In the midst of a terrible run of form, having just been beating by a shot at the death, and under immense pressure from fans to turn around a storied franchise that had gone 14 years without a title the Boston Celtics’ young coach stood in front of the gathered press and uttered the following famous phrase:
Larry Bird is not coming through that door, fans. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door and Robert Parish is not walking through that door. And if you expect them to walk through that door they’re going to be grey and old. What we are is young, exciting, hard working and going to improve.
Rick Pitino was right, to an extent, though I think he overestimated the value that Robert Parish in his prime would have added to that Celtics squad. But he was right that Bird couldn’t help that team on the floor by putting on his Chucks and shooting sweet threes from the corner – the Hick from French Lick has been retired for 9 years and was head coach of the Indiana Pacers.
But what if Bird had been in a state of semi-retirement for a few years? What if he was playing in Italy and still hitting jumpers with aplomb? Could he have walked through that door and helped that Celtics team?
Sadly, yes and just as sadly it looks like Thierry Henry could make the trip out of his semi-retirement in the MLS and walk through the door at Arsenal to help them through a rough patch.
The emotional side of me wants to see Theirry Henry come back to Arsenal if for no other reason than to get the 229th goal that the League took away from him in order to add to Scott Dann’s ignominious Own Goals tally. But the rational side of me says that if Arsenal need a striker, then they need one on more than just a loan basis.
Unless there is a major clearout of forwards in January, given the mass of attacking talent at Arsenal taking Henry back is an admission that the club needs a striker and has needed a striker for six months. If Arsenal can’t make it work with Podolski (who played CF for Koln his entire career) and Giroud as forwards flanked by Gervinho, Arshavin, Chamakh, Ox and Walcott then fans have every right to ask why Arsenal didn’t buy a striker in the summer.
But the caveat at the beginning of that paragraph stands. We know that Gervinho is off to the African Cup of Nations. Chamakh could be picked by Morocco or he could be moved and even if he’s not moved, he certainly isn’t being used at Arsenal. Meanwhile, given the way that he has been used Arshavin is almost certainly going to leave (at least on loan). And all it would take is the suspicion that he’s not giving 100% for Arsenal to be tempted to sell Walcott. I the perfect storm, that would mean Arsenal have just three forwards: Giroud, Podolski, and Ox.
Suddenly, Thierry Henry on loan is starting to make a little sense. His loan would bridge the gap left by Gervinho and Chamakh and he would also give Arsenal some options in terms of attacking talent off the bench. Anyone who doubts Henry’s quality, even at the age of eleventeen, has not watched him play lately and has somehow forgotten that he saved Arsenal from relegation out of the Champions League spots when he scored his 229th career goal in the final minute to earn Arsenal three points against Sunderland last season.
Taking Henry on loan, however, does not absolve Arsenal the responsibility to replace Arshavin and/or Walcott if they are moved in January. I am a firm believer that Arsenal need solid defensive wingers who can whip in crosses to Giroud and Podolski or break down fullbacks and create chaos in the opposition final third.
Taking Henry on loan is also an admission that the club need to and needed to buy better forwards. An admission that the purchases of this summer were just not good enough. That the club didn’t prepare well enough for the winter. Because, you see, none of the Arsenal forwards have suffered a major injury: that means that Gervinho and Chamakh leaving for the ACN (or their lack of ability) was entirely predictable; that Walcott and Arshavin’s form, ability, and contract situations were already known; and that Arsenal chose not to buy in spite of those known realities.
And that’s the hard truth for many Arsenal supporters. Arsenal spent a lot of money this summer but just haven’t gotten things right with the forwards. If they had, Theirry Henry would not be walking through that door, fans.