Well that’ll teach me. 24 hours ago I left work, relaxed for the evening and didn’t give the news one fleeting thought. Today, I’ve been working away putting up skirting boards with the electrics off, so no news, sport or anything, without any inkling that unbeknownst to me, one of the biggest stories to hit Arsenal in years had been resolved.
Henry, club captain, record goalscorer, talismanic figure, was off. To the exact club he turned down last summer, saying this would be his ‘last ever contract’. Never say never, I guess.
I only have a short time before going to a friend’s wedding tonight, so I’ll probably give more considered opinion on this tomorrow – I haven’t even had time to digest what the fallout from this has been.
But I can guess. There’ll be the eternal optimists (of which I am usually one) who will say he was useless last season anyway, and approaching 30 he is probably past his best. What they miss is that with a combination of no Henry, and a misfiring midfield, we looked impotent last season, and a man like Henry will not lose his playing ability so early.
Then there’ll be the pessimists, who read into Henry’s comments that Wenger will be off next summer, taking Cesc with him, and Arsenal as a football club will collapse into obscurity, unable to fill the shiny new stadium. Equally, they miss the point that Arsenal is bigger than one or two men, even those with the influence and success of Wenger and Henry. Even if Wenger does make this season his last, the club will live on.
The reality is probably somewhere in the middle. Make no mistake about it, losing Henry is a huge blow. I had high hopes that his extended break from the game would see him come back hungry and firing on all cylinders. That may be the case, but it will no longer be for us. We’ve lost our record scorer, and one of the best players ever to play for the club. How we replace him now is vital. We cannot afford to promote our existing strikers to more prominent roles, while bringing in a 20 and 21 year old who may or may not become great players. We need a top, established striker.
But who? There is no sign that Eto’o is part of the Barca deal, so the question is simply who is available? And with Liverpool sniffing around for the same sort of player, and with bucketloads to spend, the task isn’t easy. The only good news is that Henry has done exactly what we wished he would – make a decision early in the summer. It’s time to move on.
Arseblogger suggests that Wenger, similar to the Vieira situation two years ago, decided that it was simply the right time:
“He probably feels now is the right time for Thierry to leave both from the club’s point of view and from the player’s point of view”
I’m not sure Wenger had a lot of choice to be honest. When you have your star player deciding he wants to move on, contract or no contract he holds the power. Having said that, I cannot imagine the split being anything other than amicable.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more thoughts on this. These are without doubts worrying times, and Wenger’s next press conferences may reveal more, but I cannot help but be anxious about where we are going, mainly because we’re in the dark. Let’s hope for some better news to follow.