Arsenal and the Henry vs Wenger nonsense

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ANR and Arseblog have covered the mess very differently, and it’s illuminating, to say the least.

Myles sees the hand of someone in the Arsenal board in this and he’s sure about his sources (who wouldn’t be?). It’s possible that a board member went to Wenger and said: “What’s wrong with us, fix the team” but you also have to give Arsene Wenger some credit.

Wenger’s not a muppet, not by a long shot and if he professes blindness whenever his players cheat, he also possesses an amazing footballing brain. Not that you’d need Einstein to tell you that Henry needed a rest and that he wasn’t playing the same way that he was last season. Wenger dropping Henry, or benching him or generally telling him off and asking him to sit out for a few weeks (I doubt he’ll rest for the whole six weeks) has to do with what Wenger felt was necessary for Arsenal. The club comes first, not Henry, and Wenger has that bit figured out.

Myles is very critical of Henry and his place in Arsenal in general, but I’m not going to go into that (you can read it yourself) – what I do want to say is:

Thierry Henry is, like the most gifted of footballers, ambitious, proud and vain. Like it or not, Zidane was the same, Becks and Keano and Vieira and Rooney and diving Ronaldo and fat Ronaldo and Maradona and Pele – they are all the same.

Henry is a victim of bad timing. His peers – Vieira, Pires, Bergkamp, Campbell – have left, leaving him with Ljunberg, Gallas, Silva and Lehmann for company. Silva is a team-man, Lehmann is a nutter, Ljunberg has enough problems of his own and Gallas, while being an old friend, is still new.

Henry doesn’t have the same influence in the team as he did before, and that’s hurting him.

Worse, it has created a bit of a divide between him and the team – they are growing together and learning together, he is someone who has been there and done that and demands perfection.

Wenger understands that the team needs time – I’m sure Henry understands that in his head, but his footballing heart lets him.

Combine that with his fitness and (shock! horror!) the disappointment of losing two big finals, and Henry’s a wreck and needs a break from football.

So kudos to Wenger for taking a stand and backing Arsenal over Henry.

The media has been fishing for crumbs over a falling out, but I doubt there will be any serious falling out. Henry and Wenger, for all their complaining, love Arsenal too much to bitch about it while at the club. Henry could, once he leaves, complete his Vieira imitation and complain about feeling unwanted, but that’s a natural byproduct of a player who has passed his time.

Arseblog’s naturally defensive of Wenger and Arsenal, and with good reason – the selfish and narcissistic jibes can go too far and while Henry’s actions may look attention-seeking to some, they are probably carried with the best of intentions. Then again, I assume so are Blatter’s, so that’s not much of a defence.

Both of them (and the media, including Amy Lawrence at the Observer) commented on Wenger’s reactions at the post-match conference (after the Spurs game) and how he looked seriously troubled. It could be that Wenger consider’s the situation with Henry a private matter (and taking away from the rest of the squad), or he could be pissed off at what Henry said to the media (about buying new players in January).

Bottom line, this isn’t going to go away. I don’t think Wenger’s decided to sell Henry, and I don’t think the board has either, but despite Henry’s record at Arsenal this is undoubtedly a strong wake-up call for him to get his shit together and start playing the way Arsenal, and more importantly, Arsene, want him to play.

Because if he doesn’t, he’ll be the odd man out and Henry’s too proud to be sitting on the bench (nor will it be good for team morale).

Hopefully Henry will hit top gear again and confirm third spot for Arsenal in the Premiership. Whether he does or not could determine his future in the summer – he could very well be caught in the same position as Vieira, with Arsenal not so keen on begging him to stay again, and the player moving on to a place where he will find love again.

Either way, Arsenal blew an opportunity to cash in on an asset after last summer, just like they blew it with Vieira in 2004.

Maybe they’ll sell him to Real Madrid next year for peanuts? 🙂

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