Champions League draw :: Thierry joins Sky Sports

So, the main news this morning is the Champions League draw and for once our balls were not super-warm and drawn against even bigger balls.

First Barcelona drew City, then Atletico got Bayer Leverkeusen, Real Madrid were drawn against Schalke and there was still that thing where you felt Bayern were inevitable but instead they’ll play Shaktar Donetsk which meant it was one of Monaco or Porto for us and lo and behold it’s a return the principality for Arsene Wenger.

He was manager of the club between 1987 and 1994 and the message posted on their official website last night shows that he’s still held in high regard there. The two clubs have never met in a competitive fixture so it’ll be an interesting match-up and look, I think it’s a draw we can be very happy with.

There were three teams that would, most likely, have dumped us out given their quality. Atletico would have been a real challenge too, and while I’m not taking anything at all for granted, if you’d asked anyone beforehand who they wanted the answer was one of Monaco and Porto. Let’s be honest, we haven’t had much luck in recent years when it comes to the draw. I think it was the year we got AC Milan that we finished top of the group and that was the supposed ‘easier’ option (this was before Italian football became worse than the Conference, obviously).

This year, had we topped the group, we’d have drawn Juventus. Not as difficult as it once was but still the team topping Serie A ahead of a team in which Gervinho looks good. I don’t know what kind of conclusions we can actually draw from that other than it’s probably more tricky than Monaco. So, when it comes down to it, that woeful second half against Anderlecht turned out to be a cloud with quite a silver-lining. I mean, it’s still frustrating to think about it but there you go, funny how football works.

I don’t know a huge amount about the Monaco side other than they’ve got some old blokes like Dimitar Berbatov and Ricardo Carvalho, the sneakiest 36 year old central-defender in Europe, and a load of players that we’ve been linked with at some point or another. All in all though, a draw to be happy with.

Bonus listening: To hear James and I react to the draw ‘live’ as we were recording yesterday, you can check out this week’s Arsecast Extra right here.

As it’s relatively quiet from an Arsenal point of view – winning tends to ensure there’s not days of introspection and sad wailing – we can look at the story that’s just broken this morning regarding Thierry Henry. Having last week announced his departure from New York Red Bulls, he’s revealed he’s joining Sky Sports as a pundit.

It’s interesting because at this point I almost always eschew the pre-game waffle, the half-time piffle and the post-game babbling simply because I’m not remotely interested in what the majority of the pundits have to say. This is true of all channels, not just Sky. The ones who have anything insightful to say or to add the conversations are the exception rather than the rule, and the sheer inanity of the rest of them makes it difficult to put up with all the gibbering for the odd gem.

However Henry, not just for his past with us, would go into the first category for me. Somebody who speaks well about the game, with intelligence and genuine thought – rather than somebody who would just bleat the first thing that came to mind. It’s been notable that there’s been a move towards more measured analysis with Gary Neville at the forefront of that, so hopefully Thierry can bring something to the table there along with his ability to speak English in the correct tense.

For those who wanted him back with us in some capacity, I think that was always going to be something for the future. He’s still to do his coaching badges and that’s something Arsene Wenger hinted at last month when he talked about Henry’s potential return. He said:

It has to be a job available and one that you get up in the morning and you have to do something – not an honorary job. He has to learn his job first. I have seen so many people who have the qualities to be a manager but not survive their first job because they are not ready.

It makes sense, and players in the past have come back to us to do parts of their badges. His relationship with Arsene Wenger is such that the door will surely be open for him for whatever he needs in that regard, but for now his decision is to further his career in the media first, and whatever might happen in terms of coaching/managing is something for the longer-term.

Here’s a Sky Sports interview with TH.

Finally for today, if you are looking for the perfect gift for the Arsenal fan in your life this Christmas, a copy of the beautiful hardback Together: the story of Arsenal’s unbeaten season will do the trick. It covers the whole of that remarkable season, including some of Thierry’s best ever moments, with match reports, pictures, stats, and each book comes with a set of fantastic illustrated postcards.

Pre-Christmas post is such though that I’d really recommend ordering today so we can get them shipped before the end of the day. Items are sent via standard post, so bear that in mind. If you’re in London you can still get copies from The Tollington.


Right, that’s that, more from me tomorrow, until then have a good one.


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