It was an ending you wouldn’t even write about as Thierry Henry made a dream come-back to the Emirates by scoring a typical Henry goal which turned out to be the winner for Arsenal. Granted Arsenal should have perhaps scored more in this tie, but nevertheless it was what every Arsenal fan would have wanted to see in Henry’s highly anticipated return.
While a great victory there are still aspects of the match that need to be analysed and in terms of offence today was the opportunity for struggling players Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh to finally prove their worth. While I felt Arshavin had a solid match, although it did lack the finishing touch, Chamakh has surely put the last nail in his own coffin with another disappointing performance I am afraid to say.
Looking at the positives on attack though was a great performance by young Englishman Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The promising up-and-comer was very lively throughout the 68 minutes he played working the Leeds goalkeeper with a couple long-range efforts and having significant input in many of Arsenal attacks. Hopefully he will feature in more of Arsenal’s league games in 2012.
On a more serious and negative note now is the injury sustained by Francis Coquelin in what seems like a curse to our full-backs. The young Frenchman was substituted for Yennaris in the 33rd minute after sustaining a hamstring injury and is likely to be out for a few weeks which is sure to cause more of a headache for manager Arsene Wenger in the coming weeks.
We now look forward to the upcoming match against 13th placed Swansea who have goalkeeper Michel Vorm in the form of his life. But for now it is time to enjoy a memorable victory where legend Thierry Henry added to his tally of 226 goals for Arsenal with a fairytale match-winner and a fairytale return to the Emirates!
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on what he said to Henry before he went on…
I just told him where he plays, because he can play on the flanks or through the middle. I told him to play through the middle. He did not know who was coming off. For the rest, you don’t need to tell him too much. He has seen it all and done it all. You could see when he came on he had a presence on the pitch and if we could find him, he would be dangerous. He was sharp physically. He was already a legend here and now has added a bit more to the story.
on whether he was surprised by Henry…
No, because already in training I have seen that he was sharp and ready to play. I would not put him on the pitch with what he has done here if he was not ready because that would be unfair. He is a special player. What is good for the young players at the club is that a guy who has done it all comes and prepares 100 per cent, warms up, is focused and motivated, and comes on with an immense desire to do well.
on how he rose to the occasion…
Still you feel he has some pressure. Thierry is a proud guy, he does not want to disappoint people. He knows he will be compared to what he has done before. That is what champions are about. They always say ‘I have no pressure’, but they want to be seen as people who do well. It is a kind of a comeback and you know you want that to be a success as a player.
on a happy dressing room…
It was very happy, the players were very happy when he decided to come back. He gives you other options offensively as well.
on Scholes and Henry returning…
It looks like the best transfer market is to get your best old players back.
on letting Henry leave in 2007…
You can accuse me of many things, but not that I kicked Thierry Henry out, because he wanted to go. I explained that many times. I was always happy to get him back. Thierry is a guy who is very focussed, intelligent and very planned. In his head, it was always Barcelona, then the States. That is what he did.
on a ‘dreamlike’ goal…
Yes, it was a little bit of a dream, because it was a story about football you would tell some young children. Unfortunately it is not often like that in our game, but sometimes it happens.
on whether he’s seen a more ‘magical’ goal…
When he got in that position I thought ‘oh, that’s your angle’ but it was a bit too close. That’s where he surprised me. He still didn’t force the shot, he still made it look easy, where I would have expected him to take a very strong inside shot. He made it just look easy. At the start I thought he was too much on the left but he had that special finishing that he has shown tonight. That was the Thierry Henry finishing.
on playing Henry with Van Persie…
I haven’t decided yet. Robin will be back against Swansea. Will Thierry start or not? I don’t know yet. He can play behind or in front of Robin or on the flank, Robin can play on the flank too, but I don’t know yet what I will do. They can play together, of course, and they did play together.
on the rest of Henry’s performance…
He did well. Straight away through his runs he made them [Leeds] drop a little bit deeper. Once he was caught offside, once the centre back intercepted the ball, but he has a kind of presence. His movement gives defenders a problem. After 10 minutes on the pitch he knows where to go.
on how long Henry will stay…
He has six and a half weeks, and we have not envisaged more. We can go to eight weeks but not longer.
on Francis Coquelin…
He has a hamstring injury and he is out for a few weeks.
on whether he will bring in another defender…
I hope I can get Djourou back for Sunday and if we find a solution we will take it. No, at the moment we are not close [to a deal].
Coquelin Squillaci Koscielny Miquel
Arteta (c) Ramsey
Chamberlain Chamakh Arshavin
Wojciech Szczesny | 6.5: Had little to do in Arsenal’s goal besides making a fine late save from Forsell. Produced a poor clearance when he ran out from goal to meet Yennaris’ misdirected header, but scampered back just in time to save a long-range shot.
Francis Coquelin | 6.0: The Frenchman only played half an hour after pulling up with a hamstring injury. Was replaced by young defender Nicholas Yennaris.
Sebastian Squillaci | 6.0: The Frenchman had a good chance to put Arsenal in the lead, but his header just went wide. Would have done his reputation among Arsenal fans a bit of good if it went in considering he had no pressure in defence.
Laurent Koscielny | 7.0: Continues his fine form with a strong performance. The Frenchman has been our strongest and most reliable defender this season so far.
Ignasi Miquel | 6.5: Looked comfortable at left-back linking well with Arshavin and getting forward when needed. Also did well on defence containing Nunez and Townsend well.
Alexandre Song | 7.0: I like how the Cameroon midfielder is starting to become more involved in attack and it seems to be paying dividends with yet another assist to add to his tally.
Mikel Arteta | 6.5: Did his job of maintaining possession and distributing the ball very well, but perhaps should have done better with his weak shot after great build-up play from Chamberlain and Chamakh.
Aaron Ramsey | 6.0: Had some good input on many of Arsenal attacking plays, but at times was erratic with his distribution which was a bit of a damper on his performance.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain | 7.0: Great performance from the Ox who was arguably our best attacking player on the pitch tonight. Terrorised down the flank and was unlucky not to bulge the back of the net. Substituted for Walcott in the 68th minute.
Marouane Chamakh | 5.0: Had okay link-up play, but at times had bad touches with predictable movement. His future at Arsenal is starting to look bleek. Substituted for Henry in the 68th minute.
Andrey Arshavin | 6.5: Probably one of the busiest performances by Arshavin who overall had a very solid performance. While his finishing was quite sub-standard it was good to finally see a good performance from the little Russian.
- Notable Substitutions
Nicholas Yennaris | 6.5: The young Englishman was the latest to try slot in at right-back after yet another injury and did well. Got forward on a number of occasions and did well on defence.
Thierry Henry | 8.0: Who else could it have been to provide the match winner. Great run, great touch and a typical Thierry Henry finish to score the winner.
Theo Walcott | 6.5: Was the quieter of the two attacking substitutes, but was still lively down the wing putting in some good balls.