Loaning forward and Designated Player Thierry Henry to Arsenal, the club where he is a legend and an idol, is a move the New York Red Bulls are hoping will pay dividends this MLS season.
Henry, who spent nine seasons at Highbury and had a statue of his likeness unveiled outside Emirates Stadium this past summer, is in the midst of a two-month loan with the English Premier League Club. Last week, he scored in his debut as a second-half substitute in a 1-0 win over Leeds United in the FA Cup.
“The first thing is, the way I believe the Arsenal stay will work out – and I’m not working for Arsenal so I can’t say that – but I think what you saw against Leeds was a typical scenario where he comes on and plays for a half an hour or a half,” Red Bulls sporting director Erik Solér said. “Maybe he could start a game or two, I don’t know, but it is not like he’s going to play three games a week and be tired. The whole thing will give him a lot of energy.”
Henry, who has battled a chronic Achilles injury over the past few years, is in a perpetual battle for fitness at age 34. Yet he still managed 14 goals in 26 appearances in MLS in 2011.
The loan deal was done in part because of Henry’s status as an Arsenal legend, with manager Arsene Wenger hoping he can give the Gunners an emotional jolt – and some scoring punch – as they fight through a disappointing campaign. Through 21 games played, Arsenal are fifth in the English Premier League with 36 points, 12 behind Manchester City and Manchester United, who are tied atop the league.
While Solér wouldn’t comment on what the Red Bulls received as compensation from the European giants, he said the move wasn’t primarily about money. It was a decision the club made because it was felt to be “a good thing to do on the sporting side, on the marketing side, for Thierry, for us, for Arsenal.”
“Our main motivation was not to make money, because the motivation for us first and foremost to respect the fact that this is a very special thing for Thierry and an occasion that’s going to last six to eight weeks,” Solér said. “For the next two weeks we’re going to be [training] inside or outside somewhere in New Jersey, so we thought the thing was a good idea in the end, and that’s simply why we did it.”
Kristian R. Dyer covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com