The latest musings of Spanish Fry
Looking solely at the results and performances from this season it would be easy to conclude that it is essential for Arsenal to dip into the transfer market and make a number of big signings. What this conclusion doesn’t incorporate is the fact that – without spending a cent – Arsenal will be making a significant number of ghost signings in the summer. I of course refer to the players who have spent large amounts of the season injured and – should they return to fitness – will seem like new signings for the club. I thought it would be good to take a look at the players whose seasons have been severely hampered by injury and investigate the effect that their prospective returns could have on Arsenal’s 2007-2008 season.
Ghost Signing #4 – Thierry Henry
The equation is simple; take Thierry Henry out of the Arsenal starting line-up and they are a lesser side than with him in it. This is not a criticism of the other players at manager Arsene Wenger’s disposal but an honest assessment of how important a fit Henry is to Arsenal’s side. The same could be said of Kaka at AC Milan, Samuel Eto’o at Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United and Didier Drogba at Chelsea. There are some players that are absolutely essential to a team’s chances of success and Thierry Henry is one of them.
For all the defensive problems that Arsenal had this year the fact is that if Henry had been fit for the majority of the season then a great deal of pressure would have been removed from the club’s defence. As it was, with Arsenal’s replacement strikers continually wasting chances that Henry and striker partner Robin van Persie would no doubt have finished, the likes of Gallas, Toure and Senderos were put under far too much strain.
Arsene Wenger’s view has always been that the best form of defence is attack and Arsenal’s inability to bury the multitude of chances that came their way meant that many games were far tighter than they should have been. It is no coincidence that Manchester United’s defence – which contributed three players to the PFA Team of the Season – looked unstoppable this season because Ronaldo and friends took the pressure off them.
The heart of Arsenal
The importance of Henry’s return next season cannot be underestimated. His awesome speed, ball control and finishing has seen him score over 24 Premiership goals every season for the five years before 2006-07. This season, despite playing only 17 games he still managed 10 goals. But what must also be stressed is that Henry’s return will also transform the team on a psychological level. When in full flight Henry is the swaggering symbol of a young Arsenal side that has lacked belief and confidence this season.
When the English Premier League returns in August Thierry Henry will have had a full five months of rest and recovery – something that the man himself has said he has desperately needed to get back to his best. Given Henry’s astounding career thus far you’d be a silly man to ignore him.
Read previous columns by Spanish Fry here