Thierry Henry has admitted he wants to return to Arsenal for a third stint in North London but he doesn’t yet know in what capacity manager Arsene Wenger will need his services. As the the club’s record goal scorer the French striker is adored by the Gunners faithful and he has openly admitted his love for the side but the reality is his career has ebbed into its twilight years and he no longer provides the same impact that once terrorized Premier League defences.
While his pace and prolific goal scoring may be a thing of past, his knowledge and experience was most welcome during a brief loan spell last season and despite being nearly 35, he still knows where the back of the net is. Given his desire to return to the club he holds most dear, should Arsenal accept that his presence offers guidance to their young stars and attempt to accommodate him in any way possible or does part three of his Arsenal story make for an unneeded trilogy after such a romantic sequel?
After all Henry’s homecoming was so emotional that it would be extremely difficult to repeat such dramatic heroics. His initial spell where he scored 226 goals in 369 appearances in all competitions was so impressive that many felt he would struggle to live to expectation last season but in typical Henry fashion he wrote his own headlines and scored winning goals against Leeds United and Sunderland to reiterate his place in Arsenal hearts. Sentimental supporters would love a repeat performance but the likelihood is he would only play a bit part role to compliment the current first team and expectant fans would anticipate him turning games around every time he comes off the bench. While the current New York Red Bulls forward has never shirked away from a challenge he will naturally find it increasingly difficult to influence games in the same way and it would be a shame if a man whose statue is pride of place outside the Emirates Stadium tarnished his glowing reputation with an underwhelming swansong.
Despite some guarded pessimism there is actually some evidence to suggest his return could be worthwhile for the club, especially if it’s in a coaching capacity. Arsenal’s development team has a family like structure and many former players have earned their coaching badges so under Wenger’s tutelage, Henry could impart some of his wisdom onto the younger players. It’s a trick the club missed when they failed to resign Patrick Vieira before their once tough tackling talisman joined Manchester City. The French midfielder had been training with the side after being released by Inter Milan but Wenger’s insistence on youth meant he favoured the progression of Alex Song and chose not to pursue his former captain. It seemed a sensible decision at the time but Vieira’s influence at City was vitally important as he offered experience to their newly formed squad of stars. Such was his importance to the team that upon retiring he became their Football Development Executive and as such successfully transitioned himself from player to coach with relative ease. If Henry can follow Vieira’s example then he could play an important role in the club’s future and could even be a player/coach for year or two while learning a new trade.
Arsenal’s failure to ensure they kept some old heads to channel their youngsters has left them trophyless with a generation of players looking for guidance but with no one to look up to. Their mentality is admirable and their football philosophy is at times breathtaking but fans have grown weary with top players seeking pastures new and the club never truly realising it’s potential so they must attempt to strike a better balance between youth and experience. Henry’s va va voom confidence has made him the player he is today but it remains to be seen if his character is suitable for a coaching role where mature individuals are supposed to discipline and mould often wayward and erratic talents. The club certainly need experienced players to help the next generation but a reliance on Henry may not be the best the decision given his more showman like approach to the game and if he is to find a place at Arsenal for the foreseeable future then his celebrity lifestyle must be curbed and the responsibilities he learned as club captain must take a more prominent role.
As a general rule the ex-professionals that succeed in management tend to have progressed from a more defensive role during their playing days. This is related more to their mentality than their technical ability as it’s understandable the more level headed workmanlike players have a better grasp of the team ethics required than their more attack minded team mates. Of course there are examples of attacking players making a name for themselves as coaches and if Henry can harness a mature tactical understanding then he could easily follow in the footsteps of Jurgen Klinsmann and Marco van Basten.
Such career strides are still a long way off and the last thing Arsenal need is for Henry to tarnish his reputation with an under par spell before accepting he’s not cut out for coaching. It’s a risky decision that will boil down to how the Frenchman adapts to a new role but if he does return his position will likely be tailored toward an eventual coaching role. If he provides another impactful spell before giving something back to the next crop of talent then he can further imprint himself into the history of his beloved club while helping Arsene Wenger take the team forward.
Should Henry return to Arsenal once more? Can the striker be a successful coach or will his reputation be affected?
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