229 – The One Reason Henry Should Return to Arsenal, plus Montpellier

The very second the final whistle blew on Henry’s season with New York two weeks ago I wondered how long he would go on vacation before returning to London Colney for training. And in the run up to the North London Derby when I was wondering which of the current players on Arsenal’s roster would play the role of Tony Adams in indoctrinating the new guys on the importance of beating Tottenham, I couldn’t think of anyone so instead had imagined a video conference call between Henry and the team. Henry would be there on the screen, smiling, and telling the players how he likes each of them and then suddenly his face would grow dark and serious and he would describe the moment for which he was immortalized in front of the Emirates.

So, when camera’s cut to him in the stands for Arsenal’s 5-2 win over Tottenham I was only slightly surprised: I figured him to phone it in, but instead he showed up in person. And when I saw that Stuart MacFarlane had captured him shaking hands with Thomas Vermaelen and Arsene Wenger before the game I knew that it was only a matter of time before we saw Henry in the Purple and Black.

And now, Arsene Wenger has played his hand a bit and pretty much admitted that the club are looking to take Henry back for a third, and well justified, spell at the Arsenal. Immediately, there’s a lot of talk about Thierry’s old legs, tired legs, and the pace of the Premier League. The same talk that we heard last season before he re-signed with Arsenal and then went on to score three goals including two game winners: against Leeds in the FA Cup and in the final minute of the 2-1 win over Sunderland.

It cannot be understated that that goal against Sunderland, what should have been his 229th career Arsenal goal, secured the win, without which Arsenal would not have finished above Tottenham and would not be facing Montpellier in the Champions League tonight. Rising between two defenders, Henry simply stuck a leg out and directed/dribbled Arshavin’s cross into the net. It wasn’t a spectacular goal by Henry’s standards, in fact it looked a bit like a shadow of his former self. And while I would agree that 35 seems old for a team like Arsenal and that Henry may have bandy old legs, you have to admit on the evidence above that they are bandy old legs with the touch of the angels.

Henry is also the consummate professional. This is a multi-multi-millionaire who has won every important team and individual trophy imaginable and who took just two weeks off after the end of his MLS season before asking to train with the Arsenal. I believe in leadership by example and there is no better example for Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere than to have Thierry Henry around. That alone is worth the signing fee.

And Arsenal signing Henry and another striker aren’t mutually exclusive prospects though given Arsenal’s recent history they are understandably being spoken of as such. If Arsenal take Henry on loan they could still buy Falcao/Cavani/Dzeko/etc. the very next day. But when they don’t and Wenger uses Henry as the reason why he didn’t but a striker, that means that you can enjoy Henry’s return while simultaneously arguing that maybe Arsenal should have bought another striker as well.

But there is a certain logic to taking Henry on loan in January and waiting until summer to sign the big name striker of everyone’s dreams. Putting the monetary considerations aside (and they are significant), displacing a center forward from another system and different teammates, bringing him to England in the dead of winter, and throwing him in at the deep end of a Champions League relegation battle is not normally the way you want to do business. Better to bring Henry in and have him act as stop-gap until Arsenal can get the player they really want this summer (for a more reasonable price) and have some time for getting him acclimated to the system.

Whatever we think of Henry’s legs, whatever we think of Arsenal’s parsimony (Arsemony?), Henry still has it, folks, that rare something that separates the good players from the great players. But in the end, there’s really only one reason why Thierry Henry should return to the Arsenal first team and that’s to have one more crack at setting his goals record straight.

In last season’s spectacular comeback, Theirry Henry scored three goals to bring his total to 229 career Arsenal goals. 229 is a prime number. It’s a prime twin with 227 and it’s a prime triple with 233. But instead of letting Henry have 229, the Premier League reduced Henry’s goals haul to 228 when they took away his goal against Blackburn presumably because they wanted to increase Scott Dann’s Own Goals tally.

Henry deserves a chance to get to 229 goals. Or better yet, 233.

Montpellier

This match shouldn’t make anyone nervous but let’s face it, Arsenal’s Champions League form has been dreadful and Montpellier was unlucky not to get a win in the first leg.

Arsenal are only averaging 7.5 shots per game in the Champions League. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a home game or an away game: 7.5 shots per game. That’s so terrible that of the 32 teams in the Champions League Arsenal are 30th in shots per game. 31st among teams at home, just above Celtic who average 6 shots because they had to play Barcelona, who controlled something like 110% of the possession.

On the other end of the pitch, Arsenal are allowing 15 shots per game overall in the Champions League and thankfully that number drops considerably to 10.5pg against at home. But the fact that Arsenal are allowing the opposition to take twice as many shots as they are taking is quite incredible.

All of Arsenal’s Champions League stats are dreadful: 30th in shots per game, 4th in possession, 6th in pass %, 4th in short passes per game, 29th in long balls, 2nd in Aerial Duels won, 10th worst in shots conceded per game, 20th in tackles, 16th in interceptions, 26th in fouls, 22nd in shots on goal, 23rd in dribbles per game, 0 counter attacking goals, etc etc.

These stats paint a picture of an Arsenal team that are happy to sit back with the ball, pass it among their back four, and wait for the opposition to take shots on their goal. Basically, all the things that Gooners hate about the team without the cutting edge to at least make the games exciting.

Meanwhile, Montpellier was a bit of a lucky escape for the Arsenal last time. In the first half, they looked sort of in awe of the Arsenal. But as the game wore on they started to grow in confidence and by the second half, they turned the tables and I felt deserved at least a point if not all three having wasted two or three of the best chances in the game.

Montpellier are  out of this competition and have nothing to lose tonight. Combined with the confidence from watching the tapes of their last game against Arsenal, they could be a very dangerous team. Younes Belhanda in particular could look at this as an audition for the big leagues.

I just want to remind everyone, also, that this is a divey little team full of actors who will look to get Arsenal reduced to 10 men as quickly as possible. Remember, Diaby was awarded the fastest yellow card in Premier League history because of their histrionics last time out.

This is an important game for Arsenal, which would ensure that the team go through to the next round. But given the exertion of the last few weeks Arsenal will likely make several changes to the lineup that started against Spurs.

Walcott is certainly out after sustaining a shoulder injury and that could mean a start for Oxlade-Chamberlain. In midfield, Arteta and Cazorla could do with a rest but I wonder if one or more of Coquelin, Diaby, and Ramsey are up to such an important game? And defensively, I think Vermaelen and Sagna could use a break from the rigors of playing Arsenal full-back meaning that Santos and Jenkinson could possibly start.

No matter who starts, the important thing is that Arsenal build off the momentum generated by the win over Spurs. Arsenal’s forwards are clicking now and the midfield is just starting to settle. That means it’s time to shore up the back line and get them reacquainted with playing in front of Szczesny.

Regardless of how Montpellier line up (and fall over)) a full blooded performance from all the players is needed tonight. Because, despite the win over Spurs, Arsenal supporters are still on pins and needles and any sign that the players aren’t taking this game seriously will be met with very vocal disapproval. If not outright rebellion.

Qq

20 thoughts on “229 – The One Reason Henry Should Return to Arsenal, plus Montpellier

  1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

    Isn’t Santos out with some abdominal problem? Oh and I think you meant the fastest yellow in CL history as regards Diaby..

    But Tim, You’ve done it again. What I’d mentioned yesterday. When I heard that Henry might return, I thought of the 229. I was at the Blackburn game and that was the first, and probably the last, time I’ve seen Henry play and score, and some asshole at the dubious Goals Panel took it away. In my head, I still count it as a goal despite what they say. But it would be great if Henry set that right by scoring another in the Premier League.

  2. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    I want to use the words “confident” and “Arsenal” in the same sentence, but I just can’t. Not until we string together a few half-decent performances in a row and maybe even win a match with a clean sheet which seems like it hasn’t happened since the 1-nil days. Still, I am hopeful though, ever hopeful.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +11niltothearsenal

        Getting there, definitely getting there.
        First half was a boring anonymous performance, then we got our Arsenal back for the 2nd 45 minutes.
        Fantastic performance from Giroud. Wilshere’s little poke was class all the way, a striker’s goal from midfielder gone for a year and who’s still only 20!

  3. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Uncle Mike

    As a Red Bulls season ticket holder, I can tell you two things:

    1. I am a masochist.

    2. Henry has lost a step, but that’s a step most players never have, and he can still shoot and pass as well as anyone in the world. He can still step in and contribute for Arsenal.

  4. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    That was a pretty dire first half, followed by a second half in which we looked completely assured. You really never know what you’re going to get with this Arsenal team, but I’m delighted with the result, a quite fantastic goal from Podolski, and two wonderful, wonderful assists from Giroud, who is proving himself quite useful indeed!

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Greg

      Aye, it took an hour or so for the team to click up front. The first half, I’ve never seen so many players so openly annoyed with their centre-forward. Giroud was in the middle of everything, but was trying to play Podolski and others in to give him a return ball, when they were looking for lay-offs to give them a chance. Just no-one on the same wavelength.

      The second, after a wee chat no doubt, everything fell much more into place. Giroud stopped thinking everyone was there to support him, and started supporting everyone else.

      BTW, this isn’t a dig at Giroud. I failed to comment on Tim’s last post, but Santa can keep Falcao and Cavani. I’ve put a tenner on Giroud for the golden boot – he’s really found his feet the last few games, and I can see a lot of goals in him.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1dy

        yeah, not at the same wave length is the word. When the team’s moves aren’t coordinated, therefore many misplaced passes and ruin the move.

  5. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Easy peasy lemon sqeezy.

    Nice tap in volley from Wilshere.

    King Poldi volley that recalls a faded memory of a former striker.

    Giroud MOTM for his 2 assists. How so much more effective is he with his intelligent set ups than Chamakh. Night and day.

    We won this game because we were mentally tough even if not at our most fluent best. We also won without having to get a kick up the butt from an opposition score.

    We could talk about the officiating but at the end of the day we don’t have to fortunately.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

      True about Giroud vs Chamakh. While Chamakh is far more unselfish (as in ridiculously too unselfish to the point of not wanting to shoot), his layoffs are fairly simple, and don’t create the quality of opportunities for others that Giroud does.

  6. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Rafael Benitez is a vuture.

    Philip Mexes is the real replacement ‘striker’ at AC Milan for Ibrahimovic.

    Luiz Adriano should get a 1 game ban for his unsportsman like conduct
    .
    I hope we can get something more from Gervinho before he goes off to the ACON.

  7. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    I’m just wondering what we do about Vermaelen now that Gibbs is back. For me, Koscielny and Mertesacker are better defenders at the moment, but how can you drop the captain? You can’t. So this is…weird. We are forced to play a player who is slightly out of form simply because he is captain, even though we have a better option in that position.

    Why, oh why wasn’t Arteta made captain?

    (Though Vermaelen did nothing wrong tonight.)

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

      He was caught out of position a few times, but either recovered or had Kos cover for him. I hope the armband doesn’t impact selection to the point of it being detrimental, but I guess Wenger is loyal to his players that way. We can but hope TV gets his old Verminator self back.

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Arsenal fans truly deserved such a night…amongst these turbulent days..

    We saw off a toothless, yet a tricky European opposition and thanks to Schalke, we can go to Greece without Arteta and Cazorla who seem to be playing too many matches…

    Podolski finish was much unlike the chances that Arsenal have created this season. Top quality strike and wonderful lay off from Giroud. The best quality on him is that he tries to win the ball and believe in a team-mate even when there is not much of a chance. Absolute team player.
    Another aspect of the match was a mature performance from Ox…slotted in really well in the team..

    The best part of the night was what happened ex-Ballon do’r aspirant Samir C Nasri and his team…

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

      It was a good night. ManShitty out of the Champions League and almost out of Europe. Dortmund, my new second favorite team, wins the group of death. And Chelski fires another manager and brings on Rafa to right the ship. If those players thought AVB was a control freak, well…

  9. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

    I’ve been down on Vermaelen recently, but credit to him for his role in Jack’s goal. For a centre back who loves to rampage forward, he doesn’t seem keen to do it much when he plays left back, but this was one of the few times he fancied it.
    And the cross was with his right foot as well, which I had previously suspected may have been made of chocolate.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

      It does show the importance of fullbacks in our system. It wouldn’t surprise me if that wasn’t the very first time he got to our attacking third all game. At least, that’s what it felt like to me.

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