Thierry Henry, retiring from football, left imprint on Arsenal few footballers can match
Watch any compilation of Thierry Henry’s club-record 228 goals for Arsenal and you soon run out of superlatives.
From his first in Arsenal colours at Southampton, to those which helped Arsene Wenger’s side become “Invincible” and win three FA Cups, free-kicks whipped up over the wall and into the top corner or the ball simply crashed past flaying goalkeepers from 25 yards.
Remember that night he charged through the Bernabeu to sink Real Madrid? Or how about when he helped Arsenal romp to a 5-1 victory at Inter Milan?
Fittingly, Henry signed off from Highbury with a hat-trick against Wigan to edge out Tottenham which so secured fourth place and another shot at the Champions League, before he then further enhanced the legend after increasing his tally with winners against Leeds and Sunderland during a loan spell in January 2012.
Henry was equally prolific for France, retiring from international duty as his country’s all-time leading scorer with 51 goals in 123 games. Only Lilian Thuram has played more games for Les Bleus.
A member of the squad for their World Cup win in 1998 and man of the match in their European Championship triumph two years later, he will go down as one of their finest players.
While Henry went on to win the Champions League following an emotional exit to join Barcelona in June 2007 and netted plenty of goals of the highest order, if not against the classiest of opposition while at New York Red Bulls, it will be his time as the Arsenal talisman for which the French forward will best be remembered.
Not by the defenders, though, with the likes of current Arsenal assistant manager Steve Bould and Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher just two of the countless who tried but always failed to stop Henry in full flight.
When Henry picked up the ball, often after ghosting out to the left, everyone else in the stadium, both on and off the pitch, knew exactly what was about to happen, but there was also an acceptance that most likely none of them could do much about it anyway.
Yet no matter what performance he had just produced, Henry would always question if he could have given more.
“When I go home, sometimes, even when I had an amazing game, I always think about what I missed,” Henry said.
That summed his time up at Arsenal, the continued pursuit for perfection.
Wenger observed: “He is a role model for every striker.
“Many times you know people get in the newspapers for the wrong headlines. In his case I feel that this is a reward for a very clean life - unfortunately you get more of the headlines when you go out at three o’clock in the morning and you are drunk.”
Henry’s time at Arsenal can, of course, not all be viewed back through rose-tinted spectacles.
But for all that did not go right during his final seasons as Arsenal struggled to match their dominance after moving to the Emirates Stadium, Henry never shirked the responsibility of a captaincy which must have often weighed heavy on his shoulders as the talisman for a side the pale shadow of his beloved Invincibles.
The 37-year-old will now return to London to take up a role in the media with Sky Sports.
His place in Arsenal folklore has, though, been permanent enshrined with a bronze statue on the concourse around the club’s new 60,000 seater home, the striker immortalised in celebration on his knees, which is just where defenders were left trailing in his wake.
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Published: December 16, 2014 04:00 AM