Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday November 24 2006
This is becoming something of a recurring theme is it not? The day before a crucial away match, a game certain to be a pitched battle, the news filters through that Henry has a niggling injury. But rest assured, he'll be back for the next game down South.
As conspiracy theorists go, I'll confess, I'm up there with the biggest of them. 9/11, Malcolm X, Princess Diana, I've got a thory for everything. I've a feeling this particular strand will attract for spleen than the aforementioned!
Thierry Henry has suffered taunts from dissenting voices that when the going gets tough, le huff gets going. His scoring record in away matches in recent years has been paltry at best. He has scored four goals North of Birmingham since Euro 2004- two of them free kicks. For a scorer of his peerless frequency, that is a pretty poor record. He has scored once at Anfield (a penalty), once at Old Trafford (in a 6-1 reverse), once at St. James's Park, once at White Hart Lane, twice at Stamford Bridge and he has never scored at the Reebok Stadium in his Arsenal career. These statistics cannot be dismissed as coincidence, they point to something, a psychological embargo. Even more astonishing is that having participated in 3 F.A Cup Finals, 1 UEFA Cup Final, 1 Champions League Final and a World Cup Final- he has never registered on the scoresheet.
With these patterns becoming more engrained on the general psyche, Henry's attendance at fixtures such as these has become worryingly fitful. In October of last year, having recovered from a calf injury, Henry played in a home match against Manchester City. The following week, with Arsenal bereft of an away victory all season, he left his young side to twist in the wind for an encounter at White Hart Lane as he declared himself unfit to play. Much to my astonishment, he decided he was fit to play in a dead rubber encounter at home to Sparta Praha. I know which game I would prefer to have the captain and top scorer for. Frequently in the last five seasons, games at Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford and the Reebok are cried off, only for him to return for the next encounter against relegation fodder. Earlier this campaign, with Arsenal without a victory all season, he was again on the treatment table for crucial away matches at Hamburg and Man USA. Naturally, he was on fie for the following the following weekend's nutcracker at home to Sheffield United!
Now is it me, or am I detecting a disturbing pattern here as he is confirmed missing for our perrenial bogey side Bolton? Of course le boss assures us he will be as right as rain for the midweek saunter down the Thames to Fulham. Many of you may claim that Wenger is protecting TH with crucial games on the horizon. But I don't buy this for a number of reasons. Firstly, with van Persie suspended on Saturday, why would Wenger leave us so short of strikig options. Particularly as he will be back for the Fulham game, surely it would make more sense to rest him then? Secondly, he was rested very recently and is suspendedfor the trip to Porto.
Henry's attendance at home games tells a more revealing story. He has missed four home games since 2004/05, and scored in a sizeable chunk of them. Does this reveal a fundamental dishonesty? That he plays and performs and scores so regularly at home, but is impervious to away fixtures? Away from the adulation of the majority, the small number of us that travel to every away game are subjected to his insipid performances, or his temporary absences? Can ALL of this really be put down to coincidence? Now I am acutely aware of this guy's talent and contribution to our club over the last seven years, and I was delighted when he signed a new deal. But I do not owe him some kind of religious quiescence because he put pen to paper. If I think an Arsenal player is not pulling his weight, I will say so, regardless of talent or anything else. There is a line written by a favourite rapper of mine, #We are all judged by the same standards, saints, gangsters, to base heads in St. Pancras.# Until Thierry begins to exhibit less apathy towards away fixtures (particularly those in the North), I will continue to make this point. Before anybody wishes to graffiti the forum with, 'what sort of supporter are you?' I will preface with this, the kind that is going to Bolton tomorrow.
Date:Friday November 24 2006
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