15 January ~ "It's the sort of shamelessly sentimental gubbins you’d see in the laziest Hollywood sports flick," wrote Arsenal blogger Arse2Mouse. "The over-the-hill icon returning for one last shot of glory who’s welcomed back with a fairytale return." Thierry Henry’s fleet-footed goal against Leeds in the FA Cup last Monday mattered for several reasons, but above all because it seemed to mean so much to the player. Henry's 227th Arsenal goal also mattered for bronze statue engravers, as no sooner had the tribute to the player been unveiled than the statistics listed on its base were out of date.
However, there is already a quietly nagging feeling that the magic moment might have been the highlight of the Gunners' season. It is a concern that Arsenal have had to pull a club legend out of semi-retirement to paper over the squad’s widening cracks. What does it say about the lack of goalscorers at Arsenal and, for example, Arsène Wenger’s purchase of the quickly shunned Park Chu-young?
Many think the Arsenal bank is overflowing with cash. They would like to see it splashed on Mario Götze, Eden Hazard or Lukas Podolski. The team needs that sort of presence, especially if Andrey Arshavin leaves soon (he has been playing so badly you suspect he is the only footballer left who would happily take tips from Fernando Torres) after the discovery that Gervinho and Theo Walcott are in fact the same pacey but profligate player – just one has much worse hair. It will be interesting to see how Robin van Persie, who’s not great pals with Henry, reacts to having his limelight stolen.
The slightly wider picture is even more disturbing. Tottenham are doing markedly better than Arsenal and have a better team – the best midfield in the division, in fact, with several Wenger-style players excelling.
As today's opponents, Swansea, are similarly possession-obsessed, the match could be like the one in the Simpsons where the American crowd leaves early (for "a traditional soccer riot") as the tiki-taka passing is just too dull for them. Arsenal fans won’t be bothered if the Swansea game is boring if the club's greatest ever player repeats his magic trick. Damian Hall
Damian Hall is a contributor to Best XI: Arsenal and the author of the official Pennine Way guide