“Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry…”
Once a chant that used to roll around Highbury Stadium on a regular basis, now an exasperated sigh. Apparently, Arsène Wenger requested that his former protege give up his Sky punditry deal and focus exclusively on his role coaching Arsenal’s under 18s.
Thierry’s response, I am told, was to give Arsène the death stare he once used to terrify Jose Antonio Reyes with and declare ‘non, non, non’. To which Arsène obviously replied, ‘You don’t love me and I know now’. Maybe.
Okay, I admit, it’s unlikely that Arsène Wenger is familiar with Dawn Penn, but then… Bob Marley? Anyway. I’d love to think that the conversation between these two ran at least something like that, or maybe even something like this*…
But you and I both know that it probably didn’t. What isn’t in dispute is that perhaps the greatest player in Arsenal’s history has walked away from “the food and beverages job” and away from the football club. Again.
And it may be tempting to frame this, as others already have, as a matter of Arsène being unwilling – for some obscure reason – to work with former players, but I’m not sure this would be correct. For one thing, it seems widely accepted that Thierry’s replacement is going to be ‘Mr. Arsenal’ himself, Tony Adams. For another thing, if the issue was simply about Henry being around the football club, how do you explain his coaching exploits last season?
No, it seems fairly obvious to me that Arsène expects the club’s record goalscorer to dedicate his life to coaching rather than going on television and raking in the millions. I don’t think it’s that unreasonable of the boss to do so, I mean if there’s someone who knows about lifetime dedication it’s the man with 30+ years under his belt. Andy Dufresne did less in the Shawshank, for God’s sake! Some of you are probably reading this, thinking, well how can Arsène talk when he makes appearances on French TV? Particularly when he’s messing around and not signing anyone?
To you I say, again, nobody knows exactly what Arsène has been up to for the last month. However, unless sports journalism has descended into total guess work, it seems obvious that things are definitely happening, they’re just not quite happening yet. In any case, whilst every day of your life should be a learning experience, I think a vastly experienced manager deserves a little bit of leeway in a way that a young coach at the start of his career simply can not be afforded. I mean, is Thierry serious about his coaching, or is it an interesting little sideline as he picks up £4m per year to spout platitudes on the Sky Sports sofa?
It is possible, I suppose, that Arsène was prepared to let things go on a short-term basis last season in a way that he’s now not. It is equally possible that as a man who works for a club extremely sensitive regarding their public image, this situation just doesn’t sit well. And I can understand that the idea of listening to someone on your payroll caning your players wouldn’t sit particularly well with Arsène. We all know how protective, sometimes to a fault, he is of his charges.
So, I understand the ultimatum being given. I can also understand that Thierry is reluctant to give up the Murdoch money. I mean, he’s got
one of the best job s in the world. Getting paid £4m per year to sit with Graeme Souness and chat testicles about football (we’ll ignore Jamieeeeeee)? Would you give that up? I’m not sure I would! There again, I haven’t been offered the chance to develop my coaching career at the club that I have told the world repeatedly I love.
And that’s the thing with Thierry, isn’t it? We all have 228 (yeah, sod you Dubious Goals panel) great reasons to remember him fondly. We have the repeated declarations of love for this football club, the fact that he pledged his future to Arsenal after that heartbreaking 2006 Champions League final, the Leeds United resurrection – Leeds!
Weighed against that, though, the temper tantrums, the death stares, the fact that he buggered off to Barcelona one injury-hit year after pledging his future to us. It’s hard to escape the nagging sensation that Arsenal Football Club has become a supporting player in the story of Thierry Henry’s life.
I’m totally prepared to accept that I may well have that wrong. However, if I am right and (to borrow from The Princess Bride’s Prince Humperdink) I am never wrong**, then I think it’s absolutely right that Henry has been issued this ultimatum. It’s not about what’s best for Thierry, it’s what’s best for the football club and what is best for the football club is to have coaches 100% committed to the Arsenal cause. Forget the TV, forget the money and focus on the club.
I know Thierry has already put out a statement saying that he respect’s Arsène’s decision, but why make him make that decision in the first place? Why create a situation where our legendary manager is, again, seen to be pitted against an equally legendary figure?
What happened to “victory through harmony”?
*Arseblog can have Arsène Wenger Hawkins, but you and I both know he’d take a pasting at the hands of Arsène Wenger Pesci. Especially if he had a fountain pen in his hands.
**A joke. Okay? Thanks.