Sunday, June 17, 2007
Will Henry succeed at Barcelona?
There is a lot happening on the Henry saga with regard to will he go or will he stay etc. It is almost a carbon copy of the Vieira departure which started about a year earlier than his eventual departure.
Consider the following: Henry states only a week ago “I am an Arsenal player…. for now…” His agent denies claims he met with Barca officials. Meanwhile Thuram gets a call from Henry sounding him out on how life is at Barca and in Spain.
And almost simultaneously it is reported that Wenger has met with Barca to discuss the move! Finally Edelman, from the Arsenal Board, states that they will follow Arsene’s decision on the matter!
But most important of all Wenger himself has not denied that he met the Barca officials!
But if Henry is leaving Arsenal will he ‘fade to grey’ as has Vieira or a lot of other ex Arsenal stars who dared venture to pasture on seemingly greener grass across the pond? Like some of the bigger names: Anelka, Petit, Overmars, Vieira, Edu, Pires.
Being released by Wenger does not of course, one may argue, necessarily stigmatize a player as a failure who will not again reach the dizzy heights of football perfection.
However, we tend to think so. And there are, to us, obvious reasons for this.
Wenger grooms the players for the position that suits them best and they therefore have every chance of excelling. Remember Henry was a winger when he arrived at Arsenal and wasn’t himself sure if he was cut out to be a forward.
But more importantly he organizes the team’s tactics and way of play to fit the players skills, motivates them superbly through his man management skills and creates a loyalty factor which is second to none.
Let’s take Henry’s case: We believe that he will not be the same player for Barca as when he was playing for Wenger at Arsenal.
The most obvious reason is the way Wenger sets up his teams and their style of play which is to always use the front man as the pivot of the attack. This invariably culminates in providing the scoring opportunity for the centre forward. Will he get this at Barca?
Will their coach, whoever he may be, adjust the team’s style and their mentality to suit Henry’s way of playing and allow him to be the main man? Especially when they have so many other stars in their line up all wanting the lime light and a piece of the action?
Secondly how will Barca themselves tactically accommodate four superstars in their line up? If Eto’o is not allowed to go they will have Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Messi and now Henry. They may play 4 4 2 with Henry and Eto’o up front and the other two on the wings. It sounds good but we don’t think this is the way to go!
Henry as has been proved before in his displays for France, when he was paired with Trezeguet, cannot be as effective with another forward next to him. It crowds him out. It is not a surprise that Wenger has very rarely played a straight 4 4 2 formation when Henry was in the team.
If they choose to play 4 4 1 1 (with Eto’o and Henry in the more forward positions) do you see Ronaldinho and Messi tracking back to defend as this system demands? And if they play 4 3 3 their defensive midfield options are severely compromised.
Barca’s style of play also depends on quick passing and movement and for this to happen the players need space. Something that will become a very rare commodity if all four of them play.
A way to avoid these problems is if they let Eto’o go. And this may prove a blessing in disguise for Arsenal as Eto’o at 26 is a much fitter and hungrier player than Henry and with a much better goal average at 12 goals in 16 appearances! He will do very well at Arsenal.
Arsenal Analysis has argued before that there is too much reliance placed on Henry by Arsenal and it was about time to reduce this imbalance (Waiting for Godot).
There are two more reasons why we think that Henry is likely to find that the grass is not greener elsewhere. The first is his age. At 29 going to 30 he is indeed entering that age where fitness and injuries will come more into the fore.
There must be some niggling thoughts at the back of Wenger’s mind that may be Henry is beginning to lose his pace due to age and not because of injury. He is after all entering that stage in his career at 29 where this indeed may begin to show.
And if indeed Henry has expressed a desire to leave then Wenger may have decided to cut his losses and go for the money and/or Eto’o. Will Henry regain his fitness? (Henry for Barcelona).
And this brings us to our last point which is to do with Henry’s personal situation. For him to be effective on the field his personal life has to be settled. Will he and his family settle in Spain? Learn a new language and a new way of life? In addition to getting used to his new team surroundings? And if all this takes him a season to settle in will he be as fit as when he was 29?
The downside to this is the psychological impact that his departure will have on the other players who have only recently managed to get over Vieira’s exodus.