Bye Bye Titi.

23 06 2007

So the news that most Arsenal fans I know were expecting was finally officially announced today; Thierry Henry has left (subject to medical) to go to Barcelona. I can’t say I’m surprised. The (now ex) Arsenal captain had been playing like a man who had regrets about turning Barcelona down last summer. That decision always felt as if it were made with the heart and not with the head and perhaps the Champions League final did help to cloud his judgement. Robin van Persie outperformed him last season, and Fabregas was growing into the fulcrum of the team, not to mention the fact that the Frenchman was plagued by injuries. Wenger dropped Henry mid-season and relations between the two did seem to weaken as the season went on; it was almost as if The Professor was preparing for life after Thierry. And Wenger’s track record with selling experienced players at the right time suggests it might be a wise move.

Not only was I not surprised, I was actually calling for this to happen all season. Thierry was a shadow of his former self and as an Arsenal legend (he leaves, of course, as our record goal scorer) it would be a shame if he’d ended up tainting his legacy. It’s a phenomenon some Arsenal fans have come to know as “doing a Seaman”. His attitude was hampering the development of young players like Robin van Persie. Of course Arsenal were already struggling to hit the back of the net last season as it was, so this won’t help, but it’s hardly as if Henry was himself in prolific form. Arsenal do need goals but an injury-free (which rules out Michael Owen) proven goalscorer (which probably rules out Martins) would be more use to Arsenal than an unfit, unwilling Thierry Henry. Rumours were flying about that Barcelona would offer Eto’o as part of the deal, and whenever the idea would be mentioned I always thought we should bite their hand off. Sadly the Cameroon striker doesn’t seem to be part of the deal (which I never really expected he would) but Wenger does seem to have lined up a replacement.

Can’t say as that’s a surprise choice either, many Arsenal fans who I know were whispering his name as a possible signing this summer anyway, regardless of Thierry leaving. Of course there is the “small” issue of his time at the club before leaving a bad taste in some fans’ mouths (including mine), and that alone was my only reservation (there’s no doubting his talent) but if the rumours are to be believed, the boy has matured. The question remains whether he’ll be accepted by the fans but I’d like to think that if it’s in the best interests of the club, he will be given the support any Arsenal player deserves. If he doesn’t sign for us, I will continue to hope he burns in hell, but if he does, he’ll be one of ours again. It would be quite interesting if Anelka were replaced by Henry only for now, Anelka himself to replace Henry. Kind of like the circle of life. He wouldn’t be my choice (I’d prefer Torres) but the price tag would allow Wenger (if the man ever spent money) to use the Henry money to strengthen elsewhere.

The only concern might be that Wenger might follow him out of the door, but with Real Madrid seemingly a graveyard of managerial careers (if Capello can’t get it done few can) the only club I could see him choosing to manage would be Barcelona. However surely if Wenger was thinking about joining Barcelona at the end of his current contract (and we all know the man would never break a contract) it would be strange to think he’d sell Thierry to Barcelona now, rather than come knocking himself as Barcelona coach. The good news in this scenario, then, is that perhaps Thierry’s departure rather than spelling the end of Wenger as Arsenal coach, suggests he’s planning a long stay. If Vieira’s sale was part one of Wenger’s rebuilding project then the next natural step would be to move Henry on, so as to build his new side around the young Catalan Fabregas.

So today’s news is hardly all doom and gloom, and who knows, in the long run it may be the best thing for us? There’s no doubting that he wasn’t the right man for the captaincy so a new captain might be just one of the benefits of this. Given the fact we’ve sold two captains in three years, however, I hope it’s not Fabregas. He’d be a fine captain but I’d hate to lose him.


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