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Thierry Henry Reportedly Offered Short-Term Contract By Arsenal

Thanks so much for this drama, Arsenal. Yargh.
Thanks so much for this drama, Arsenal. Yargh.

Several English newspapers are reporting that New York Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry has been offered a short-term contract by his former club Arsenal. The French striker has been back training with the Gunners for several weeks, following the conclusion of New York's season at the hands of the Los Angeles Galaxy, and recently attended the unveiling of a statue of himself outside Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.

The North London side are interested in bringing back their all-time leading scorer as cover for the absence of strikers Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh during the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations. Henry scored 226 goals in 369 appearances for the Gunners, and was one of the Red Bulls' standout performers during the turbulent 2011 campaign, finishing third in the Golden Boot race with 14 goals in 26 games.

Reports so far have indicated that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will offer Henry a two-month loan stint, although there hasn't been any news of contact with the Red Bulls, which would seem to make this an obvious case of tapping up (I should note that our friend Dave Martinez from Empire of Soccer has heard that New York is looking into taking out an insurance policy on Henry; this would suggest that RBNY have been contacted).

Leaving the possible legal or moral issues around Arsenal's approach aside, this move is definitely not in the Red Bulls' best interests, and possibly not optimal for Arsenal or Henry, either. Henry is 34 now, and New York can't risk him getting injured while on a loan stint for another club. Fatigue tends to increase a player's chance of injury, so having Henry play 5-10 additional matches in 2012 will further increase the chance that he will suffer injuries during the MLS season (there's also the ever-present and accepted violence of English football which could further endanger Henry's health). Possibly most important, Henry doesn't need to be in top form for the start of the regular season in March -- he needs to be firing on all cylinders in October and November.

For Arsenal, the merits of a short-term loan for a club legend are not entirely clear. The team seems to lack a bit of firepower up front, and even if Henry can come and perform well for a short period this winter, that would merely paper over the cracks in the Gunners' attack. Instead, they would be better served by looking for an addition or two for the long run, either in this winter transfer window or next summer. There's also the obvious risk that Henry won't be all that good for Arsenal: he's not the player he was when he left the club back in 2007. While he still has excellent technique, he's lost a step or two and will like have problems with the pace of the Premier League.

Henry is undoubtedly an Arsenal legend -- he has a statue outside the ground and is the club's all-time leading scorer! While it would help his image to come back to Arsenal and perform well, the aging-star-trying-a-comeback usually ends poorly (see Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, and Brett Favre). Henry has nothing left to prove in European football. A two-month loan for the middle of the English season is more likely to end in injury or disappointment than success, both because he won't have as many opportunities in significant situations as he did in the past (no cup finals, for example), and because he's already set the bar too high for this older Henry to even approach it.