Saturday, 31 December 2011

Dixon Warns of Thierry Risk

Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon says Thierry Henry's likely return to the club on loan is a "risky" move.

Gunners legend Henry, 34, is set to rejoin on a two-month deal from Major League Soccer side New York Red Bulls.

"I always think it's risky going back to a club," Dixon told BBC Sport. "He will never recapture that magic."

Ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson disagreed, saying: "Thierry could still do a great job, even off the bench - I think it's a win-win situation."

Henry has been training with the club during the MLS off-season and it is understood a deal is likely to be completed over the weekend.

With Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh set to depart for the Africa Cup of Nations in January, the Frenchman would offer back-up to captain Robin van Persie.

Henry captained Arsenal for two seasons before joining Barcelona in 2007 and is their all-time leading goalscorer, with 226 goals in 370 appearances.

Dixon was Henry's team-mate between 1999 and 2004, but he is unsure how successful the move will prove.

"He will never recapture that magic," said the former England right-back. "He is not the player he was when he left, that is obvious.

"His pace has waned a little and he is several years older, which does slow down the body. He needs longer to get over games now, even at MLS level.

"A full 90 minutes in the Premier League, having been so long out, may be too much to ask."

Dixon did, however, suggest that Arsenal's dressing room would benefit from Henry's arrival.

"His stature at the club is such that everyone will be lifted by his signing, albeit for two months," stated Dixon. "He will invigorate a dressing room that is now showing some signs of experience - a missing ingredient in recent years.

"[Arsenal manager] Arsene Wenger and Thierry are very close and I'm sure they have talked about how his position will be used. With the African Cup of Nations intruding into the domestic calendar then it is feasible that Thierry might be needed to start a game or two.

"But he will be of best use as an impact sub. He is a top drawer finisher, no doubt, and he will score if given a chance - although I think that Arsenal are still short up front, even with Thierry."

Having spoken to Henry about the move, Wilson can only see it having a positive effect.

"Arsene would not bring him in if he didn't think he was up to the job," Wilson commented. "There is sentimentality but Arsene is very sensible about it.

"Imagine if you were struggling a bit and you needed a little impetus - both for the crowd and the team - and you bring Thierry Henry off the bench. I think the opposition would be a little bit nervous of what they were about to face.

"I actually spoke to Thierry about it on Saturday and he said, 'what do you think?'. I said, 'look. I know what you're thinking, the legendary bit - but you won't lose that'.

"I don't think you can lose it. He will always be up there as one of the truly great, great Arsenal players.

Will Van Persie still be the main man at centre forward, will Henry sit on the bench or just play when Van Persie needs a rest, or will Wenger play them together? It's exciting for Arsenal supporters.

Former Arsenal left-back Nigel Winterburn
"Anybody who played against him, never mind people who watched him play, will say I was privileged to play against Thierry Henry."

Nigel Winterburn played alongside Henry for a season and he is looking forward to seeing Henry reunited with Arsenal's current leading striker Robin van Persie.

"I've seen him in MLS a few times and he still looks very, very sharp - but the Premier League is a different ball game," explained former Gunners left-back Winterburn. "I just hope it works for Arsene Wenger and Thierry Henry.

"The one thing that excites me is looking at how the team will play. Will Van Persie still be the main man at centre forward, will Henry sit on the bench or just play when Van Persie needs a rest, or will Wenger play them together? It's exciting for Arsenal supporters.

"I just hope everything goes as everyone expects it to. Some say it's not a risk, but when you have had a living legend like Thierry Henry at the football club you remember him for what he was, and I hope it doesn't go wrong.

"I'm excited about it but I look at the flip side as well. Although it's only a short period of time - only two months - I hope it doesn't fall flat on its face."