Signs of Thierry Henry’s genius with a football were apparent since he was a young boy. After showing his remarkable skills in club games in Paris till the age of 13, he was spotted by an AS Monaco scout who united him with the French club’s manager back then. A certain Arsene Wenger.
Henry did well for Monaco in his five seasons with the club – he helped them win the French Ligue 1 title in 1996-’97 and qualify for the Champions League semi-final in 1997-’98. He even made his international debut with France during this time and established himself as one of the brightest young talents in the country.
He then went on to have a one-year spell with Juventus in the Italian Serie A that didn’t prove to be too fruitful. While there was no doubting Henry’s talent, there was something amiss in his game. For Monaco, he played mostly on the left wing, while Juventus used him as a wide midfielder or sometimes, in a defensive role.
Henry was meant for greatness, but that was never going to be achieved from the positions he was playing in. He was meant to be the focal point of an attack – a goal-scoring machine – which is something the world would find out soon enough.
On August 3, 1999, Henry was signed by English Premier League club Arsenal. He reunited with Wenger and they went on to form one of the greatest partnerships in the history of club football.
Wenger immediately rectified the mistake he had made with Henry at Monaco. He knew the youngster had a lot more to offer and deployed him as a centre-forward in the first season.
However, it wasn’t smooth sailing for Henry at the start of his stint with Arsenal. He had huge boots to fill with Nicolas Anelka leaving for Real Madrid. The style of play in the Premier League is a lot more physical compared to other European leagues and that is something Henry had to adapt to quickly.
He did well in his first season with Arsenal and finished with 26 goals. And by the time he returned for the next season, having won Euro 2000 in the meantime with France, Henry was ready to show his full potential in the Premier League. The Gunners finished runners-up to arch rivals Manchester United for a second consecutive season, but Henry finished as Arsenal’s top goal-scorer.
Henry played eight seasons for Arsenal in his first stint (he was part of the Gunners squad later in 2012 as well) and went on to break a number of records. He finished his career as arguably the greatest player to wear an Arsenal shirt. Possibly, even the greatest striker to ever play in the Premier League.
Henry’s skills as a centre-forward were unlike anything anyone had seen in the Premier League before. He played in the centre of the attack, moved to the right as well as the left, tracked back so that he could make piercing runs, dribbled with great speed, shot with both feet, was clinical from close range, and even deadly accurate from a distance and dead balls. Quite simply, he was a nightmare for defenders and a complete attacking package for the Gunners.
A look at Henry’s achievements with Arsenal:
- Won the Premier League title in 2001-’02 and 2003-’04 (Invincibles)
- Won the FA Cup in 2001-’02 and 2002-’03
- Won the Community Shield in 2002 and 2004
- Finished as Champions League runner-up in 2005-’06.
- All-time top scorer: 228 goals
- Most Premier League goals: 175
- Most Champions League goals: 35
- Most European goals: 42
“He was certainly a move that nobody would forget,” Wenger reflected on Henry’s arrival at Arsenal in an interview with beIn Sports. “But at the start it was not easy for him. He was playing wide where he was not playing. One day, I don’t know exactly when, but I decided to play him through the middle.
“I said ‘look, take the ball in the middle, we will give you some balls and you go to the goal and score’. He said ‘I can, if you want, play through the middle but I cannot score goals’. I said to him ‘I don’t care, just play there. I don’t want you especially to score goals, just play well’.
“Henry had something exceptional. After 10 minutes in the game, he knew exactly where the opponent was. When the players didn’t give him the ball, he had always arguments with them at half-time.”
Henry, of course, went on to become the highest-scoring player from outside the United Kingdom in Premier League history – a record that now belongs to Sergio Aguero. He won the Golden Boot four times and reached double figures in all eight of his full seasons for the club. He also holds the record (jointly) for the most assists in a season, a fact that illustrates what a complete footballer he was under Wenger.
In many ways, the French combination not just revolutionised Arsenal Football Club but Premier League in general.
Here’s a look at some of Thierry Henry’s greatest moments with Arsenal:
Henry’s first goal as an Arsenal player:
All 30 goals by Henry in Arsenal’s Invincibles season:
Some of Henry’s finest goals in the Premier League:
Henry’s emotional goal during his comeback game for Arsenal:
A compilation of Henry’s mesmerizing skills:
The Thierry Henry documentary by Arsenal Football Club:
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