Thierry Henry. That's all you need to say. He has scored 340 goals over his club career and 51 more goals for his country, France. He is so deadly that there is a statue of him outside Emirates stadium, something most legends have to wait for years after the end of their career even to see. Thierry is the master of disaster. He is a man who truly can score when he wants to, and has the vision to make sure others get the goals they deserve.
Over his club career Henry has been the ultimate playmaker. In 725 appearances has 518 goals and assists combined that give him a career playmaker rate of .714. The legendary playmaker has his swagger that forces defenses to shudder, and all to take notice of, and guess what Arsenal fans, your hero is likely to come home for another winter spell.
Sure he's 35 years old, and has had Achilles problems in the past, but Thierry is still the man for the job. Arsene Wenger wants him, and needs him. The Gunners are sitting currently in 7th place in the EPL and are looking to miss the Champions League next season, which will mean even more revenue shortages for the London Club. Top that Theo Walcott is shaping up to be the next major star to leave Arsenal in an ever increasing line (Fabregas, Nasri, and Van Persie). Arsenal's 2012-13 season is likely to be a season the club will look to have expunged from the record books.
Wenger knows he can't guarantee a top 4 finish or any silverware from this campaign, but he can bring a legend back for what would be his final premier league hoorah. Everyone remembers the frenzy Arsenal fans were in last winter when Henry returned, and there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the same result would occur for the club, so by all means Wenger, bring home the legend.
This happening is smart for NYRB, which would save roughly $100,000 dollars or $78,000 euros a month, and smart for Arsenal, who would get to bring a fan favorite home during a rough time. However, this brings up several questions, which I will discuss now.
Question 1) Can Henry still cut it in the Premier League?
The answer is yes, yes he can. Yes Henry plays in MLS, which is still inferior compared to the EPL, but there is a reason Thierry gets paid $5 million a year which is $4.9 million higher than the league average salary. This season in MLS he made 25 appearances in which he had 15 goals and 12 assists. If you can't do math that means he had a hand in a goal 27 times, meaning he averaged more than 1 per game. He had a hat-trick and a game with 3 assists, and an Olympico goal. Henry at times does look tired, and isn't the kind of player to double-back for defensive duties, but his touch is epic.
Some forwards need their physical abilities to keep things going for them, but Henry doesn't need to be the quickest player on the pitch because he is the smartest. He is a player a lot like Dimitar Berbatov, he may appear lazy and uninterested in the game at times, but in reality he is a cobra, biding his energy and waiting for the correct moments to unleash and utilize his elegant touch on the ball. That is something Henry has that makes him so stellar, his touch. So his skills are still on par. But what about his physical nature?
MLS is the most physical league in the world. If you doubt me, then just watch a game sometime, you'll see rougher tackles, strong pushing in all situations, all caused by raw strength, a skill that if used right can whip any player no matter how skilled a dribbler they are. Henry struggled at first, but over time he learned how to manage a game where physicality tops ability. Henry returns to Europe not only with amazing touch that embarrasses opponents, but an understanding of how to play with brutes that allows him to go toe to toe with the nastiest of defenders. Henry is more than ready to show his stuff, if he wasn't he wouldn't still be scoring and providing excellent assists.
Question 2) How will NYRB take the loan if it goes till May?
Normally when MLS teams send a star on loan to a European club the loan ends before the start of the MLS regular season which is the second week of March. While Henry will be able to get a loan for 2 months easily because it saves the club money and doesn't cripple them during the season and keeps Henry in shape, Wenger has been looking to see the loan go till May, which would mean Henry effectively missing the first 3 months of the MLS season, which will most likely jeopardize the Red Bulls chances of winning the silverware they desperately need to obtain in the 2013 campaign. While Wenger really wants to have Henry for the rest of the season, NYRB won't want to forfeit their best asset for 3 extra months.
A similar situation occurred in 2010 with David Beckham. He abandoned the Los Angeles Galaxy for the first half of the season to be with AC Milan so as to prepare himself for the World Cup. However, Beckham got hurt during the stint in Italy, and had to miss the World Cup and play another lack luster half-season in Los Angeles. Thierry Henry's situation isn't quite the same.
Henry has been the club's MVP for the past two seasons, and the only player that the club's fans have true disdain for is Rafa Marquez the club's $11 million mistake. Henry staying longer in London, would upset fans, but it wouldn't be the complete hate that Beckham felt from MLS fans for around 15 months. Bottom-line people will be angry if the loan goes till May, but as long as he comes back healthy and fit to deliver, and the Red Bulls haven't spent the first three months on the bottom of the table then fans won't hold too much of a grudge. Of course for me being an American I hope he comes back in March.
Question 3) Is it silly for European giants to seek aid from MLS players during the winter?
It is something we have seen more and more frequently over the past few seasons, the big names in MLS stay fit during the winter by temporarily joining teams in Europe. Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez, and of course Henry have all done the winter loan. Queens Park Rangers are looking to snag a few talents this winter to help keep them in the Premier League. So does it look pathetic to call on the Superstars of the States to keep the club competitive?
Look the seasons in football are long and trying on any man's body. Injuries occur, especially in the winter months when hamstrings tighten and bones are most susceptible to breakage. When a player goes down, it can be very scary even more if the player is a main component of the teams winning strategy. Negotiating for other players to come in January can be a real hassle because all clubs in Europe are still competing and looking to finish strong. So what can you do to gain extra players without negotiating contracts and paying other clubs massive money?
Major League Soccer has their offseason during the winter months and start up till March. Now not every player in MLS is worth the offseason loan but look at the best of the leagues players next time you're on FIFA 13, you'll see at least 14 players above a 75 overall rating. Now that isn't going to be starting talent on most EPL teams, but they definitely are of rotation quality and in the woeful season of winter, a strong lineup with a loaned in player from MLS isn't all that bad a move. So if you feel it is cheap and sad that your team signs an MLS best to your favorite club this winter don't freak out, they're only there to provide aid if needed which, happens in the cold season.
Question 4) what has been Henry's impact in MLS and the US sports market?
MLS is growing rapidly. The league quality soars higher with each expansion and season. So has Henry had anything to do with this? I believe he has, Henry has been the spearhead of MLS's second wave of Designated Players (Big-Money). The first wave came and went with Landon Donovan being the last player of that wave still active in MLS. Henry is currently the 3rd most sold jersey for MLS, and his presence helps raise crowd and TV levels, because everyone wants to see the legendary player rule the final third.
Funny thing about America is that while MLS is now the 3rd highest professional League in the country by average attendance even the stars like Henry can go most places and fit right in with the general populace. That was one of the props for Henry and Beckham when they first came to America, they didn't need to have a private security team just to leave their home. MLS has grown thanks to people like Henry who bring their fame and their talent to the States in which a new market falls in love and gains understanding of the world's greatest sport. Whether he ever gets a championship in MLS, Henry will forever be loved and cherished by Americans like me, who thanks to him got the chance to see some amazing talent, live.
Henry is living legend, a player who changes games with his very presence on the pitch. Arsenal will be lucky to have him for 2 months this winter, and maybe more if a deal can be reached. Maybe I should quickly add an Arsenal Jersey to my Christmas wish list, because where Henry is playing I hope to watch. So Gunners get your chants, TIFOs, and signs ready because when Henry becomes eligible to play for the club in January, something special is bound to happen.