Henry’s exit to give Arsenal a fresh start

Henry’s exit was still a shock despite the speculationMy thoughts on Henry’s transfer to Barcelona

When I was woken to news of Thierry Henry’s exit via phone call from a friend early on Saturday morning (in Australian time) I admitted in a previous post that my first reaction was one of absolute shock. I didn’t for a second believe any of the media speculation and whenever friends of mine or readers of the Arsenal FC Blog questioned me about the possibility of Henry leaving I would always reply that I was certain that the Frenchman would stay.

I am an Arsenal supporter through and through and whilst no player is ever more important than the club the fact is, being a supporter of the club for only ten years, I have never really known an Arsenal side without Henry. Additionally, after Henry’s proclamation that the contract he signed a season ago would be his last, I was not expecting to face life at Arsenal without Henry so soon.

It has taken me a full two days to comprehend the reasons for Henry’s departure and get my head around the possible ways that the club will account for his absence in the short- and long-term future. I apologised in my previous post for failing to write an article giving my opinions on Henry’s exit but the truth is that if I had not waited until now I would have come up with a disjointed article of little-to-no value to anyone. As a result, I am happy that I waited and I hope my regular readers can respect my choice in doing so. Enough said on that, I think.

Henry should be remembered for everything good he did for ArsenalRemember the good times, not the last two months 

One thing that I do not want to discuss in too much detail is the manner of Henry’s departure or the comments he made in an interview with Arsenal TV. There are no doubt people who will question the honesty of the man for overplaying the importance of David Dein and the uncertainty surrounding manager Arsene Wenger’s future. The truth, in my opinion, is that Henry left for footballing reasons and that a lot of what he is saying about the other two men is being used as cover for his real reasons for departure.

Having said that, I think it would have been incredibly difficult for Henry to come out and say that he left the club because of footballing reasons when he so confidently stated that he would never leave the club only twelve months earlier. Some people may call that disloyalty but it would be unfair to criticise a player who has been loyal to the club for eight years – a rare achievement in the modern game. I think the comments that should be remembered by all Arsenal fans are those aimed directly at them and their support for Henry.

“Well, I would to say you have been tremendous for me I really do appreciate it. I am shaking as I say this. I will always remember you. I will have you in my head and my heart. I wanted to reassure you that I always gave 100 per cent here. I know some people said some other stuff but I always gave 100 per cent. I hope you appreciate what I did here because I appreciate what you did for me. I grew as a man and became a better football player. I will always take that with me no matter what happens.”
“Arsenal will be in my blood as well as my heart. I will always, always, always remember you guys. I said I was going to be a Gunner for life and I did not lie because when you are a Gunner you will always be a Gunner. The Club is in my heart and will remain in my heart forever.”

I, for one, believe him and hope that any Arsenal supporters who are frustrated over the manner of Henry’s exit can put aside their negative thoughts and remember the great things that Henry has done for the club in his Arsenal career. I personally wish him all the best as he enjoys the final years of his career at Barcelona and hope he can help the club win back the Spanish League from Real Madrid next season. He has been a fantastic servant of the club and deserves anything he can achieve with the Spanish club.

Van Persie will never be as prolific as HenryWhere to now for Arsenal?

The big question now for Henry’s old club is simple; where do Arsenal go from here? Despite Henry’s departure, there is no doubting the overall quality of Arsenal’s first team. Anyone who suggests that Arsenal lack world-class players only need to glimpse the likes of Jens Lehmann, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Gilberto Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky and Robin van Persie in full flight to be shown up.

While Arsene Wenger is unlikely to change his football philosophy in the near future I think there is a very real possibility that the general formation of his team may change. Wenger has always been an advocate of the 4-4-2 with a tendency to play a support striker in a role behind the more prolific Henry. The likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Ljungberg and van Persie have all been used in this support role in previous seasons. However, despite Emmanuel Adebayor’s consistent improvement over the past season I don’t believe that Wenger will want to place the burden on the Togolese international to be the club’s premier goalscorer. I also don’t think that van Persie can be as prolific as Henry ever was and as a result, I genuinely believe that Wenger might tweak Arsenal’s formation to accommodate for Henry’s exit.

Adebayor can step out from Henry’s shadowA change of formation?

As a big fan of Adebayor I am thrilled at the opportunity he will now get to prove his worth as a result Henry’s departure. Quite often last season Adebayor was used as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 setup and whilst he did not always get the goals, Adebayor’s efforts combined with the support he received from midfield was effective enough to justify Wenger’s use of the formation. There is a chance that with the return of van Persie from injury Wenger may turn this 4-5-1 into a more attacking 4-3-3 formation with Adebayor in the middle supported by Alexander Hleb on the left and van Persie on the right.

Whilst Hleb has rarely been used on the left Wenger will be smart enough to realise that the current situation requires new solutions and that the Belarussian was absolutely devastating when attacking from the left-hand side for his previous club, Stuttgart. As for van Persie, he is accustomed to playing in this position having been regularly used on the right for the Dutch national team. This would then leave a midfield triangle of Gilberto, Fabregas and Rosicky. Admittedly, this does look a bit lightweight but when you consider that Manchester United won the league last season with Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes in the centre of the park it suggests that the midfield battle can be won by energy and dynamism over physical presence. Of course, in extreme circumstances – such as games against Bolton or Blackburn – Abou Diaby’s dominating presence could also be utilised.

Malouda would still be the perfect signing for ArsenalWho should be brought in?

The quality is there – make no mistake – but there is also little question that Wenger must use the money from the sale of Henry (as well as Jose Antonio Reyes and Jeremie Aliadiere) to bring in two or three more exceptional footballers. There have been a multitude of names that have been linked with the club over the summer and this has only intensified as a result of Henry’s exit.

In terms of wide players I have said time and time again that Lyon’s Florent Malouda would be a wonderful signing for Arsenal. He has experience at the top level, is versatile enough to slot in on the left of either a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 formation and would score enough goals to support the likes of Adebayor and van Persie. His direct nature and composure in front of goal would be an asset to a team which struggled to put away chances on a consistent basis last season.

Another name that has popped up recently is Ajax attacker Ryan Babel. Babel was excellent in Holland’s UEFA U21 Championship tournament win and has previously stated that he would love to play under Wenger at Arsenal. Although his favoured is as the main striker Babel can also play on the left and his close friendship with fellow Dutchman van Persie would mean that Babel would have no trouble fitting in to the Arsenal set-up. He is a direct player with exhilarating pace and power but is still a number of years from fulfilling his potential.

The signing of Anelka would be a step backwards for ArsenalWenger should look forward when signing a new striker

Indeed, there are some strong reports that Babel may join Arsenal along with fellow Ajax forward Klaas Jan Huntelaar. Anyone who has watched Huntelaar will know that he is a player in the mould of Ruud van Nistelrooy and has a phenomenal scoring record in his relatively short career with Ajax and the Dutch national team. A number of people have stated that Huntelaar is too slow for the Premiership and does not fit into Wenger’s preferred style of attacking player but with the real possibility that the manager may move to a 4-3-3 formation Huntelaar would fit in perfectly.

One player who has been mentioned that I sincerely hope the club do not sign is former Arsenal player and Bolton striker Nicolas Anelka. Whilst I agree that Anelka has the potential to score 15-20 goals next season if he did sign for Arsenal I would see any move for the Frenchman as a step backwards for the club. The truth is that while Anelka may be virtually identical to Henry in terms of age and style of play he is not even on the same planet in terms of output and overall effectiveness. Wenger is in the process of building a new team and perfecting a new style and purchasing a player like Anelka is not the answer.

If Wenger does opt for a speedy, skilfull forward then I think Carlo Tevez is much more positive option. He is young, passionate and now has a season of Premiership football under his belt. If Wenger brings Tevez to the club then Arsenal may have a confident finisher to compliment the likes of Adebayor and van Persie’s creativity.

Huntelaar would give offer something fresh to the Arsenal attackHenry should not be ‘replaced’

Whoever is brought in as Arsenal’s new striker, the truth is that they should not be brought in to try and replace Henry directly. Henry was a player who was so talented that he allowed Arsene Wenger to form the side around him. There is currently no player available to Arsenal who fits this description. As a result, the manager should be looking to bring in two or three players to accommodate for the loss of Henry and Reyes/Julio Baptista with the notion to provide Arsenal with a fresh approach to their attacking game.

Personally, I will be hoping that Malouda, Babel and Huntelaar are all brought in to bolster Arsenal’s attack. It may seem like a drastic change but such big departures require significant replacements. Thankfully, with the large amount of funds now at his disposal after Henry’s transfer to Barcelona and the inevitable sale of Reyes to Spain, Wenger will have the money available to make these signings.

I wish Henry all the best at BarcelonaThe last of the fantastic four

There is no doubt going to be some tough times ahead for the Arsenal Football Club but there is also much to be positive about. As Arseblogger pointed out, with Dennis Bergkamp retired, Patrick Vieira defected to Inter Milan, Robert Pires at Villareal and now Thierry Henry off to Barcelona, the club’s supporters have had to say goodbye to the four main components of the last great Arsenal side. Now the likes of Rosicky, van Persie and Adebayor and perhaps a couple of new players will have the chance to step up and show the world what they are made of.

On a final note I would like to remind all the Arsenal supporters out there that there is absolutely no need to panic. There are going to be some big changes but the club is in a strong position to compete for honours and I honestly believe there is a lot to be excited about heading into next season.

What do you think?

Voice your opinions on Henry’s exit by leaving a comment.



  1. Pingback: Talk Soccer
  2. Excellent and well thought out article. I agree that a like for like replacement is impossible, although I think that if we were to try, Anelka remains the best prospect. Perhaps he could be a stopgap while others mature, to take the pressure off them? He isn’t a long term solution, but is that what we need now anyway?

    A formation switch is very conceivable, as is the strengthening behind the front lines. I worry that Malouda may be overpriced, but maybe we need to bite the bullet and splash the cash.

  3. A couple things…
    Why does Van Persie play on the right when he is a left footed player? Why don’t we play him similar to Henry used to, he could become more prolific.
    It seems the obvious reason Henry left is because we had 3 main strikers all good enough to make the first team. Wenger didn’t want to hinder the growth of the others and Henry had to deal with being benched for the first time last season and saw a team built around him not needing him there. The speculation makes him seem like he will be Barca’s saviour, but of course Messi, Ronaldinho, Saviola and Eto’o are harder competetion when trying to stay in the first team than Ade/VP/Bendtner. I can see him regretting it very soon.
    I do remember an arsenal before Henry. I remember winning a double without him (and without ian wright for most of the season, our best goalscorer injured and replaced by a little known backup called anelka).
    Our best option seems like someone who will be okay with some bench time. Tevez will cost alot but stayed calm when benched this season. I don’t like Anelka but he will still get 10-15 goals even if Ade starts ahead of him. The likes of Saviola, Torres or Huntaleer will come thinking they are the saviours of Henry’s ruins and would they be ok if Arsene decides an eighteen year old Walcott deserves to play more that week?
    I just want to hear from Wenger. To come out this week withGrimandi and then Babel or Malouda or just anyone, smaller problems sorted to take away from the huge fucking pink elephants that we won’t find out if they are sorted till the end of the next season (will our new forward work? will he stay?)

  4. excellent article, i think we should just take javier saviola on a free, he would be worth it.

    i reckon a double swoop on ajax for huntelaar and babel would be excellent addition.

    florent malouda would be an ideal player to bring in.

    i think we need to sign that bakari sagna fella if he can play on both flanks then he would be a great addition to the squad.

    so am wishing here

    huntelaar, babel, malouda and sagna that would be an ideal summer

  5. Just to answer your question Samuel, van Persie plays on the right because he likes to cut in and shoot for the national team. Also, he is very two-footed. Although not included in the article; Saviola and Torres are interesting prospects. I personally rate Torres very, very highly and think he is a proven international quality striker. However, he has such a dedication to Atletico that I can’t see a move happening. Then again, that’s what I thought with Henry. As for Saviola, again he is an international quality player and I believe he has the potential to do quite well. We will have to wait and see. I don’t know anything about Sagna so I can’t comment. I will stick with what I said and reiterate that we NEED to bring in 2-3 players or we will be a lot worse off than last season. I don’t think van Persie can get 30 goals (like Henry) so I think we need three forwards who can all get 15-20.

  6. Great article and made my feel a little better knowing that as one day sets another rises!!i have had the pleasure of watching and meeting Henry in person and he will be my all time fav player just ahead of Dennis Berkamp.
    As to players to bring in,Well we have had the Spanish Experiment (Reyes) and English and now i think it’s time for other players to step out of Henry’s shadow and stand up.I think highly of Hleb and Rosicky and Moulada would be a great buy
    and i know there’s talk of Trezeguet leaving Juve so maybe we can use this money to buy a world class striker and still buy those up and coming youngsters Wenger likes.
    Don’t despair fellow Gooners,if United can win the title with a average team and Semi Final of CHAMP LG then with our Talent we can THIS YEAR finally show all what Arsenal are all about!!
    Let’s hope Wenger doesn’t jump ship as well

  7. It’s not the sale of Henry that the issue it’s the general lack of foresight of the board. As every other top four club soaks up the hundreds of milions from foreign investors our board decides to remain English controlled and thus leave David Dein with no option but to leave.

    I’ve yet to hear any Manure and Chelski fans complaining about the Glazier’s or Ambramovich. It’s a romantic notion that the Chairman wants the club controlled from London rather than the US, Moscow or Bangkok, but it won’t bring success in the Premier or Champions League.

    We’re always Europe’s best- in November. Come Febuary we’re struggling and off the pace. The need for about four world class player’s with proven track records is paramount.

    Having said that Wegner is a genius at picking and letting players go. Possibly he has seen something in Henry that means he can’t play 50- 60 games a season. Henry goes, that frees up part of the wage bill to bring in one or two players who can. Big shoes to fill; I just prey Wegner’s got it right because Henry is Arsenal greatest ever striker

    Febragas, Van Persie & Toure will provide the backbone for another good season. The others need to step up a level or two for a great season. One thing is for sure we’re still playing in Europe on a Wednesday night whereas the Mickey Mouse club down the road have to persist with Thursday night European football.

    I dont think we will get torress, he is either staying at Atletico or on his way over to Liverpool, or United for big big money. Saviola will be joining his old River Plate friend Pablo Aimar at Zaragoza. No offence to arsenal we arent the type of club that could sign someone like tevez because he will have teams such as madrid, utd, liverpool all after him with more money.

    This leaves us with Babel, and maybe Malouda! In my opinion spanishfry, i believe we need 2 young signings and a experienced one such as someone like FORLAN or ANELKA. They arent long term but they are there while the youngesters develop and get confidence. Similar to the signing utd made of Vandersar in goals.

  8. Mr Arsenal

    Everybody is blaming the board why? Actually the board don’t want Arsenal to be debt-laden and go the Leeds way. Kroenke will only borrow money to buy Arsenal; with his worth estimated at USD2.1 billion he needs to borrow about GBP0.7 billion to buy Arsenal. In the end its fans who will pay for the financing of the debt as MANU is doing and POOL will be doing very soon. We already have the stadium to bring in the funds to pay for the GBP0.36 billion that we owe on the stadium, so we don’t need to sell and we should fight any hostile takeover by kroenke. Why do you think kroenke wants to buy Arsenal? Kroenke like the Glazier’s and Gillet’s are businessmen in to make money. Arsenal has provided a credit arrangement of 40+ to buy players, Edelman has said this repeatedly and AW hasn’t denied it so it’s true. We’ve sold Henry 16+, Stokes 2+, Muamba 4+, Ali 1.5+ larson 1+ Poon 0.5+. we’ve bought Haarvard 2+, Fabianski 2+ Sunu 1+ and possibly kyle Bartley 0.5+. So there is a lot of money available, its just that AW is still negotiation and planning and hasn’t made a move yet. We don’t need kroenke’s borrowed money, if we do our debt portfolio could rise to GBP0.9 billion; mainly due GBP0.7 billion to takeover and GBP0.26 billion, after taking into consideration inflows from the sale of Highbury flats, and might lead us directly to making Leeds or assets stripping by Kroenke. The structures for financial success is already in place. Highbury flats sales is bringing in GBP0.1 billion profit and coming on stream in 2009. Match day earnings has skyrocketed and Emirates has now become the first choice for many social events, so why are fans worried about cash flow problems. It doesn’t exist as money has been provided for AW to invest in players and has not done that yet. We have a long summer.

  9. You’re right Harlan, the money is definitely there. I have no question that Arsene Wenger will be bringing in replacements in the summer. I think he does have a difficult balancing act to ensure the likes of Fabregas, Gallas and Walcott (to name but a few) do not lose hope in Arsenal’s ability to win matches without Thierry Henry. If Wenger can make the right signings and ensure morale remains high then the club will have every chance to move on and be successful without Henry. One thing I do hope that Wenger does is nail down his signings sooner rather than later. New players need time to settle (unlike Baptista last season) and get their heads right before a big season. Hopefully Wenger can deliver.

  10. hey take time to think….how is an absolutely perfect club suppossed to be? i think it’s suppose to be independent of it’s players. wat i mean is that we would all hate a situation where the departure of a single player leaves a multi-million worth club crippled and that’s why clubs like bercalona are adding henry to their list of top class attackers Etoo,Ronaldinho,Messi etc.they want to be secure coz if Messi decides to leave tomorrow they’ll still be strong…all other clubs like chelsea, man u, real, liverpool are doing the same….buying top class players who are extremely and sometimes unrealistically expensive. now this is a good way of safeguarding a clubs future but not the wisest…
    arsene wengers way is the best and i can confidently say that if wenger wanted henry to stay,henry would have stayed so why let him go? look the way wenger has been working with his young team recently…he’s building a young team where everyone else is equally important and henry wouldn’t fit in such a team the same way anelka and owen will not fit…the likes of babel and malouda can ryhme wit wengers plans but if he brings in anelka and the likes, it will be just to please the fans.
    in short, as other clubs pour out money to buy more of ‘celebrities’ than footballers wenger is paying attention to the emergence of new, interesting and priceless talents who’ll end up making big names and history for the gunners!(if you dispute this then ask yourself where henry, viera would be without wenger)..

  11. wenger wont be around long enough to do this for arsenal and thats why he let him go….i dont see arsenal winning the premiership for atleast another 5 seasons, sorry guys

  12. I don’t agree Mr Arsenal. We have a team that will be aiming to peak in 1-2 years and I just think they can do the business within 5 years.

  13. hey Mr. Arsenal, no offense meant here but i’ve learnt that there are two types of soccer fans.. the 1st type love goals and rate the club purely and absolutely on the number and frequency of goals scored which naturally is quite sensible but is more like judging a book by its cover. These are the fans who will say “chelsea is the club to be!” coz they score (or rather force) goals – again no offence to chelsea fans – eventhough their game sucks to watch (personal opinion there).These fans, i suggest,should stick to sports highlights, watch the goals scored and jump celebrating how their team is the ‘best’ instead of watching an entire 90+ minutes…to sum this type up, these are them same fans who are quick to condemn arsenal coz we didn’t do fine last season and yet to think of it we didn’t struggle to qualify for champions leauge like we did in the preceding season.

    ok now the 2nd type are the true soccer fans coz they value the game played and take the goals scored as a well earned rewards of a good game played. these are the fans who’ll enjoy watching any good soccer be it west ham, bolton,wigan playing as long as it is worth it. These fans will support a club, not because of the ‘celebrities’ in it or the titles they win (though i must admit titles are good and should be fought for) but because they love the way the game is played in the club (arsenal fans we know what this means)..this are the same fans who’ll sit through a 90 mins arsenal game wondering why the hell we can’t score with such a good game and all the chances created..These same fans are the ones who are objetive enough to know that anything is possible in soccer including a treble by arsenal next season..

    Now i ain’t saying you either of this coz i can’t judge you with a single comment but saying ‘no title in the next five years’ is a bit unjustified. for the record, i think arsenal is the club which made one of the highest (if not highest) number of chances in front of the goal in europe and remember the poor form we were in. that alone should tell you something. PEACE

  14. Interesting blog, really like the way you looking @ arsenal’s current situation in a positive way. Thats what i keep telling people! Great things are ahead. What I hear is Arsenal have around 80M to spend on transfers. this is the biggest sum of money arsene could imagine at arsenal- But i think he is going to stick to his usual schrewed style of buying at the very last moments. He is not dumb he has his charter and we have to believe in him.

  15. Oh my god shock shock horror horror Thierry has left + i am devastated@him i thort dat he would play for arsenal forever bt oviously not!!!!!!!! i raly loved him more that anithing in da world bt now he has gone downhil for me sins he moved!!!!!!!!>>

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