Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Arsenal after Henry

I've had a few days to absorb the news that Arsenal's talisman is leaving--and never did the word "talismanic" seem more apropos than when speaking of Henry. I would like to think the shock of the move (although it was long suspected) has worn off, but I may regret these words midway through the 2008-2009 season. Yes you heard me right. A whole season away.

In short, I think this move may be in the best interest of the club in the long term. Of course, it may hurt Arsenal's title chances in the coming season missing his goals, but then again, the team seemed to perform better with Robin van Persie healthy than it did with Henry healthy. So, in the short term, missing a healthy Henry will hurt the club. I'm not sure it totally hamstrings their title chances next season, but that depends on whom Wenger buys in the remainder of the transfer window. After that, I think the absence of Henry will only be a bonus.

Think about it. Thierry Henry was Arsenal football. Everyone on the club deferred to him. And that is dangerous. In the short term, the club will miss his goals, but not his ego (though ego is never a bad thing in a footballer to a certain extent). This will make the team Cesc's and Kolo's, and to a certain extent, van Persie's--all players playing in the shadow of number 14.


All of this assumes of course that Wenger stays after next season, that Arsenal spend some money (which is obviously now available) this offseason, and that the ownership situation stabilizes. If Kroenke splashes a lot of cash about August, all the better (even though I'd prefer the club's ownership to remain stable).

Right now, I expect numbers 11 and 5 to take much of the burden, even if it is not quite enough this season. Last season showed that Arsenal is capable of going toe to toe with the other three of the top four (best record in round robin), now all they need to do is take care of the lesser opposition. I think that exposing them to the bright light outside of Henry's shadow can only do them good. They won't look to him first anymore. Instead, they'll begin to make their own luck, and van Persie has proven what he can do with that.

So, I'm not expecting them to win the league, but its not absolutely out of the question without Henry. Chelsea still looks somewhat vulnerable, and no one played Man U better last season.

What do I expect? Arsenal finish in the top four again without too much trouble (sorry spurs, you haven't proven anything despite how good Berbatov is); qualify for the Champion's League; advance to the knockout stages to face Barcelona (you just know this will happen); and make a run to at least he semifinals in the FA Cup. And yes, I expect Silverware still.

What do I want? Arsenal challenge for the league fighting Man U and Liverpool tooth and nail to the finish; win the FA cup; Robin van Persie nets a hat trick and Lehmann notches a shutout against Barcelona in the first leg of the knockout stages of the Champion's League (sorry Titi, all bets are off); Henry gets a brace in the return leg and is the best player on the pitch to no avail as Arsenal advance behind some fabulous saves from Fabianski (Lehmann being suspended yet again due to an accumulation of yellow cards).

C'mon you Gunners!

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