manchester United have four, Manchester City have four, Liverpool have three, Chelsea have three, and Tottenham have three (if you count Emmanuel Adebayor).
Henry is not the kind of signing now, at 36, that would play two games a week for 90 minutes but he is the kind of striker who could, like 39-year-old Ryan Giggs in United’s midfield, can come on in the second half and play a wonder pass or strike a wonder shot – it’s not just the stuff of bygone dreams, an ode to the past, or a rare relic from the days of yore, long since laminated and filed under 'remember when' - it’s the stuff of goals and points which are very much the focus in the present and future. It cannot be denied
Thierry Henry remains one of the finest finishers in the world - he may have lost a yard (or several) of pace and his fitness levels have dropped considerably but there are few footballers on the planet with his technical level compounded by that audacity and inspiration that made him a legend - before Lionel Messi, before Cristiano Ronaldo, before Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez, there was Thierry Henry at Arsenal.
He was the talisman of all talismans - more than Fabregas, more than Van Persie and I'm sure the Gunners would take them back in a heartbeat, even if it was for a month-long loan from the MLS.
image: © wonker