Thursday, June 20, 2024

Thoughts on Thierry’s (possible) return

For the last few months if speculation has been made over where Arsenal should make a signing in January it’s been in the striking position.

Beyond Robin van Persie we have few options. Or, to put it another way, we have options which no longer produce goals or which the manager clearly has little faith in. There’s no point in me charting Marouane Chamakh’s decline, we all know the player we’re seeing now is far removed from the one we first saw in the early stages of last season. To me he looked a decent, albeit limited player, but still one who could produce enough to prove worthy of a place in the squad. Not quite a Plan B but almost.

The return and form of Robin van Persie seemed to the knock the stuffing out of him. Just 2 Premier League goals in over 12 months is a poor return for any player at a club like Arsenal, and more than the lack of goals it’s the obvious brokenness of him that’s most worrying. He does try but he looks like a player in a permanent state of ‘Movie hero yet to come good who is going through the bad patch before the montage of awesomeness at the end when he scores loads of goals’.

Andrei Arshavin is not a striker, per se, but really has enough about him to have eased some of the burden on van Persie. Such is his form he’s fallen down the pecking order to the point where even if Walcott is out of the squad entirely he doesn’t start and people then want a youngster like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to go on ahead of him. And then we have Ju Young Park. It’s easy to be cynical and suggest that the signing was one designed to do more for Arsenal’s commercial department than its playing one but until we see the player produce it’s always going to be in the back of people’s minds.

As January nears the possibility of signing a striker is open to us and much of the talk is that Thierry Henry will rejoin the club on a short-term loan deal from New York Red Bulls. He’s been training with the club for a few weeks now and despite Arsene saying he hasn’t spoken with Thierry about it from what I hear there is more than a hint of truth to these stories.

Per Mertesacker, speaking to the official site, said of the former captain:

In training he shows his class and to have him with us is great because he shows his attitude, his experience. He still has the same attitude he showed in a lot of games at Arsenal.

He is a great opportunity for us, but I’m not the manager, I couldn’t find a decision or what is possible for him or for us.

Is that a bit of groundwork being laid there? We shall see, I suppose, and it’d be an interesting move by the manager, adding to the Sol Campbell and Jens Lehmann events in which the man who never looked back starts looking back. I have to say though, I’m very much in two minds about it.

Mind 1

I look at the paucity of options we currently have and I think that Thierry Henry is a player of class who knows the Premier League and its demands. I look at him and although he’s been in the MLS for a couple of years I’d still have more faith in him to score us a goal than Arshavin, Chamakh or Park. Does he improve us? Probably, and that’s not a bad thing, but why he improves us is the bigger question.

Mind 2

Our need for a striker is obvious and our need for a striker isn’t just temporary either. I know Chamakh is off to the ACN but the Chamakh that returns is likely to be the same Chamakh that left. If the manager is considering bringing back a 34 year old Thierry Henry who, with all due respect to the MLS, has been out of top-level football for as long as he has, what does that tell us about Park and the manager’s willingness to use him?

In two months time when the loan move is up we still face the same problem of having no real alternative to Robin van Persie. And games like the one against Wolves show the value of having another striker who could actually trouble defences and goalkeepers. Basically, we need to invest, properly, in a forward who will be part of the first team squad for the foreseeable future. The gap we need to fill is not one created by the ACN or anything like that; it’s been created by the declines of Chamakh and Arshavin, the unsuitability (thus far) of Park and the reliance on van Persie.

If Henry were to come alongside another signing then I’d happily welcome him back. If his loan move is the best we can come up with as we head into the second half of the season, with the fight of our lives on our hands for a top four finish, then I don’t think it would be at all satisfactory.

Like others, I don’t hold any truck with the tarnishing of a legend. If Henry comes now what he does in this period will have no bearing on what he did when he was the best striker in the world and becoming our record goalscorer. Yet if people are expecting that kind of player they will be disappointed. I can’t speak to his physical condition, Arsene will have watched that closely during training, but it’s obvious that burst of pace is gone and if he’s up to 90 minutes in the Premier League it’d be a surprise. And that’s no criticism, he’s 34 and heading into the twilight of his career.

I love the guy, for everything he did for us in the past, and on his day was just an absolute joy to watch. Nothing will spoil that for me but I’m just worried that he’s not the solution we need at the moment. People speak about January and players not being available but in the past the manager has gone out and bought. January arrivals include Adebayor, Walcott, Diaby, Reyes, Arshavin – and you can use those and say ‘Haha, after that you can see why he won’t buy in January’ but the reasons for those players working out has nothing to do with when they were brought to the club.

Maybe the player Arsene really wants isn’t available in January, which is unfortunate, but the obvious solution there is find another option, a different player. We’ve got the money to do something in the transfer market this January and we have a hell of a scrap ahead of us in the next half of the season. I know we’re not great at the old ‘speculate to accumulate’ thing but you can’t help but get the feeling we’ve got to at least try this January.

So to conclude: Henry solo – welcome in the sense that he could offer than what we currently have but this is a very quick fix with all kinds of caveats. Henry + AN OTHER – adds depth, provides experience, and what an option to have in the final 15-20 mins of a match. Then you think if he did sign AN OTHER, is there any need for the Henry signing at all?

Anyway, January is almost upon us, all will become clear sooner rather than later.

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