"Tony Attwood - 'My guess ... is that Theo Walcott is ready and he'll take the world by storm – but only because this is the pattern for much of the time already – Wenger gets the others in place before he lets someone leave'"
On Friday night Spanish media reported the news that Arsenal fans had been dreading for weeks, Thierry Henry has signed for Barcelona. The enigmatic Frenchman’s eight-year spell at Arsenal had come to an end but, following rumours of unrest, his decision to quit the Emirates came as no surprise to most Gooners.
The Catalan giants had been strongly linked with the legendary number 14 more than 12 months ago but Henry decided against such a move to pen a new four-year deal at the Emirates. However, following an injury-hit and trophyless season, and the exit of David Dein, rumours began circulating that Henry was not happy with life at Arsenal and wanted out. The Frenchman refused to commit his long term future to the Gunners, as the likes of AC Milan, Liverpool and Barcelona became linked with him, and it soon became a case of when, not if, Henry would leave the club. However, despite bracing himself for the inevitable, Mark Brindle was still shocked by the news.
“Personally I felt a bit numb about the whole situation. It did still surprise me, but then again nothing in football should really surprise. I totally back Wenger’s decision. If he feels it is right then we have to back him. If it proves to be the wrong decision then Wenger knows what the consequences will be.”
But Will Cormack, 25, who felt that it was time for Henry to leave, wasn’t surprised in the slightest to see Henry call time on his Arsenal career.
“I didn’t really find the news unexpected. Henry has been looking for this move since the Champions League final in 2006. He never looked happy in our shirt last season and I find that disappointing. As I’ve said before, I firmly believe Henry thinks he is bigger than The Arsenal and it is time for us Gooners to find another hero.
“I am very glad all the speculation is over, as it brings Arsenal down and creates unwanted speculation all the time. As with so many of our ex-players, they don’t leave Arsenal and become a success. I back Wenger all the way with this decision – Henry had to go.”
Thierry Henry is one of the game’s true superstars. He can turn a game on its head with one bit of skill and can light up the crowd with an electrifying burst of pace. He is without a shadow of a doubt the best striker in the world, which makes it all the more surprising that Wenger has agreed to sell him for just £16 million. However, Tony Attwood, 59, a silver level member at Arsenal, has faith in Wenger’s decision to let Henry go and can’t believe that The Gunners have been made favourites to drop out of the top four.
“Wenger has done this before. Overmars and Petit went to Barca for £20m. Vieira went, Pires went and now Henry. What Wenger does is buy cheap and sell high – particularly when the player has a problem with injuries. And each time he was right – Overmars retired with injury, Petit retired with injury, Vieira has had a load of injuries since leaving and Pires was out for almost the whole season with injuries.
“So, we've lost Henry, and brought no-one in. That leaves us fairly much where we were last season when Henry was out for much of the time, not playing well when on the pitch, and arguing with the boss. Which presumably means that we are still in contention to come fourth and score just about the same number of goals as Chelsea. Not a bad starting point.”
Transfer activity in the Premiership had been relatively quiet until Friday’s revelation and has put some potential deals in perspective, most notably Darren Bent’s proposed £17 million move to Tottenham. Is Bent, who hasn’t made an impact on the European or international scene, really worth more than a former World Cup, European Championship, Premiership and FA Cup winner? Not to mention a record goalscorer? Season ticket holder Mark Brindle believes that Barcelona have made the steal of the century by securing Henry for £16 million – after all Chelsea paid £30 million for Shevchenko last season – but fellow Gooner Will Cormack thinks that Arsenal have done well to get £16 million for Henry and, like Tony, Will is confident that the club will be fine without the Frenchman.
“I’m not surprised Henry has left for £16 million. He hasn’t played all year, he’s not in great form anyway and he is coming up to 30 years of age. I just pray that Arsene buys 3-4 new players, even if they are young, we just need some new faces to improve team spirit and to make the team stronger as a whole.
“I still feel the team will qualify the Champions League. Even without Henry we are still a force to be reckoned with. Last year we didn’t lose to any of the top four, we only drop points against teams who just defend all the time. But as we found out when our 49-game without defeat run came to an end against Manchester United, teams only beat The Arsenal when they sit back and don’t play attacking football. This frustrates me greatly when teams play with this attitude. Everything Julio Baptista said about Northern teams is completely true.”
With Henry gone the talk has now turned to who can fill his boots? Nicolas Anelka, Michael Owen and Carlos Tevez have been linked with a move to North London in the past few days but Tony Attwood believes that Henry’s successor may already be at the club.
“Our forward line now is Adebayor, Van Persie, Walcott and Bendtner. The question is simply this. Has Wenger seen something in one of those four that we have not seen yet – something that makes one of them the new striking sensation? Or is he about to bring in a 5th forward?
“My guess, for what it is worth, is that Theo Walcott is ready and he'll take the world by storm – but only because this is the pattern for much of the time already – Wenger gets the others in place before he lets someone leave. (Interestingly both Vieira and Henry were re-signed on extended contracts to up their value before Wenger sold them – he sold neither during the height of the media frenzy to sell).”
Losing Thierry Henry is a blow, there’s no denying it. But to lose Arsene Wenger as well, which Henry has hinted may happen, would be absolutely devastating. The former Monaco boss has said that he will see out his contract at the club but he’s refused to look further ahead. Arsenal fans are understandably worried about his future and Will Cormack believes that if the club isn’t pushing for honours this season then Wenger may decide to say au revoir as well.
”I feel that Wenger will stay for one more season, he will expect the team to perform. I do have faith in Arsene, he must be seeing the players perform in training and there is still time for him to make some significant signings before the start of the year. If we end up third or fourth and we don’t challenge for league, I believe he will go.”
Tony Attwood feels that it would be almost impossible to replace Wenger but remains confident that the foundations for a great future have been laid at the club.
“As for Wenger going – that is a worry – not because we couldn't now get ourselves another top European manager, obviously we could, but because Wenger is unique because of his style of play. We've not only had a club that wins stuff, but wins so beautifully. It would be sad to lose that.
However, let's not forget that the production line continues – we've just signed a Norwegian central defender and Polish goalkeeper, both young and exciting, and there will be others coming through.”
As long as Arsene Wenger is at the helm Arsenal fans will be served up some of the best attacking football in the game. However, after two seasons without success, winning a trophy has to be high on his priorities. If they fail to do so, it might be Wenger’s turn to walk away for a fresh challenge.