Thierry Henry’s first goal in his second stint with Arsenal last January gave the supporters a momentary escape from the dark spell of last season. The goal against Leeds in the FA Cup was typically Henry and served as a reminder of his exceptional quality in front of goal. It was everything Arsenal had been missing for so long, and even the form of Robin van Persie could not take away from how special the moment was.
There have been suggestions that should Arsene Wenger decide the bring Henry back to the club for a third spell, the supporters would be in for something of a Christmas treat. If that is the case, then this club have reaffirmed their dramatic fall from grace.
Yes, it would be nice to have a legend such as Henry back at the club in any capacity. But the workings of Arsenal have become extremely predictable over recent years; everyone can tell that Henry is just a stopgap, a temporary papering over the cracks, and a player whose status among Arsenal fans should help to distract from the lack of transfer activity beyond the former club captain.
Arsenal don’t need a 35-year-old striker, and if a reliance on veterans was the preferred route to go down, why has Wenger thrown away his experienced players in the past with his persistence on offering them nothing more than a one-year contract extension?
The squad need depth all over the pitch, and with a reported £70 million sitting in the Emirates vaults, it would be another slap in the face if a two-month loan deal for Henry is the club’s only January business.
The weekend trip to Aston Villa gave further insight into the mind of Wenger and his opinion of Marouane Chamakh: not even his two goal performance in the League Cup against Reading could earn him a place on the bench for subsequent games. That’s two back-to-back Premier League games that Arsenal have had no recognised striker on the bench. Chamakh is fit and available, but Wenger has long given up on the player he had once chased for over a year.
Such has been Chamakh’s downfall and Gervinho’s lack of quality, the presence of Henry would certainly be an upgrade. But even with his notably excellent performances in the MLS, it does nothing to help the club beyond his designated loan period.
We’ve already seen how strong other teams are this season, and those challenging for a top four spot have looked far more consistent and threatening than Arsenal have up until this point. Last season there was a sense that van Persie would stay fit and guide the team to a top four place regardless of anyone else. It was a huge gamble, but evidently the club have not learnt. It was fortunate that the Dutchman remained healthy for the one season the club desperately needed him, but even when there was a shortage of full-backs, Wenger opted not to dip into the transfer market.
It seems as though the club are playing a game of challenging themselves to get as close to the fire without getting burnt or leaving any prominent scars. The team have been desperately out of form this season, unable to build on any uplifting and morale boosting games and curling back into their shell for the following fixture.
There’s no denying that Henry will give the club a lift, but it’s not enough. The rest of the squad need to know that they are receiving genuine support for the long haul. The midfield needs an injection of further quality, and there shouldn’t be an over reliance on Olivier Giroud in his first season in English football.
If the club are looking to bring Henry back for another go then fine, but it must be in the form of a cavalry and not just a lone rider emerging from the distance. Arsenal need much, much more than just a veteran who has more or less retired from the European game.