Football

Henry: Once a Gooner, always a Gooner

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Henry poised to make Arsenal return. (©GettyImages)
Henry poised to make Arsenal return. (©GettyImages).

As the January transfer window fast approaches, Arsene Wenger is coming under increasing pressure from his Arsenal squad to re-sign club legend Thierry Henry on a short-term deal.

The Gunners boss has been linked with a move for a number of strikers in the New Year in a bid to ease the burden on club captain Robin Van Persie, as well as covering for the absence of Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh, who soon depart on African Cup of Nations duty.

After a slow start to the 2011-12 campaign, Wenger has successfully overseen a resurgence which has put Arsenal back in contention of a top-four finish in the league - a recovery that has been in no small part down to the goalscoring exploits of Van Persie.

The Dutch dangerman equalled Henry's Arsenal record of 34 league goals in a calendar year when he scored in last weeks 2-1 victory over Aston Villa, and still has an opportunity to break Alan Shearer's Barclays Premier League record of 36 goals, set in 1995, when the Gunners host QPR at the Emirates Stadium this weekend.

There's no denying the fact that as impressive as the north Londoners revival is, the team is heavily dependent on one man, and without him it doesn't bear thinking about where the club would be.

Having also successfully navigated their way into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, there is certainly plenty of reason for optimism heading into 2012 - providing Wenger and Co. do what is needed and add to the squad to bring more belief and maintain the current momentum.

Henry was back at Arsenal's London Colney training ground yesterday following a short holiday, and Wenger plans to sit down with the 34-year-old this week to discuss the possibility of making a six-week playing return during his MLS break from the New York Red Bulls.

Speaking last week Wenger said: "Short-term is ideal for us, but I haven't made any enquiry yet. Thierry is not here at the moment. It has never come up in conversation!

"The first of January is the vital date for us. We have seven days to make decisions and I will make a decision in the next seven days on players."

Having already spent time training with the Gunners, it is clear that Henry has made quite an impression on the players, who have been surprised by his fitness and sharpness, and the fact that he is warming to the idea of a return is encouraging.

"When I see him training, I am teasing him: 'You could still play with us, you know?' But he has never replied and just smiled," Alex Song recently told L'Equipe. "What he achieved during his career is just amazing. He has nothing more to prove in football.

"Today he has the opportunity to give us a help. A player with such stature, such potential. He would bring us a lot."

Meanwhile, Per Mertesacker - a player who arrived in the summer and so never had the opportunity to play alongside Henry at Arsenal - admits he has no idea if the club will try to sign the Frenchman on loan, but says he has relished the opportunity to test himself against him in training.

"I am very happy to train with him. He is training very well," he said. "He has a lot of experience and he is a great opportunity for us, but I am not the manager and I do not know what is possible, for him or for us.

"In training he shows his class and [it is good] to have him with us."

With 174 Barclays Premier League goals to his name in the colours of Arsenal, more than any other player for any single club, there is no doubt that Henry is regarded as one of the club's greatest ever strikers.

Testament to that label was further proved by the unveiling of a statue of Henry outside the Emirates Stadium, to mark the club's 125th anniversary, an occasion that gave him an opportunity to give perhaps his most poignant message yet.

"I've said it before and I'll always say 'Once a Gooner, always a Gooner'. At the moment, I have come back to Arsenal to stay in shape. It's perfect for me to be around the place.

"When I left Arsenal I was in tears as well. I love Arsenal - I've said it so many times. I support the club now and I always come back. There's something very special about Arsenal Football Club."

Topics:
Arsenal
Football
Premier League
Thierry Henry
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