We Missed the Premier League, Too: The Legendary Career of Thierry Henry

We Missed the Premier League, Too: The Legendary Career of Thierry Henry

Weekend mornings weren't the same when the English Premier League paused its season. The EPL is now back in action with games seemingly every day since the restart last Wednesday.

To celebrate the return, NBC Sports Washington is continuing a series of stories on each of the Big 6 clubs in England: Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City. Because we missed the Premier League, too. 

Our final week of looking at the Premier League, the one dedicated to Arsenal, continues by looking at the greatest player to ever don an Arsenal shirt, and of the best strikers in soccer’s history, Thierry Henry.

There are just a handful of players in the Premier League’s 28-year history that can claim they are on the same footing as Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. The graceful and powerful Frenchman played the game with such joy and passion, it is nearly impossible (unless perhaps, if you are a Tottenham fan) to watch his career highlights and not smile. With the dribbling skills of Ronaldinho, the ranging, solo runs of Maradona and the finishing of Ronaldo, Henry was a rare blend for a striker and consistently awed crowds with his ingenuity and penchant for scoring a big goal.

Born in the suburbs of Paris in 1977, Henry started his professional career for AS Monaco in the French Ligue 1. Under the tutelage of manager Arsene Wenger, Henry showed glimpses of the player he would become, tallying 20 goals in 105 matches. During his time at Monaco, Henry also started to feature for the French national team who hosted, and won, the 1998 FIFA World Cup. 

After an unsuccessful season at Juventus in 1999, Wenger - then the manager at Arsenal - brought his star pupil back under his wing and Henry’s career really took off. Henry went on to become the leading goal scorer for club and country, netting 228 goals across all competitions for Arsenal and 51 for France.

Henry was a driving force at the tip of the spear that was Arsenal’s attack for eight seasons, winning two Premier League titles - including the unbeaten 2003-04 Invincibles season - and two Player of the Year awards. Henry also won four Golden Boots as the league’s top scorer in a season, still the only Premier League player to accomplish the feat four times.

In a recent episode of Gary Neville’s Soccerbox from NBC Sports, Henry sat down with his former Manchester United rival to discuss his time at Arsenal and what made him and his team so strong. Like many great forwards, Henry always wanted the ball at his feet when the moment was biggest.

“My thing Gary, all the time was, I need to turn,” Henry told Neville. “I don’t want to give the ball back, I have to turn.” Henry has plenty of standout goals, with some of his finest coming off his uncanny ability to find a defender on his back and make the perfect turn to get just enough space and score.

One of his best goals came against Neville’s United back in 2000, when Henry with his back to goal, received a pass, flicked it up into space in front of him, swiveled his hips and unleashed a rocket of a volley into the top corner.

Those turns became something that defined Henry’s career as did his ability to create space where none existed previously, not to mention his unbelievable touch on the ball. It seemed that any ball that came into Henry’s orbit was magnetized to his body, whether it was his chest, his legs or his feet that got the first touch. There are very few players who like to play with the ball in the air, as Henry did many times throughout his career, juggling while sprinting towards net.

But when you have the touch and control that Henry did, it makes no matter whether the ball is on the ground or bouncing alongside, waiting to be unleashed towards the yawning net.

Henry’s Premier League career might not have the longevity of Ryan Giggs, who won the Best Player award for the league’s first 20 seasons, but the Frenchman’s peak was among the highest the world has seen. In a four-year stretch from 2003 to 2006, Henry twice finished as the runner-up for FIFA’s Player of the Year award and twice finished fourth. 

As Arsenal fans at the moment do not have much to cheer for after a miserable opening week in the Premier League’s return, a look back at Thierry Henry’s career should be just the remedy to bring some happiness back to the Gooners faithful.

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D.C. United to return to Audi Field as MLS will host local matches beginning August 12

D.C. United to return to Audi Field as MLS will host local matches beginning August 12

Following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament, MLS will continue its 25th season by having teams compete in their local markets, the league announced on Saturday.

Thus, D.C. United will be returning to Audi Field for regular-season action. The team will open up on the road against FC Cincinnati on Friday, August 21, before having its home opener on Tuesday, August 25, against the New England Revolution. For at least the beginning of the season, no fans will be in attendance. 

“I would like to thank everyone involved with the MLS is Back Tournament -- players, coaches, staff and partners -- for their role in helping us recapture the momentum we had at the beginning of our 25th season and reconnect with our passionate fans,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Since suspending play in March, we have been working on plans to play as much of our season as possible, beginning with the tournament in Florida and resuming in our local markets following the competition. We remain focused on the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff, and look forward to continuing our season in our home markets.”

Though the league is planning to allow teams to travel after holding the tournament in a bubble, it doesn't mean protocols will lessen in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Players will continue to be tested every other day and are strongly advised to limit exposure outside of team facilities and mandated areas.

However, a major complication is how the three Canadian teams (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) will handle the season. Much like how the Toronto Blue Jays had to relocate to Buffalo to play the MLB season, Canada still has tight restrictions in place when it comes to leaving the country and coming back.

MLS states that it will have a clearer picture of the schedule in September, but initially plans to have U.S. teams only square off against one another. That may lead to the three teams north of the border only playing one another for the beginning of the season. PLans there remain uncertain. 

As it stands now, the league is set to kick off on August 12 and each team will play 18 games. Decision Day will be on November 8, and 18 teams will enter the playoffs. That number is four more than last season. The MLS Cup will take place on December 12. 

The MLS is Back Tournament is set to come to a conclusion on August 11 and the Portland Timbers will take on Orlando City for the title on August 11. D.C. United did not reach the knockout stage after finishing last in their group.

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Christian Pulisic continues to shine for Chelsea early in FA Cup Final, leaves match with injury

Christian Pulisic continues to shine for Chelsea early in FA Cup Final, leaves match with injury

Since the resumption of soccer in England, USNMT star and Chelsea attacker Christian Pulisic has been among the best in the sport. He continued that on Saturday, wasting no time giving his team the lead in the FA Cup Final against Arsenal.

Pulisic netted a goal just five minutes into the match.

The FA Cup is a knockout-style tournament that pits the best British soccer teams against one another. Pulisic's goal not only gave Chelsea an early advantage, but put him in the history books as he became the first U.S International player to score in the final.

Pulisic's brilliance on Saturday is just the latest impressive performance by the 21-year old. His effort since the Premier League returned helped Chelsea finish in the top four of the league.

Unfortunately for Pulisic and Chelsea, he did not get the opportunity to further leave his mark on the FA Cup Final and he exited in the 48th minute with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

Though he had to leave the contest early, Pulisic once again proved that he is an emerging star both nationally and internationally.

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