Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger poised to offer Thierry Henry two-month loan deal
The prospect of Thierry Henry returning to Arsenal has moved a further step forward, with the club now poised to offer their record goalscorer a contract until the beginning of March.
Henry is back in London following a short holiday in Mexico and is understood to have held talks on Wednesday with Arsène Wenger, who has intimated that he would like his former captain to help ease the burden on Robin van Persie and provide cover for Gervinho during the African Cup of Nations.
No formal agreement has yet been reached and, while Henry is mindful that he does not want to risk tarnishing his legacy, there is growing optimism at Arsenal that a deal can be done.
As of Wednesday night, club sources were stressing that the situation is still under consideration, while the New York Red Bulls, who would have to agree any loan deal, have yet to receive any contact from either Henry or Arsenal.
Henry was at the Emirates to watch Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday and is expected to rejoin training with the squad this week.
The Major League Soccer season restarts on March 10, with Henry due back in pre-season training with the Red Bulls on Jan 16.
Wenger wants the situation resolved by the beginning of January, meaning that, in theory, Henry could feature in the Premier League against Fulham next Monday. If any agreement is reached, the more realistic date for his comeback would be in the FA Cup against Leeds on Jan 9.
The prospect of Henry returning has certainly excited the Arsenal squad, with Per Mertesacker on Wednesday outlining just how impressive the 34-year-old has been in training.
“He is playing very, very good,” said Mertesacker. “I am very happy to play against him in training and it is a great experience. He is a great opportunity for us but I’m not the manager. I couldn’t make a decision on what is possible for him or for us.
“In training he shows his class and to have him with us is great because he shows his attitude and his experience. He still has the same attitude he showed in a lot of games at Arsenal.”
Mertesacker has also provided a ringing endorsement of Lukas Podolski, his Germany team-mate and one of Wenger’s main targets in the January transfer window.
Podolski and Mertesacker have both been regulars in the emerging Germany team who reached both the final of Euro 2008 and the semi-final of the 2010 World Cup, with Wenger increasingly looking to the Bundesliga as he seeks value in the transfer market.
Mario Gotze, the Borussia Dortmund winger, is another player who Arsenal are tracking, although Podolski has been identified as someone who can function in Gervinho’s position to the left of a main striker and in the central role that is occupied by Van Persie.
With Van Persie presently unwilling to extend a contract which expires in 2013, Wenger will be acutely aware of the need both to recruit a potential long-term replacement and have cover in his first-team squad to ease some of the immediate burden on his captain.
With 43 goals in his 95 Germany caps, Podolski has an outstanding international record and has been in excellent form so far this season for Cologne, scoring 14 times in 15 Bundesliga games.
Like Van Persie, his contract expires in 2013, with Cologne sporting director Volker Finke having indicated that he will be sold if he does not extend his deal.
Cologne are mid-table in the Bundesliga and unlikely to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Wenger has publicly played down the prospect of signing Podolski but, according to club sources, he is among the players being actively considered and scouted.
Mertesacker said that he speaks regularly on the phone with Podolski.
“He is a great player,” said Mertesacker of the Poland-born forward. He scores a lot of goals. He’s a good striker with a very good finish. His left foot is unbelievable. He is powerful as well. The Premier League is a little different from the Bundesliga, but you get used to everything.”
Wenger has a transfer fund of around £50 million, although that includes wages and potential new contracts over the next year for Van Persie and Theo Walcott.
At 26, Podolski is entering the prime of his career but his contract situation means that he would be valued at around £18 million and so would fall within Arsenal’s price-range.