The excitement over the return of Thierry Henry, Arsenal’s all-time top goalscorer, on a two-month loan is understandable, but the realistic impact Henry will have towards Arsenal’s push for Champions League qualification is questionable. He’ll be a great presence in the dressing room, a great tutor for other players and it’ll be great to see him back in an Arsenal shirt, but Wenger should be looking to rebuild his squad, bringing bright new talents to create a squad sufficient to challenge for the Premier League once more, rather than looking at short-term solution signings such as Henry.
Lack of Depth
Let’s face it, Arsenal are relying heavily on Robin van Persie, and, without his goals, the Gunners would be lying just 4 points away from the relegation zone on 18 points – the absence of Gervinho and Chamakh to the Africa Cup of Nations will increase the pressure on the Dutchman to stay fit and continue his fantastic form even further. A supporting forward that can divert some of the pressure away from the 28-year-old is needed, but Henry is not the short or long-term solution. Despite his decent record in the MLS, the Arsenal legend is going to struggle to compete effectively in the Premier League and, considering his age and absence from top level football since 2010, is unlikely to complete a full 90 minutes in his second spell at the club. The Frenchman will almost certainly score a goal or two, but, in such a crucial period for Arsenal, they cannot afford to slip up; quality signings need to be made for the London side to finish in the top four.
Lack of Ambition
Champions League qualification this year is integral for the future of Arsenal. Along with the obvious financial implications, the prospect of Champions League football attracts the hottest talents from across the globe, which Arsenal have always used to their advantage. They rarely offer the massive salaries that Man City and Chelsea use at their disposal, and so they are heavily reliant on the attraction of Champions League football. Considering qualification is no guarantee this year, the purchase of world-class players in January could be essential to Arsenal’s future. Firstly, they’ll have a greater chance of actually finishing in the top four, but, if they don’t, it gives other potential signings in the future a hint of the ambition of the club to move forward. All their recent signings signal to a team in decline, and Henry adds to this list. Mikel Arteta for example, Arsenal’s replacement for Cesc Fabregas, is a talented midfielder, but he’s never going to be on the same level as the Barcelona man. Fabregas’ departure was inevitable, yet Wenger failed to have a quality replacement ready; clearly easier said than done, but the Arsenal manager could’ve handled the situation far better than the last minute panic buying that ensued.
Hopefully, Wenger has learnt his lesson from deadline day in the summer and won’t drag out negotiations for players, instead buying early in the transfer window, even for an inflated price. However, focusing on the Henry loan deal has sidetracked Wenger’s thoughts away from other players, players that may be harder to persuade to move to the Emirates, leaving Wenger with even more problems. Although experience is needed in any team, he needs to get his priorities sorted out. They need a quality, supporting striker, Lukas Podolski perhaps, to release the burden of scoring from van Persie’s shoulders, and it’d be in their best interest to get this sorted out sooner rather than later; a rushed decision and they could end up with an Andy Carroll or Fernando Torres type player.
Arsenal Must Spend
Henry will not be a hindrance for Arsenal so long as they show their ambition and spend some money. The best-case scenario for the Gunners would be for Henry to remain on the bench for the length of his stay, proving that they have players of superior ability to Henry. If he is used purely as a back-up player, simply to tutor the other forwards, then his loan spell will be a success. However, if they fail to rectify the clear lack of depth and quality in the Arsenal team in January and rely on Henry to support van Persie in big matches, they may find that the all-important Champions League spot eludes them for the first time since Wenger took charge.