Premier League Legends: Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry
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Welcome back to the latest series of articles from Last Word on Football. This time we look back on the footballers who many class as Premier League legends; these are players who wowed the crowd, frustrated the opposition, scored great goals and inspired their team to glory.
Today we look at a player who defined class in the Premier League era. A serial goal scorer, record breaker and invincible, Thierry Henry could do it all for Arsenal and he led the team during one of their most successful spells in the Premier League.

Premier League Legends: Thierry Henry

Henry Arrives at Arsenal

Thierry Henry signed for Arsenal for £11 million in August 1999. Manager Arsene Wenger previously worked with the young Henry at AS Monaco when Henry was a promising youth player.

Henry arrived from Juventus as a winger. He was not the recognised goalscorer he became in later years. Wenger signed Henry as Nicolas Anelka‘s replacement and moved the Frenchman up front alongside the Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp.

Converting Henry to the striker role led to questioning after he failed to score in his first eight matches. However, after some patchy form in his first season, Henry scored nine in his last seven league fixtures. He finished with 17 Premier League goals in the 1999/2000 season and made a further eight assists.

Although there were no trophies in Henry’s maiden season with the Gunners, he received runners up medals in the Premier League and UEFA Cup.

Thierry Henry and His Development Under Wenger

Henry returned for the 2000/01 season after lifting the European Championship with France. He settled into the Arsenal team and became more familiar with his new role.

The Frenchman hit the ground running. He scored four in four to begin the campaign, including a vital goal in the 2-0 win over Liverpool.

It was another successful year for Henry with Arsenal as he finished the season with another 17 league goals and nine assists. He scored his first Premier League hat-trick in a 6-1 win over Leicester City on Boxing Day. Again, he earned the man of the match award for contributing to five of Arsenal’s goals that day.

But Arsenal and Henry finished the season trophyless. Man United beat them to the league title and then fell to a Michael Owen—inspired Liverpool in the final of the FA Cup.

Henry’s talent as a striker was recognised. His development under Wenger as a world-class striker really came to the fore in the 2001/02 season. The Frenchman made another imperious start to the season, finding the net 12 times in his first 12 league fixtures. He eventually scored 24 goals in the Premier League this season. Thus, he played a key part in Arsenal winning their first league title since 1998.

Arsenal also completed the double in 2002 when they defeated Chelsea 2-0 in the FA Cup final. But Henry wasn’t so productive in this competition, finishing the competition without a goal.

However, Henry won his first Premier League Golden Boot and was named Arsenal’s player of the year.

The ‘Invincible’ Thierry Henry

Henry couldn’t stop scoring and matched his 24 Premier League goals in 2002/03. More remarkable this season were his contributions to assists for Arsenal. He completed the season with 25 assists; this is the most any player has made in a Premier League season.

There were more outstanding individual displays from Henry during this season. He scored another hat-trick in the 3-1 win over West Ham United and scored three braces. The most important of which came against Manchester United in a 2-2 draw late in the season.

But Arsenal could not retain the Premier League that season, losing to Manchester United once again. Henry also couldn’t retain his Golden Boot award, missing out by a single goal to United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

A successive FA Cup came in May for Henry and Arsenal, defeating Southampton 1-0 at Wembley. Henry earned the man of the match award. Surprisingly, the Frenchman went through the competition without scoring again.

The 2003/04 season cemented Wenger, Henry, and Arsenal’s status as immortal. They would go through the entire Premier League season without losing a game and lifted the league title for the second time in two years.

The ‘Invincibles’ defined class. Under Wenger’s quick possession football with penetrating wingers like Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg combined with the composure and quality of Bergkamp and Henry upfront, they steamrollered teams and looked unbeatable.

Henry would be the poster boy for the ‘Invincibles’. He scored 30 goals during the 03/04 season, scoring another hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Liverpool and finding the net four times against Leeds United late in the season. His link-up play with Dennis Bergkamp became synonymous with the ‘Invincibles’ and repaid the faith Wenger showed in Henry to turn him into a striker.

Henry reclaimed the Golden Boot, was named Arsenal’s player of the year and won the FWA player of the year award.

Arsenal Record Breaker

When Henry and Arsenal became the ‘Invincibles’, it was almost just the beginning for Henry as he continued to dominate goal-scoring records and win honours with Arsenal in the Premier League.

Although another Premier League title didn’t come for Henry during the remainder of his Arsenal career, he went on the win the Golden Boot for two successive years after the 2003/04 season. He was the first player to achieve this in 59 years.

He achieved another FA Cup winners medal in 2005, despite only playing one game as his season was hampered by injury.

In October 2006, Henry achieved another club and individual landmark when he bagged a brace against Sparta Prague in the Champions League. He scored his 186th goal for Arsenal, overtaking club legend Ian Wright to secure his place in the club’s history books.

He would go on to score 228 goals overall for the club and remains Arsenal’s top goal scorer. When Arsenal moved from Highbury to the Emirates in 2006, a bronze statue of Henry was erected, along with four other players, to commemorate his achievements at the club.

Move to Barcelona

Despite his greatness for the Gunners, one trophy that alluded him was the Champions League. This desire for success, along with a declining Arsenal squad, led Henry to move to Barcelona in 2007 after eight successful years in north London.

Henry emulated his success at the Camp Nou, linking up with the likes of Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto’o. The Frenchman scored 49 goals and made 27 assists in 121 appearances for Barca. He also won La Liga twice, the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League in 2009, an achievement he could not reach at Arsenal.

MLS and Arsenal Return

In the twilight of his career, Henry moved across the Atlantic to play for the New York Red Bulls.

He enjoyed four years in the MLS, scoring a further 52 goals for New York and winning the Supporters Player of the year award in 2013.

A final twist in his career came in 2012. During the MLS off-season, Henry returned to Arsenal for a two-month loan spell. Although the move was initially to keep Henry in shape, the Frenchman made seven final appearances for Arsenal. He scored three goals, including the dramatic winner in an FA Cup tie against Leeds at the Emirates; this was his last act as an Arsenal legend.

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