Never go back, third time lucky, the end of an era, three clichés that get frequently banded about and all of which are about to be tested to the limit, as Thierry Henry becomes the third invincible to be resigned by Arsene Wenger in a moment of desperation.
Like Campbell and Lehman before him, Henry answers an SOS as his former club face a crisis in numbers in a critical situation. In the case of Campbell and Lehman, the returns were personal successes, Jens got to put the Gunners jersey on one more time whilst Campbell went from playing League Two football to being a vital cog in a title challenging team in the space of six months. Yet, in both cases, for the club, the returns proved ultimately disappointing, as for two consecutive seasons Arsenal fell short of the title.
Yet if the return of this prodigal son fails, surely more is at stake for Arsenal. If this return fails, Arsenal will likely be playing their European football on channel 5 next season and finish below Tottenham for the first time since 1837 (or whenever it last was). Such failure will expose the club to serious financial peril and critically highlight Arsene Wenger’s failings in the transfer market.
The miserable demise of Marouanne Chamakh and his departure to the African Nations would not be seen so badly were it for the fact that next in line to be RVPs back up is Ju Young Park, an unknown striker who played for a team relegated last season in France. His form has been miserable and Wenger’s unwillingness to select him in the premier league over Chamakh is telling. Furthermore, Wenger’s biggest signing in the summer is yet to start in the Premier League this season, not too surprising when you consider this player is only 17 years old, although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shows great potential it should not fall on him to replace Gervinho as he goes to the African Nations.
So it falls to Thierry Henry, the club’s all time record goal scorer to return from his semi-retirement in New York and bring the club Champions League Football. If van Persie succumbs to injury, Arsenal will be relying on the power of sentiment up front and the years of self-imposed austerity Wenger has put the club through will be finally exposed.
More alarmingly, does the move to bring Henry in rather than splash the cash on a big money player send the right message to Robin Van Persie? Why not spend £30 million on Gotze or Hazard? Ah not eligible for Europe of course, except Henry’s loan means he can play one leg of the Milan tie and nothing more. Furthermore a permanent signing could help galvanize the team and make sure it’s the Champions League and not the Europa League, the Gunners are signing players for in the summer.
If it isn’t third time lucky and the return of Henry ends sadly, then Wenger could be looking at the end of an era and the mantra never go back will have been proven once again……