Sunday 17 December 2017

Arsenal victory worth more than fairytale farewell goal, insists Henry

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Thierry Henry has promised that he will not get distracted by dreams of a goodbye goal for Arsenal tomorrow night.

The Champions League last-16 first leg at Milan will be Henry's last before he returns to parent club New York Red Bulls, but Arsenal's all-time leading goal-scorer insisted that his focus remained on the task in hand.

"I have not thought about it," he said of the dream scenario. "I just want to help Arsenal on the night. I am an Arsenal player for one more game."

Henry does know something about winning at San Siro, though. In one of his most famous Arsenal displays, he scored twice in the 5-1 victory over Inter Milan in the group stage in 2003.

That game is an important piece of the Henry legend, but his return this winter will also be part of the story in future years.


He has scored two crucial goals during his loan: a winner from the bench in his return in the FA Cup against Leeds, and another winner as a sub, deep in stoppage-time, at Sunderland last Saturday.

The significance of these moments has not yet sunk in for the man of whom there is already a statue outside the Emirates stadium.

"I will look back on it," he said. "It has all been kind of unreal."

Per Mertesacker has been ruled out of the game after twisting his ankle during Saturday's 2-1 win against Sunderland and is still awaiting news from a scan, fearing ligament damage.

Kieran Gibbs, who has not played for the past four months, is likely to start at left-back, leaving Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny to resume their partnership in central defence.

Milan, in contrast, were boosted yesterday by the return to training of Alexandre Pato, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Alessandro Nesta.

"AC Milan are always a team who, the way they are built, can score at any time," said Arsene Wenger. "You always have to push for a goal when you play away in the first leg because it gives you a cushion for the second leg.

"The system rewards the audacious away from home. The way it is with the away goal, you have to be focused to score and therefore it is important that you play your game.

"AC Milan are an offensive side who can score goals -- they have Pato, they have [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, they have Robinho, and [Filippo] Inzaghi who can still score important goals."

Spanish 17-year-old midfielder Jon Miquel Toral has signed his first professional contract with Arsenal. The attacking midfielder joined the Gunners academy as a scholar from Barcelona last summer. Barcelona gave up any claim on Toral, as well as on Hector Bellerin, who joined under similar circumstances, as part of the deal for Cesc Fabregas. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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