There’s nothing like the combination of an injury crisis and the African Cup of Nations to force your manager’s hand in the January transfer market. Particularly if you’re manager is as prudent, cautious and reluctant to spend money as Arsene Wenger is. That’s why the potential signing of Thierry Henry is an interesting one. Everyone has different expectations of the striker, some more realistic than others, but ultimately we are unlikely to truly know what he is capable of until he steps out into an intense and precariously poised game under the weight of crowd expectation with his former glories hovering around him like a specter.
You can watch all the MLS games you want from his last season, but in all honesty I think we can know how good Thierry will be simply from being so familiar with him. I don’t mean familiar with his footballing talents either, I mean familiar with him as a person. For example: there have been fans worrying about Henry ruining his reputation; I would agree that this crossed my mind too. However I think we can be certain that this crossed the mind of the egocentric and ultra-image-conscious Henry before it did of anyone else. Nobody is more eager to see their reputation maintained than Henry is. He is nothing short of a deity around his old club and there is no way he would want that to change. Therefore if Henry does end up signing for Arsenal, which it seems that he will if he hasn’t already, then we must presume that Henry still believes he has got enough in his locker to still offer something at a level such as the Premier League.
I’ve heard people saying that he’s just doing it for emotional reasons, or he’s just doing it to massage his ego. That’s wrong. To accuse him of that is to underestimate the intelligence and self-awareness of a man who, although being my childhood hero, is, undeniably, extremely shrewd in his vanity.
Everyone concerned understands that he will never be the player he once was, but if Thierry still thinks that he has something left to offer Arsenal then that is good enough for me.
You could also interpret his transfer in different ways when looking at the intentions of Arsene Wenger. There are two possible theories. The first one, which all Arsenal fans will be hoping is true, is that clearly the Arsenal negotiating team’s style is more of a war of attrition than anything else; meaning they intend to sign another striker but because they tend to take so long they might need the whole of January. If this was the case then clearly the singing of Henry, whilst useful, would mainly be a backup plan for January whilst the board attempts to sign another player. However the other scenario, which is far more likely, is that whilst the Arsenal board may be looking at other targets they are perfectly happy to sign no further players. It may be the case that Henry really is just the backup whilst Gervinho and Chamakh head to the African Cup of Nations. This is slightly more worrying considering that Arsenal’s problems up front will exist not over this two-month period but over the whole rest of the season. If Chamakh and Park are not good enough to come on for van Persie in a game now, why would they be in three months time?
The signing of a 34-year-old striker who has been out of top-level football for two years is also a damning indictment of our South Korean striker Park Chu Young. People talk about Park’s adaptation period but frankly who has ever heard of an adaptation period that involves playing three or four times in half a season. How can he adapt without playing? Per Mertesacker is having an adaptation period; Park is having a period of barely being good enough to make the bench. And as if we couldn’t tell that from his lack of game time, the arrival of Henry, who is presumed to be ahead of Park in the pecking order, has confirmed any doubts that fans may have had about the South Korean captain.
As exciting and nostalgic as the return of Thierry Henry may be, and for all the experience and aid he will bring to a team in need of a boost fans should be wary of not only what his signing may mean in terms of further January transfers but also in terms of how good our reserve strikers are. They should be in their physical peak, both being aged between 26-28, but both Park and Chamakh are deemed to be worse than a player in the final years of his career. And that is a worrying thought.
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