Henry loan not enough for Arsenal

by Andrew McCarten

Given Arsene Wenger’s current crop of strikers, it is clear that the loan signing of Thierry Henry would be some form of an improvement. The French hero, recently honored with his own statue at The Emirates, is still arguably more capable of contributing to Arsenal’s Premier League responsibilities than the current cover for Robin Van Persie, whose scintillating form has virtually kept his side’s top four hopes alive.

In just 17 Premier League matches, the Dutchman has hit a stunning 16 goals, also adding 5 assists. He has also notched three goals in the Champions League in just three starts, putting him just a single goal away from the 20 he scored in those two competitions combined last season. All competitions included, no other Arsenal player has hit more than a paltry three goals.

Marouane Chamakh’s terrible run of form has continued, with the Algerian netting just once in the league; likewise, new signing Park Chu-Young has yet to make an appearance in the league, meaning Wenger’s options in attack have been severely restricted. Henry’s addition on a short-term loan from the New York Red Bulls would serve to shore up this section of the team in the short-run, but pursuing such a stop-gap solution could eventually do more harm than good for Wenger’s charges, considering it is a direct contrast to the philosophy he has built the club on.

The recent barb against Wenger has been that his club will be unable to keep up with the mega-club “title contenders” of recent – both Manchester outfits, and Chelsea- due to his loath attitude towards spending money. Their ability to splash out on wages surely gives them an advantage, because as we have seen players will be more open to squad rotation if their monetary incentive is much more attractive at one potential suitor than at the others chasing their signature, with Manchester City the best example of this.

Wenger’s idealistic view on finances in football is admirable, and a solid blueprint for any club. But when he has the money to spend, and seemingly refuses to do so, then the club itself suffers and falls further from the top spot in the country. Progress into the last sixteen of the Champions League proves that Arsenal can still compete at the top level, but their much-publicized failure to win a trophy since 2005 is down to decisions like this.

Rather than spending on a proven striker who can bag goals, or a young striker with huge potential and the ability to add something to the team straight away, Wenger is instead weighing up bringing in a 34 year old who has spent the last season playing against opponents like the Columbus Crew and Chivas USA rather than the elite of England and Europe. If their transfer policy was to match their stated ambition of competing for the title and the Champions League, it would seem more logical that the likes of Sergio Aguero, Javier Hernandez, and Edin Dzeko would have been similar to the calibre of targets Wenger should be seeking. Van Persie is world-class, but if he goes down injured in the middle of February, nothing will have been made better, and the same lack of quality will still persist. The permanent signing of an established or burgeoning striker would clearly be the best move for the team, one that would have positive effects not only in the immediate future, but also for the rest of the campaign and in the years to come.

This is not to say that Henry cannot do a job for Arsenal. His pace may have slowed a bit, but he still has the vision and maturity to make an impact on the first-team proceedings, and would certainly walk into a few teams’ starting elevens in the division. His 123 caps for his country, and his magnificent scoring record in North London, certainly speak for themselves. But, simply put, bringing him in to solve the depth crisis is putting a small bandage on a much larger wound. Given Arsenal’s stability financially, they have the capability to adequately better their team to a much greater degree. Failure to do so runs the risk of falling further from the top-spot, and potentially missing out on the top four places.

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