First of all, let me say a few things about Thierry Henry. I was very excited when I heard Arsenal were about to free the Frenchman from his confines at Juventus. I had followed AS Monaco in Ligue 1 – initially not for Henry, but because of Muhamed Konjić, who was the best Bosnian central defender back then.
Their Champions League campaign was a very exciting one, with players like Henry, David Trezeguet, Victor Ikpeba, Fabien Barthez, Willy Sagnol, Emmanuel Petit, Gilles Grimandi, and others playing attractive attacking football. They even knocked out favourites Manchester United on away goals thanks to Trezeguet’s powerful strike at Old Trafford.
Henry was signed by Juventus in January 1999, but failed to impress on the wing in the lackadaisical Serie A side managed by Carlo Ancelotti. When Henry arrived in North London I was over the moon though, because I knew he would score goals for us (although I never expected him to score 228 times).
Now, Henry is the best Arsenal player ever in my book, someone who is a true legend of the club, and the key reason I didn’t want Arsenal to sign Luis Suarez. As you might have forgotten, Suarez had been suspended for making racist comments, and Henry was racially abused before… (via BBC Sport).
But, with all due respect to his playing career and with everything he did for Arsenal, Thierry Henry is so wrong about today’s Arsenal.
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1.He should understand Mesut Özil more than anyone else
Perhaps Mesut Özil’s numbers aren’t the best in the game – he can certainly improve when it comes to assists and goals against top four teams as Henry has claimed. But imagine Zinedine Zidane or Pele making an analysis of Thierry Henry after the Club World Cup Final in 2009. They might have said something like this: “Look at Thierry Henry. He has played in nine finals during his career and his record in those top tier games is zero. Compare him with Ronaldo. The Brazilian played in six finals and scored five times. It’s no wonder Ronaldo has won the Golden Ball three times while Henry hasn’t won a single one.”
Indeed, here are Henry’s finals:
UEFA Cup 1999-2000 Arsenal-Galatasaray 0:0 (1:4 – on penalties)
EURO 2000 France-Italy 2:1 (AET)
FA Cup 2001 Arsenal-Liverpool 1:2
FA Cup 2002 Arsenal-Chelsea 2:0
FA Cup 2003 Arsenal-Southampton 1:0
Champions’ League 2005-06 Arsenal-Barcelona 1:2
World Cup 2006 France-Italy 1:1 (3:5 – on penalties)
Champions League 2008-09 Barcelona-Manchester United 2:0
Club World Cup Final 2009 Barcelona-Estudiantes 2:1 (AET)
The list of Ronaldo’s finals is shorter but his impact in those matches was huge:
KNVB Cup 1995-96 PSV-Sparta 5:2
Cup Winners’ Cup Final 1996-97 Barcelona-PSG 1:0 (Ronaldo scored a winner)
UEFA Cup 1998 Inter-Lazio 3:0 (Ronaldo sealed the victory with a magnificent goal)
World Cup Final 1998 Brazil-France 0:3
World Cup Final 2002 Brazil-Germany 2:0 (Ronaldo scored both goals)
Intercontinental Cup 2002 Real Madrid-Olimpia 2:0 (Ronaldo scored the opener)
My point is, if you tear statistics out of context, you can get accusing numbers. Pretty much every world class footballer in the world could have been on the wrong end of out-of-context statistics.
For me, if there was a player that should have been named as the best player in the world at least once, it’s Thierry. He propelled Arsenal to two league titles after winning one with Monaco, and then went on to win two more with Barcelona. In contrast, Ronaldo’s clubs won league titles only after he had left them, with the exception of Real Madrid in 2002-03.
The statistics would also say that Özil has won more trophies in his first two seasons with Arsenal (2) than Henry had in his first two seasons (0).
2.We don’t need another world-class goalkeeper to win the league
Even if we agree that David Ospina isn’t a top-drawer goalkeeper, and that we should sign someone like Petr Čech, Iker Casillas, or Gianluigi Buffon, we have to take a look from a logical point of view. Ospina’s impact has been diminished by people arguing that he hasn’t done anything spectacular, he just hasn’t faced many shots.
Now, this school of thought is essentially wrong on two levels. First of all, Ospina has made a number of great, important saves. In my book, he has saved us at least six points so far – he made vital saves against Leicester (Andrej Kramarić), Everton ( Romelu Lukaku) and, especially, Newcastle (Ayoze Perez, Remy Cabella, and Moussa Sissoko) to protect our lead. He hasn’t lost us a single point with some sort of blunder. On the other hand, if Ospina has really been this good just because he hasn’t had too much trouble, doesn’t that mean our defence is so mean that even an average goalkeeper can do the job? Either way, a world-class goalkeeper that would command a substantial fee is not needed next summer. We might need a new goalkeeper to provide cover for Ospina though if Wojciech Szczesny decides to call time on his Arsenal career.
3.We don’t need a(nother) world-class central defender to win the league
Last season our goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny shared The Golden Glove with Petr Čech, as he kept a clean sheet on seventeen occasions. Our defending in the second half of the season drastically improved once Laurent Koscielny recovered, Nacho Monreal earned his natural place at left full-back, and Francis Coquelin turned out to be the best thing since sliced bread.
So, we can defend with the current defensive lot and we have the bodies as well. We have four central defenders – two pacey front-foot defenders and two slower players. Perhaps an additional central defender in the Per Mertesacker-mould wouldn’t be a bad purchase though.
4.We don’t need a(nother) world-class defensive midfielder to win the league
Francis Coquelin has become the best defensive midfielder in the league next to Nemanja Matić. This is the one position where I would like us to spend more though, and sign proper cover for Coquelin. Morgan Schneiderlin is so heavily fantasized among Gooners and ticks all the boxes that I’m starting to believe he won’t sign for Arsenal.
Now, I agree that we need one more defensive midfielder, but not one that would put Coquelin out of the starting line-up. We should be targeting someone who would provide cover for him when he is suspended or, God forbid, injured – Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta just can’t do that anymore.
5.We don’t need a world-class striker to win the league, but perhaps Thierry can help us to get one
Arsenal already have a world-class forward; Alexis Sánchez is one of the best in the game, and Olivier Giroud has scored 16 goals this term – despite being out of action for three months – so it’s not like we lack firepower.
There is a player within our ranks that can become a world-class striker though. Danny Welbeck has scored eight and made a number of great runs that weren’t rewarded with goals. His pace, dribbling, and work-rate suffer due to poor finishing. That’s where Thierry can help. He can join Arsenal as part of the staff (of course, if Arsene Wenger is OK with that) and give Danny a few lessons on how to score. If Arsene Wenger was Mr Miyagi to Thierry Daniel-san Henry, perhaps Thierry can be Mr Miyagi to Daniel-san Welbeck.
Sign him up, Arsene!
6.You can make literally any team in England a title-winning one by adding four world-class players
Henry is not alone in lazy punditry. Gary Neville has also stated that putting John Terry, Nemanja Matić, and Diego Costa into our team, with a world-class goalkeeper like one of Chelsea’s, would win us the league. Now, I understand that those who imagined John Terry wearing an Arsenal shirt had to puke, but the whole concept of adding four world-class players to XY and saying they’ll win the league sounds too lazy for me. Add Čech, Terry, Matić, and Costa to Liverpool and they would win the league. Add Čech, Terry, Matić, and Costa to Southampton and they would run away with the league. Hell, add Čech, Terry, Matić, and Costa to Aston Villa and they would probably – at worst – be in the mix for the title until the latter stages of the season.
Why I call this concept lazy? Because it’s too damn obvious and says absolutely nothing about the strength of the team in question. Neville’s claim – even if it should have been a compliment – said nothing about the current Arsenal team.
Conclusion: I’m not against any top-player who is willing to join Arsenal. If we can get, say, Čech, Raphael Varane, Schneiderlin, and Marco Reus, I would be thrilled. That doesn’t mean that the current Arsenal players don’t deserve more credit and a chance to win the title next year though. Hopefully with Thierry Henry’s support as well!