Henry can be leading man again -- Wenger
Published 31/12/2011 | 05:00
Thierry Henry is back. And Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger knew from day one that his former striker still has something to offer the club.
Henry (34) will sign a two-month loan deal, which will begin on Monday, pending insurance agreements with his parent club New York Red Bulls.
Henry returned to Arsenal on November 17 to maintain his fitness during the Major League Soccer off-season and Wenger claims he knew straight away that his former captain could be the answer to the club's problem of losing Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho to the African Cup of Nations next month.
The return of Arsenal's all-time leading goalscorer -- who scored 226 goals in 369 appearances and helped the club win the Premier League twice and FA Cup three times -- four-and-a-half years after he left for Barcelona will no doubt send fans with a propensity for romance into ecstasy.
Henry is after all, one of only three people in the 125 years of Arsenal's existence who have been immortalised by a bronze statue outside the Emirates Stadium.
But for Wenger, the decision was purely practical. "We need a short-term solution," the manager said. "Thierry has the quality and capacity to help us out. You do not find players on the planet of this quality who are available for two months.
"I knew on the first day he trained with us. I met him when he was 17 years old. I had him here at 22, so I know every movement that he can make. He is a super-intelligent guy and he is a special talent."
Henry is the third old boy in as many seasons to return to the club, following Sol Campbell and Jens Lehmann, who both signed similar short-term contracts at the Emirates.
Then, Wenger admitted, he was signing players for their influence in the dressing-room as much as for what they could add on the pitch.
But this time the signing is for footballing reasons.
"I've done it with players who have a special attitude, special weight in the dressing-room," Wenger added. "I've done it at periods when experience can play a big part in the dressing-room -- from January to March.
"Now I do it for footballing reasons because I need a striker for two months and I don't have one at the moment.
"Robin van Persie is our main striker and it will remain like that. When they play together, we will do very well. They are two good players who can give the ball and score, so why should they not do well together?"
Wenger believes Henry will need "at least two weeks" to get match-fit. On that basis, he could be involved against Swansea on January 15 and is highly likely to be in the squad for Manchester United's visit to the Emirates the following weekend -- the first of five crucial games that will shape the second half of the season for Wenger.
"In the last three months we have not lost any points on them (United) but we have to catch back. There is one difference -- we have played at United, City, Chelsea and Spurs and all of them must come to us," said Wenger.
"This season will be decided by how well we do at home against the big teams. The target for us is to win our home games because we have it all in our hands as long as we manage to beat these teams at home."
Following Henry across the water from the MLS is Robbie Keane's team-mate Landon Donovan who returns to Everton after a successful eight week loan spell from LA Galaxy two years ago.
While Donovan's pace, experience and eye for goal is exactly what David Moyes needs to repeat what's become a traditional New Year surge.
"I wanted to have the opportunity to do something like this again and relish it," the American said. "I've got two more years on my deal in LA, but I want to think seriously about what I will do at that point and this gives me an opportunity to see how I like this.
"As you get older you only have so many opportunities to come here and do something like this. I've seen in the last year the end of my career coming. Before it was always like I felt I could play forever." (© Independent News Service)
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