Adieu, Thierry Henry. And merci beaucoup.

Arsenal a tale of three substitutes

On Saturday morning, I saw the list of potential managers for the England National Team now that it finds itself without a coach. The Euro 2012 is not too far away now, and the eyes of the world are on England, waiting to see who will take the helm amidst the international controversy. I couldn’t help but wonder that Arsene’s name was on the list, so I had to do a bit of digging to determine the probability of his being selected for the coveted job.

On one hand, Arsene says he was “never tempted” by the Team England position now open due to the sad departure of Capello. By now, we all know only too well the circumstances revolving around Capello’s shock departure. For what it’s worth, Arsene waded right into the middle of the debate by stating that he supports Capello, expressing his sincere belief that Capello alone should have determined who should be captain of the England squad. The radioactive John Terry was certainly going to contribute to further scandals down the road with his speech and behavior, and his shananigans were certainly going to prove to be more trouble than he is worth, but Arsene stands by Capello’s assertion that he alone should have been the determining factor in the situation. I pretty much agree with Arsene. If you’re the manager, you build a team, then manage it. The manager is held responsible for the team’s performance, and if the England national team does poorly as a direct result of a managerial position, the manager is inevitably going to be the fall guy, not the Football Association (what should be an impartial body.) The whole situation is indeed a sad state of affairs.

Now, Arsene has been quoted as saying that it is possible to manage the national team on a “part-time” basis, albeit temporarily. He has given multiple reasons why he is not considering becoming the manager of the England national team, asserting that it’s just not his style. Then again, any time Arsene states he is not interested in the England position, there’s a little disclaimer there noting he’s still being considered as the manager of France’s national team. Curiouser and curiouser indeed.

Injury News: Per Mertesacker is scheduled to have a scan on his injured ankle. In all likelihood, the damage is not severe, and he’ll recuperate quickly, but Arsene has already ruled him out of the Champions game against AC Milan. I believe that’s a smart move on Arsene’s part. Mertesacker will be needed much more not long from now, and there’s no need to turn a minor injury into a major one.

20-year-old midfielder Jack Wilshere is still out. However, there is good news, a silver lining to this particular dark cloud. Wilshere may be back very soon. His scheduled scan dates have been pushed up, which means sooner rather than later. If Jack is indeed recovering at the pace at which they believe his stress fractures in his ankle are healing up, then he could be back on the pitch as early as March. Jack will no doubt be looking to aid the Gunners at the time in which he is most needed, and naturally, he’ll simultaneously be vying for a spot on England’s Euro 2012 squad as well. Arsenal is doing just fine without him for the time being, and I’m personally concerned he’ll be more needed in Poland and Ukraine this summer. It’s amazing to me how Arsenal players find themselves in the awkward position of not just helping the Arsenal but their home countries’ national clubs as well, but that’s the nature of the sport, and I don’t know that I would change anything even if I could.

Oh yes, and speaking of soap operas…

On Wednesday night, Arsenal will be squaring off with AC Milan in the Champions League. Robin van Persie will be squaring off with Mark van Bommel. You see, both Van Persie and Van Bommel are competing for the position of Captain of the Holland National Team, and they each need to prove their capabilities against each other. Should make for a good show, because these two phenomenal athletes are going to step up their respective games that much more.

It will be with no small degree of sorrow that I and many like-minded Gunners fans bid “adieu” to our friend Thierry Henry. As they say, all good things must come to an end, and we knew the day would arrive all-too-soon when the on-loan Henry would be compelled to return to the New York Red Bulls for the beginning of the Major League Soccer season.

Thierry Henry was in every way a favorite. He was a favorite of his fellow players and fans alike. Oh yes, and lest we forget, he’s even favorited by opposing teams’ fans as well. Let us not forget that, even as Arsenal beat Sunderland 2-1, the Sunderland fans stod up and applauded Henry. That reflects well on all involved. It show that Sunderland fans are good sports, and it shows what a good sport Henry is. It exemplifies all that is still great about soccer, specifically what is great about Barclay’s Premiere League. The Sunderland manager, Martin O’Neill, acknowledged Henry as being one of the all-time greats, and he reiterated my position that Henry is truly a living legend by stating that Henry is one of the Top Five players to have ever played in the Premiere League. That’s really saying something.

Thierry Henry contributed much to the Arsenal squad. On paper, he may not have put on the world’s most impressive performance, but in terms of just about everything else, his contribution was virtually priceless. The Gunners seemed to have developed a nasty habit of beating themselves up, and in the moment wherein their confidence was at an all-time low, Henry gave them a much-needed morale boost. I don’t know what it was that he did or said in the locker room, but according to the other players, just having him around made them a better team. In a day and age wherein Arsene is still attempting to strategically build a future team upon the backs of talented youths, Henry stood apart, a veteran who still clearly loves the game and the consummate professional. Robin van Persie was quoted as saying that he’d been looking to feed a pass to Henry for a goal for a veritable eternity, and when he got a chance to do just that, he jumped at the opportunity. That says something about Henry right there.

Henry will be given an opportunity to end his period with the Arsenal on a high note, and he will be looking to give Arsenal fans a parting gift in terms of a win over AC Milan on Wednesday. He has already admitted that he will be emotional, as one would expect, but in an age wherein cooler heads do not typically prevail, I think we all know that Henry will be just as composed as ever. I have all the confidence in the world that Henry’s final contribution will be memorable, whether he scores or not. Just having him in the locker room will benefit the Gunners, and having him out on the pitch will be an emotional lift for the fans. Henry will be missed, and much as I hate to admit it, I fully intend to pull for the New York Red Bulls in large part just because of him.

On February 16th, just two short days from now, after one final game against AC Milan, Thierry Henry will finally return to New York City. Henry has already stated he will not extend his time with Arsenal, which is a bit disappointing, but nevertheless, a reality all the same. Let’s hope and pray Robin van Persie can maintain the strong morale that Henry contributed, and keep the Arsenal from recognizing the gaping hole that opens upon Henry’s departure. As Arsene is probably saying, the team needs to stay calm and focused. This is when things really begin to get interesting.

Adieu, Thierry Henry. And merci beaucoup, my friend. We are all better men for having known you.

I am a professional freelance writer, blogger, sports journalist, and aspiring novelist with extensive writing experience on seemingly every topic under the sun. I like to consider myself to be something of a modern Renaissance man--an intellectual, philosopher, writer, humorist, martial artist, athlete, and musician. I spend my free time following the Arsenal, listening to classical music, perfecting the fine art of making an electric bass guitar sound like a dying animal, and working out. I have a B.S. in Liberal Studies from Excelsior College in Albany, New York, as well as a Master's in Theological Studies from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master's in Teaching from the University of the Cumberlands. I am a veteran of the United States Army and I received my Honorable Discharge in the rank of Captain about two years ago. I am recently married with a baby boy on the way. Naturally, that boy is destined to wear Arsenal kit from the day he is born. Ultimately, I hope to use my writing as a springboard to a career in comedy.