Archive for June, 2007

Henry: Today’s the day

1,085 comments June 25th, 2007

Readers of a sensitive disposition: leave now. The rest of you: prepare yourselves. Today is the day that Thierry Henry breaks a thousand thousand Arsenal hearts and signs for Barcelona.

I have to say, my heart must be pretty sturdy, because I feel fine about it. When Vieira left it was a real wrench for me to see him in the Juventus shirt, but seeing Henry shaking hands with Joan Laporta (right) doesn’t really provoke any sadness in me.

Perhaps it’s because, for whatever reason, I’ve grown to like Henry a lot less than I ever liked Vieira. Perhaps it was all the standing around scowling last season. I think part of the reason his departure has been quite easy for me is that it doesn’t really feel like he was here at all last year. When he did play, his scoring ratio was impressive, but there were more frowns than fancy flicks, and very little movement. He had become a stationary magnet – attracting the ball when it wasn’t always the best option. When Arsene spoke about addressing the balance of the side, no-one guessed this is what he meant.

Henry will be presented this afternoon, possibly alongside former Arsenal triallist, and Kolo’s brother, Yaya Toure (left). They both jetted into Barcelona last night. It seems since his spell with us Yaya has grown into a rather fine player. We’ve neglected the opportunity to sign him on several occasions, so one can only assume that Wenger thinks Abou Diaby has negated the need for Toure Mk II.

Still, I hope Arsene is watching how big clubs impose themselves in the transfer market: he could learn a thing or two from Laporta & Co. I expect when the deal is finalised he’ll come out and speak to the press about his reasons for agreeing to the transfer, and the way he plans to move forward. Should be interesting, one way or another.

Being upset about Thierry Henry leaving is understandable. Being upset about Jeremie Aliadiere leaving is a bit like being annoyed at having won the lottery, especially when you read these quotes:

“I think I’ve left at the right time with all that is going on. I don’t think the club is on it’s way up at the moment. But Middlesbrough is a team that is.”

I imagine that in his head, him “jumping ship” to Middlesbrough is roughly equivalent to Henry moving to Barcelona. Idiot.

In terms of someone coming in, there are plenty of articles, but I can guarantee you they’re all founded on speculation and nothing more. My money’s still on Anelka, but let’s take this Times article for example: you can discredit it as soon as it says “Arsène Wenger faces a battle to overcome opposition from the Arsenal board to sign Nicolas Anelka”. No, no he doesn’t. The board would approve pretty much any affordable transfer that Wenger suggested – he has a fairly free reign. Futhermore, on the subject of Arsene’s contract, the article suggests “there are no talks planned about a new deal”. Well, I find that very hard to believe. I can’t help but wonder if they’ll still be saying that in a few weeks time.

ps. Grimandi?

Henry: “I will always remember you and I will have you in my head and my heart”

251 comments June 24th, 2007

Yesterday, the ever image-conscious Thierry Henry gave his final interview as an Arsenal player. There’s a video version of part of it here – his general demeanour certainly seems very earnest, perhaps more so than you’d guess when reading it first off. He talks about his concern over the uncertainty of Arsene Wenger’s future, his dismay at Patrick Vieira’s departure, and the potential of the current team.

I never quite know how to take Henry. At face value, he is the world’s most decent human being – a genuine example to all professional footballers in his humility and affection for fans of the game. However, the man is also a global icon, who is painfully aware of the need to promote his Mr. Nice Guy image. Perhaps it’s just the cynic in me, but sometimes I think that Henry’s “performances” extend beyond the playing field. Whatever the truth of the matter, we don’t have to worry about it anymore: he is most definitely off.

Whilst the faith Henry professes in Van Persie, Adebayor, and Bendtner is admirable, we all know that Henry must be replaced. The story that Gunnerblog brought you within hours of Henry’s defection, that Nicolas Anelka was the man most likely, is now circulating through the English press. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a deal done early next week – if nothing else, we desperately require the boost of someone coming in.

I also expect Bakary Sagna to arrive, despite Auxerre’s protestations. Quite how he fits into a squad which just handed new contracts to Hoyte and Eboue is beyond me, but there you are.

I can’t help but feel that next week is going to be very, very interesting…

ps. Remember the white kit? You know, that thing you worried about before you had something to actually worry about. Well, they well and truly cocked up the advertising. It should probably look a bit more like this:

Not sure if this promo can help. I expect the fans will pass their own judgement.

Henry says he left because Wenger isn’t extending his contract

329 comments June 23rd, 2007

Well well well.  Despite the move not even being agreed yet, Thierry Henry has already given an interview to L’Equipe which will be published in France tomorrow morning.  And you, my unlucky readers, are the first people in England to get a glimpse.  Henry says:

I still have to pass a medical on Monday.  But yes, I have chosen Barcelona.  I am going to sign there for the next four seasons … for the football they play, their history, their stadium.  For Frank Rijkaard, who I grew up watching.

So vomit-inducingly sick happy for you Thierry.  And then the line that will send shivers down the spine of Arsenal fans everywhere:

The fact that Arsene Wenger is not prolonging his contract (which ends in summer 2008) was another very important element to take into consideration.

Oh great.  Stability ahoy.

Whether or not Henry is making excuses or divulging something hitherto private we can’t know.  I personally think Wenger does intend to stay for a good few years yet, in spite of reports like this.  But Wenger needs to make a statement on his future now.  I know it’s against his personal policy, but this club could collapse under all this uncertainty.

The article also contains a couple of short quotes from Arsene, simply stating nothing is signed but that the parties came to agreement last night.

Hm.  You have to laugh, don’t you.  Read this article.  Chirpier tone.

Anelka the man most likely to replace Henry

293 comments June 23rd, 2007

Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

– (Luke 15:32, KJV)

Is it time for the prodigal son to return?  After the ashes of Henry’s move to Barcelona simmer out, will the man who deserted us for Real Madrid eight years ago be whom Arsene Wenger turns to in his most dire hour of need?  There is no hyperbole here.  Many were saying that this was Wenger’s most important summer in the transfer market to date, and that was before he decided to sell Henry.  And it has clearly been his decision – in the same way that Vieira’s comfort bubble was popped, Henry has had the red carpet pulled from underneath him.

What we desperately need now is pace and goals.  Not just upfront, to replace Henry, but wide on the flanks.  Anelka could be the first part of that.  Whoever it is we’ve chosen, you can be certain that we’ve been working at the deal for some time.  Henry’s £16m transfer will be completed on Monday: Arsenal had hoped Barca would keep schtum until we had the replacement lined up.  With Bolton already moving for Djibril Cissé, is it so inconceivable that we have already begun negotiating for Anelka?

We would all have reservations about seeing him in the red and white again.  But it might just bring about the humility he needs to be a truly great player.  One reason I think Anelka could be the man we need: when I heard United were linked with him, I was terrified about what he could do surrounded by good players.  That’s the kind of player we require to replace Henry.

Other names will be mentioned.  With a £13m release-clause, Obafemi Martins is a particularly attractive proposition.  I happen to think he could be a world beater under Wenger, who adores the kind of pace and power Martins possesses.  Fernando Torres is another name that will crop up, but I’ve never been consistently impressed by the Spaniard.  Michael Owen’s recent injury troubles make him a huge risk, even for £9m (how stupid are Newcastle’s negotiators by the way?), whilst I’m sure the likes of Adriano and David Trezeguet will also be thrown into Arsene’s big hat.

With the sales of Henry, Aliadiere, Muamba, and possibly Reyes added to any transfer budget we had in place, there is money to spend.  If we don’t want to dwindle into mid-table mediocrity, it must be spent wisely.

Ignore the taunts of other supporters today.  If Arsene gets this next bit right, it’ll be us whose gloating.

Henry Sold – Now we must take action

427 comments June 22nd, 2007

So it looks like the inevitable has happened and Thierry Henry has been sold to Barcelona £16m – less than Charlton are demanding for Darren Bent.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Arsene’s reign is that neither Vieira not Henry will ever excell in the Emirates Stadium – in fact, I can barely recall Henry’s performances there last season.  That’s the prime reason he’s been sold, though I expect his general disillusionment over being dropped at Christmas and David Dein’s departure have also contributed.

They key now is to get the next phase right.  I have it on good authority that Cesc will still be here next season, which is vital.  But we must act quickly to replace Henry with a top class striker to supplement Adebayor and Van Persie.  I’d quite like to see Newcastle’s Nigerian forward Obafemi Martins, but my suspicion is that Arsene may look to include Jose Reyes in a swap deal for Fernando Torres.  Samuel Eto’o would’ve been ideal, but if he was coming it surely would’ve been part of the Henry transfer.

We must not cock it up this time.  When Vieira left we planned to bring in Baptista to replace him, but ended up being gazumped by Madrid – OK, perhaps we dodged a bullet that time, but our season never really recovered.  If we don’t make the right signing now then we will have been in steady decline since 2004.

However, the problem might be convincing a top striker that it’s a good idea to join a club which has just sold its captain (ps. Gilberto for skipper?) and best player and whose manager’s future is equally uncertain.

Hold on for the ride.

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