Monday, December 22, 2014

Adieu Thierry Henry

Les Bleus legend is the Premier League's greatest

Emdad Rahman

In his homeland he may not have a human size bust but here in England there is no denying the stature of this football great.

For sheer ability, magnificence and panache the Frenchman stands out amongst the pantheon of the Premier League's greatest performers.

Discovered by Arsene Wenger at Monaco, Henry became stifled on the wing at Juventus, and it was not until the dreadlocks were shaved and his destination led him to the red half of north London that we saw the the first signs of Gallic greatness from this mercurial genius.

Monsieur Wenger had different ideas in mind and switched Henry's on field position - from being a speedy winger to one of the world's most feared strikers. Ian Wright had left a major void to fill and the introduction of Henry to the frontline revolutionised the role of the modern day striker. It was not just about scoring twenty goals. You now had to do it in style and from outside the six yard box.

With a water tight back four commandeering the space in front of David Seaman, Henry became the first line of defence. He was backed up by the formidable presence of Patrick Vieira. It is therefore no surprise that the silverware at Arsenal flowed - the Premier League title twice and the FA Cup three times. An appearance in the Champions League final.

France's greatest goalscorer ever served two spells at Arsenal scoring 228 goals in 377 games. After joining Barcelona he also won the Champions League in 2009 as well as adding two La Liga titles, the Copa del Rey, Spanish Supercopa, Uefa Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup during three seasons at the Nou Camp.

After finishing with NY Red Bulls Henry now joins Jamie Carragher and co at Sky Sports. "He was certainly the toughest opponent I ever faced and possibly the best player the Premier League has seen," said Carra. "I would have loved him to be on the same team as me during my playing career, I'm delighted we're finally on the same side."

"Happy retirement to my hero and idol @ThierryHenry," Daniel Sturridge tweeted. "Wish you all the best in the next chapter.

At work I have the knowledge of Gooner Sam and Spurs Terry to keep it all in sync during our catch up chats. I've recalled the debates we have had about Henry and used my own memories to come up with a list of best five goals. Hope you get half as much pleasure reading about them as I did watching them.

2002: Arsenal v Tottenham

A flawless counter attack led to Henry sprinting past opposing Tottenham players from inside the Arsenal half. The thoroughbred racehorse then clinically beat Kasey Keller into submission. The subsequent sliding knee celebration is now celebrated as a statue outside the Emirates stadium. I've been to see it several times and it's always a buzz.

2000: Arsenal v Manchester United

Gilles Grimandi played to feet as Denis Irwin muscled in. Henry flicked the ball up and a half spin later he unleashed a dipping volley from outside the box past the helpless Fabien Barthez. "Absolutely unsaveable, absolutely magnificent," bellowed Andy Gray.

2012: Arsenal v Leeds

It was the much anticipated return of the king. Henry came on as a sub for Marouane Chamakh and the Emirates rose in jubilation. Alex Song fed a through ball and Andy Lonergan stood no chance as Henry slotted home coolly. As the world witnessed the chest thumping and raw emotion I simply stood up as a Liverpool fan and applauded.

2004: Liverpool v Arsenal

This Good Friday treble was a season saver for "The Invincibles." The Gunners had suffered recent exits in the FA Cup and Champions League to leave their treble dreams in tatters.

They were unbeaten in the league but Liverpool took advantage of the recent loss of confidence to take a 2-1 lead. Henry's solution was to shrug off a back problem and score a hat trick. The pick of the bunch was a merry dance involving the Reds defence, a pulsating run which left Jamie Carragher floundering before the Gunner picked his spot past Jerzy Dudek.

2006: Real Madrid
This one was in front of the travelling Gooners in the Bernabeu. After seeing off Brazilian Ronaldo, Henry darted past Álvaro Mejia, Guti and a charging Sergio Ramos to leave Iker Casillas clutching the Madrid night sky.

Adieu Thierry Henry - For me he's been the greatest player the Premier League has seen.

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