Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Saturday December 24 2011
Arsene is nothing of not an incalcitrant old cad when it comes to the subject of transfers. Tight lipped coyness is ordinarily the order of the day when taken to task over the items on his shopping list. But occasionally, just occasionally, Mr. Wenger gets all Pavlovian on our arses and watches us all salivate with a suggestive ring of the bell. In the last 24 hours, let`s just say he hasn`t exactly quashed growing rumours linking us with a romantic swoop for former beau of the North Bank Thierry Henry.
Henry of course has been training with us in the MLS off season to keep his ageing limbs tuned to the highest pitch. This set tongues a flutter as the ladies and gents of Fleet Street made a tenuous link to a loan deal; given Arsenal`s dearth of any competent back up to Robin van Persie. In his press conference yesterday, the manager admitted he would consider a loan move for Arsenal`s record goalscorer, with Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh moseying off to the African Nations in January.
But is it a good idea? Would a 6 week signing at the expense of £70,000 a week represent value? Would this be a canny addition to the squad? I have to say I don`t think so at all. I appreciate it is difficult to put sentiment aside for one of the club`s most loved servants. Sentiment amongst football fans is not at all wrong and in many ways it keeps us coming back to a game increasingly sullied by filthy lucre. Sentiment can be lovely. But it doesn`t kick footballs and it doesn`t win football games and qualify you for the Champions League.
If sentiment had any genuine governance over football; John Terry wouldn`t have won multiple trophies, Bergkamp would not have been forced to sit out the 98 FA Cup Final and Arsenal would have won the league in honour of Eduardo and / or Aaron Ramsey. But football is like life. It`s not governed by some mystic force. It`s random and often cruel as a result. So one has to cast sentiment aside here, it has no gravity within the situation other than in the more whimsical recesses of our minds.
To proffer a Wengerism, the decision to sign would have to make sense "footballistically." Let me put this to you, let`s say Henry had never played for Arsenal with such distinction. Arsenal need a striker. Arsene puts down a £70k a week offer for a 34 year old striker from the MLS. For six weeks. Are you honestly telling me people would be satisfied with that? Henry operates at the same level in the same league as Robbie Keane currently does, but most Arsenal fans wouldn`t have him cleaning our bogs, let alone sitting on our bench.
Raul, Shevchenko and van Nistelrooy are around the same age as Thierry and operating at a higher level, why not the clamour for them to step in? Footbalistically, it would make as much sense. Salary is an issue too. £70,000 a week is no cheap gamble. Many ask, "Why not give it a whirl, what`s the worst that could happen?" You may argue that for a period of six weeks it would represent a drop in the ocean. But Henry would need to really produce the goods to justify that outlay and represent value. I mean, relatively speaking, £5 isn`t a lot of money, but I wouldn`t spend that much on a chocolate bar.
This isn`t even about "protecting Henry`s legacy" or anything that grandiose. That`s an off the pitch consideration, one for photo shoots and montages. On the pitch, it`s irrelevant. The interests of the team are paramount and the interest of the team decrees that we need a quality striker. Competitive sport`s over riding Darwinism overrides any affair of the heart. The Thierry Henry Legend DVD is always on the shelf for any intravenous nostalgia shot. It`s tempting to make comparisons with the return of Sol Campbell, or the job Henrik Larsson performed for Manchester United for half a season at the age of 36. The problem is, comparisons are equally useless. They don`t really scan in this scenario because, well, you know, people are different. We turned Lauren from an all action central midfielder into a right back. By that token, we should do the same with Aaron Ramsey, right?
Like I said, human beings aren`t prototypes, what scans for one man in his mid 30s doesn`t necessarily translate to another. Henry has been playing virtually part time for two years and has just been on holiday to boot. How long would it take him to get up to speed, assuming he were even capable at this stage? As much as people protest to the contrary, the very probable reality is that he isn`t at the standard that Chamakh is, otherwise he`d play in a more challenging league.
In any case, it`s not my view that we just need a striker for six weeks. Ju Young Park is already 25% of the way through his stint with Arsenal and Chamakh`s form has been in the khazi for over a year. Van Persie`s contract remains unsigned. I`d far rather see us invest in a long term option that can provide competition upfront and be relied upon.
As I said at the outset, I fully understand the misty eyed outlook of football supporters. We`re all of us soft, weepy creatures, or else the club wouldn`t bother with the Lux Aeterna backed montage prior to kickoff at the Grove. Our heartstrings love a good old tug. But the game is based on the green spaces of reality and they dictate that it is unlikely that any 34 year old playing MLS would struggle to impact the Premier League again. Arguments that "he knows the club" are strawman and don`t have any footing in reality. Besides which, since his transfer, only one player remains and the club isn`t even owned by the same people.
Memories are great, but they are designed to fade, so they can be replaced by newer experiences. The club crest has the word "Forward" stitched into it this season and I remain unconvinced the resigning of King Henry would stay true to that maxim. I guess Arsene is in the best place to make this call having seen him train for the last few weeks, but it would be a move I would have serious doubts about. Have a very Merry Christmas if indeed it is your custom to celebrate. LD.
Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA
Date:Saturday December 24 2011
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