Well it’s finally happened; Thierry Henry’s buggered off to Barcelona at long last. I heard a lot of Arsenal fans commenting on the radio yesterday about how surprising, even shocking the news was – but surely this was a move destined to happen. For one thing it’s been a courtship resurrected every summer for the last 5 years. I think most people regarded that as just a tactic to earn TH a regular pay rise. But by his own standards he had such a shocking last season. He seemed disaffected by the move to the Emirates, the captaincy seemed to rest heavily on his shoulders (Silva looked far more comfortable in the role), his team mates appeared almost as intimidated by him as his opponents, his injuries became more of an issue as his relationship with Wenger broke down, David Dein’s departure unsettled him more than it ought to have, he started commenting on the lack of ambition being shown by Arsenal in the transfer market, and he developed a sulk which manifested itself in petulant performances on the pitch. He’s such a gifted player – one of the best the Premiership has seen but I’m sure Wenger knew that last season was a tipping point and now was the time to cash in on a player past his best, just like Vierra before him. It’s smart business by Wenger as usual.
Replacing him won’t be easy especially since 16m quid isn’t exactly a fortune these days but that’s not my worry as a Man U/Boro/Blackpool/occasional Millwall fan. In fact not having him the Arsenal side will be a blessing going forward given the goals he usually tips in against MU. But the likelihood is that the younger guys especially at the Arsenal will blossom now and he might not be missed as much as fans are fearing. They do need an out-an-out striker and someone like a Michael Owen for 9m quid looks a bargain. Yakuba at the same price or even Martens at 13m pounds would deliver the goals and a profit.
The one realistic concern I guess for Arsenal fans is whether this spells a melt-down at the club. Dein gone, Henry gone; will a disillusioned Wenger be next, to be followed by Fabregas, van Persie etc? It could happen. The strong philosphical link from the Boardroom to the lynchpin players via an astute manager has been broken. Has Wenger got the stomach to rebuild the structure? Maybe, but you sense a serious move by Real might just make him think ‘frig it, you re-build it Hill-Wood’. I had a meeting with one of the key Board members at Arsenal a couple of years ago, when the sponsorship rights for the stadium were being offered around. He was very pointed in his comments about the situation at Man U. He thought the Boardroom changes there would prove to be massively destabilising and that Ferguson was a busted flush. His comments seem ironic now. If anything Arsenal are the club in danger of imploding if they don’t handle the Wenger situation adroitly. There’s a lot of debt there too and Champions league football is a necessity for the next, what 12 years? Having Kronke sniffing around like a corporate hyena must make the situation diverting at the very least for the Board. There may be others who are thinking ‘frig it’ too. It’ll be fascinating to watch…..