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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