The Arsenal conundrum: A night with Thierry Henry raises many questions

By Avenell Dave

Graham McNorthbank and I had the pleasure of being invited to a plush dinner in honour of Thierry Henry last night at the Savoy Hotel in central London.

A lavish affair, watching Tom Watt wax lyrical about Titi and seeing some of his best goals was a stark reminder of what an absolutely world class player he was for us and how we have missed someone of his calibre in attack since he left.

Theo Walcott may turn into Henry in time – you have to hope so, despite the obvious skill on the ball that Henry showed as a kid, so the video montage showed last night.

The speakers were right: people paid to watch Thierry Henry. He was that good.

A showman, a class performer and a passionate man, he could win games on his own – and yet he won more trophies with Barca than he ever did with us.

It was interesting listening to his speech last night and talking about how he learnt early on how much it meant to Arsenal fans to see the team beat T*t*nh*m.

He talked about how the likes or Martin Keown, Nigel Winterburn and Ray Parlour didn’t just speak about it – they kicked him to harden him up and get him used to the intensity of a North London Derby.

Can you imagine any of our current crop being able to communicate that to newcomers now?

Of course, we have players like Cesc Fabregas and RvP who have been at the club for a while and should rouse the rest of the team.

But the players who would best understand what it means to win such games are too young to be able to shout at their team-mates – Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott.

And with the exception of Jack, I don’t get the feeling any of them are the type of personality likely to be able to mix the raw with the refined. They’re simply too nice.

That’s the sort of character we’re missing, the sort of player who rolls their sleeves up and rallies everyone – in the manner Tony Adams is reported to have done almost as soon as he joined the first team despite his relative inexperience.

It was interesting as well to see that despite expectations, none of the players who had been a Arsenal with Henry were at the dinner last night.

Only John Lukic and Paul Davis were there of the old guard and you would have thought Patrick Vieira or Robert Pires (whose current manager Gerard Houllier did turn up despite his team having played that afternoon) would at least have shown their support.

Fair play to Avram Grant, who turned up despite the humiliation he’s going through at West Ham.

Saturday’s win over the Hammers should be kept in context – the east enders need new direction and were shorn of their two best players (Parker and then Noble).

Johann Djourou looked tired and each game that goes by without a new centre-back being brought in is one game closer to a major injury that will end our season. Wenger must act fast.

I read today that Theo says the team have learnt from their Cup struggles, but to be honest, these are lessons that should have been learnt years ago.

When you play for the Arsenal, as Henry said last night, you have to understand quite what it means to wear the red and white.