What an incredibly frustrating week not to be able to blog. Henry’s return in the cup against Leeds, a dour affair until he emerged from the bench, was settled by three sublime touches – a delicious through ball from Song, an immaculate piece of control, and a trademark cool finish to take the man to 227 goals for Arsenal and send thousands of Gooners into a mad bouncing frenzy. It was meant to be.
Moreover, it denied Leeds a replay that their play probably deserved, but one that would have caused us an enormous headache. Already struggling with injuries, particularly in defence, the game would have been sandwiched between a tricky trip to Swansea and our clash with Man Utd at the Grove. One we could certainly do without.
It was a remarkable night, topped off by a display of raw emotion that told us everything we needed to know about Henry’s return – this is no ego trip, no pointless and distracting swansong. This is simply a man looking to help. And help, he already has, quite spectacularly.
It also takes the heat off Van Persie, to an extent. While we know that Henry will be limited to cameo appearances, probably exclusively from the bench, it does mean that we carry a striking threat when the Dutchman has one of his rare misfiring days. Not only that, but his threat is wildly different. Where Van Persie is explosive, Henry is more subtle now. Where Van Persie comes back to collect the ball and surge forward, Henry looks to sneak in behind. But both, crucially, know when to make the runs and how to finish, two attributes that Chamakh in particular appears to have lost.
I recently watched some of the Moroccan’s early games from the start of last season, and the contrast was extraordinary. He was on his toes, hustling around, making intelligent runs and scaring the life out of defences. Where has that Chamakh gone? Those games give you all the evidence you need that he is not the crap player many label him as, but someone who has spectacularly lost his way. Perhaps a month away with invigorate him again, perhaps not, but the extra option, particularly a legendary Frenchman whose mere presence worries opponents, cannot hurt.
It must be refreshing for Van Persie to be out of the limelight for a week. By the time the Swansea game rolls around, he will have had thirteen days to recharge his batteries for a month of awkward fixtures, and we haven’t suffered in his absence. Swansea and Man Utd are followed by Villa in the cup, Bolton and Blackburn in the league, and then a rejuvenated Sunderland. Following that are four games that could define the season – Milan, Spurs, Liverpool and Milan again. The latter two come after Henry returns to the States – we need Robin rested, fit and firing.
Of course Henry has received all the plaudits this week, but it is certainly worth mentioning that Song, Ramsey and Miquel were excellent the other night, and the Ox continued to show his raw potential, even if those calling for him to be playing regular first team football are perhaps a little premature. Piece by piece, our team is knitting together, with the returns of Sagna, Wilshere and Vermaelen now crucial. The future looks bright.
Amazing what a legend, a goal, and a smile can do for a mood.