Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Thierry Henry’s comeback performance against Leeds was a joy to behold…

On Inside The Formation we'll look at an individual player's performance and analyse their input into the game. Today Joss Bennett looks at Thierry Henry's performance against Leeds United.

A wise Roman once said: “Veni, vidi, vici”, which roughly translates from Latin to “Thierry Henry came, he saw a goal scoring opportunity, and he buried it”. Roughly. As Henry once again wrote his name in the Arsenal-supporting stars, the Emirates faithful erupted with a mix of amazement, delight, and relief.

Henry’s 227th Arsenal goal – or his 12th goal against Leeds in 12 appearances against the Yorkshire outfit, wearing the Number 12 shirt in 2012 for those number geeks among you – was typical Henry. Top-scorer for both Arsenal and France, it was no surprise to see Titi ghost in behind an inexperienced right-back, take one touch and pass the ball into the bottom corner, past a hapless Andrew Lonergan in the Leeds goal.

He had only 20 minutes to make an impact, but he arguably made the most impact in the 15 minutes before he stood on the touch-line, ready to come on for his 370th appearance for the club. An already buzzing Emirates crowd burst into song as Henry jogged up and down the touchline, issuing a casual wave towards the North Bank that had men and women alike fainting with excitement.

The players already on the pitch noticed it, too. There was evidently a sudden step-up in the side’s attitude and the second half saw chance after chance created. Alas, all of these chances were wasted, with Marouane Chamakh in particular guilty of trying to pass rather than take a shot himself.

The Moroccan’s link-up play was neat and useful (at times), but with only three shots on target during the whole 90 minutes, Arsenal were clearly lacking up front. What the side needed was movement – as tidy as Chamakh was, he rarely made a run behind the defence, preferring instead to drop back and make space for the runs of Andrei Arshavin.

Enter stage-left, Thierry Henry. The Arsenal legend attempted just seven passes (completing five) – displaying his eagerness to run behind the defence and finish, rather than create chances. These runs – as noted by Arséne Wenger in his press conference – forced a packed Leeds defence to drop deeper, meaning Arsenal saw more of the ball and therefore had more opportunities to shoot in and around the box.

Henry was caught offside once, but as Arsenal became more and more desperate for a winning goal, there were increasingly more crosses and long balls directed at the Frenchman’s head (although he won just one of his four aerial duels). Eventually, the final ball from Alex Song hit perfection, and the finish from Henry was never in doubt, even from a player who hasn’t played in England for so long.

While some will still be struggling to contain their emotions after such a momentous goal, for realists it is important to recognise that – even if every performance from Henry is this good – he is only here for two months, and (God forbid) Van Persie is out of action after that, The Gunners could be in trouble.

For now, though, let your emotions run free. I know I will.

*All OPTA statistics courtesy of @Orbinho

Joss Bennett is co-editor and head writer of Arsenal blog Arsenal Report - a site for all Gooners interested in tactics, stats and the inner workings of the club. You can follow him on twitter and his read is work at Arsenal Report.

Video produced by CWDailyGoonerCulann Davies is founder, head writer and video editor of Arsenal blog CWDailyGooner - a site for all Gooners interested in analysis of Arsenal's first teamers, youngsters and loanees in video form. You can follow him on twitter and read his work at CWDailyGooner.

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