Arsenal’s Henry-shaped demons point to a Fabless future

Ok, let’s have it – anyone who wants to bitch about the headline, just do it right now – come on, go down to the comments, scream ‘cunt’ and come back up. I’m waiting…

Back? This article is going to look at Arsenal’s future from the perspective of a Manchester United fan – from someone who still respects the Gunners’ ability to beat the best teams in the world on their day. You guys are frackin’ good.

So let’s get this started already.

Henry’s main reasons for leaving (as he claims) were the departure of David Dein and the failure of Wenger to commit to a contract extension now (this doesn’t automatically mean that Wenger will leave next year, mind you).

Personally I have no reason to doubt this – and quite frankly after a certain point it becomes a matter of speculation. Did Wenger kick him out? Henry says that it was his own decision to leave, and I’d believe that over ‘rumors’ of a row or doubts in Wenger’s mind about Henry A lot of that has been fueled by the media and four months after the Feb injury it becomes insanely easily to forget that there was an insane media blitz covering the story and there was plenty of crap floating around about this. Some of that seems to have stuck permanently in the minds of the fans, which is never good.

So Henry left on his own. Fine; if a player wants to go he shouldn’t be forced to stay. You can convince him to stay – as I think Dein and Wenger did with Henry last summer and Ferguson and Queiroz did with Ronaldo last summer – but you can’t force him. Barcelona were calling, Henry consulted Wenger and Dein and then made the decision on his own, fair enough.

And if Wenger tells Henry that he’s not committing to a new contract, I don’t think it’s cause for alarm, although from this point onwards the fans and the board should start preparing for an end to the Wenger-era. We can’t pretend to say whether Arsene will stay or leave, but if everyone is going to go with their bias and then rationalise it (Arsenal fans take note) then my view is that Wenger is either waiting to see the outcome of certain things that will only happen in or at the end of the 2007/2008 season, or he is simply seeing out his contract as honorably as he can.

If Wenger wants to extend his contract, he will do it this summer. If he’s waiting for something or he wants to leave, he won’t. I can’t imagine that the Arsenal board would not already have made him an excellent offer to tie him down for the future – they can’t be that short-sighted.

If Wenger’s waiting for something, what could that be? Dein? It’s possible. I know that Wenger has nothing to worry about from the team, so whatever he is waiting for has to be about the club.

Speaking of Dein, some people have said that Henry’s mention of Dein’s departure as one of the reasons of him leaving is weak and is just an excuse. I don’t think so. I won’t pretend to know more about Dein-Wenger-Henry than what’s been written on Arseblog and by the Guardian / BBC, but going from what I’ve read from them I think that if Dein had stuck around, Wenger would have signed that new contract.

I also think that Henry stuck around because he trusted the direction Arsenal would go in under Dein and Wenger, and there’s a good chance that he would have stayed this summer if Wenger had signed the new contract (then again, there’s also a good chance that he might not have, we’ll never know so it’s pointless to speculate).

Anyway, my view is that Henry saw his footballing friends leave and now he’s risking seeing his friends in the Arsenal management leave and he wants to win the Champions League and wants to play for a club that’s truly global and bigger than Arsenal. It’s the end of his career, let him go, let him be, thank him for the memories and not blame him for what happened in the last 12 months.

Henry took a lot of flak last season, most of quite unfair – here’s a player who has been in top form for several years and has played non-stop football and is unsettled AND injured. The whole team underperforms, but Henry got the most stick (ok, Baptista and Hleb probably got more stick, but that’s about it). His time was up last summer, but he made the mistake to stay. When it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

Arsenal will go on, and will most likely do better next season than last. This means a genuine challenge for 2nd place at least. The title is a possibility but depends largely on the transfers.

Will Wenger stay? I think not.

Will Fabregas stay? He’s here till 2008, and IMO till 2009, then we’ll see what happens with Barcelona’s midfield. Expect Fabregas to be Barcelona’s target next season, expect Vieira to talk about Fabregas leaving, expect Henry to be asked if he’d like to see Fabregas at Camp Nou and expect Henry to say yes.

In hindsight, Henry leaving Arsenal is a good thing – it gets rid of the baggage Arsenal carried over from Highbury. The legacy of the Invincibles, of Vieira, of Adams, of Bergkamp and Henry. It clears the deck for a Fabregas-led Arsenal to storm the Premiership next season. It allows the new Arsenal to develop their own style. It gives RVP the responsibility he needs to lead Arsenal’s front line.

There’s a lot to look forward to for Arsenal – in the long run the sane Arsenal fans always expected to lose Henry, Wenger and Fabregas, and as Henry has left after an extra-long season of speculation, Fabregas and Wenger will leave too.

The challenge is to see if Arsenal can survive and still challenge for the title. It will be harder, but it won’t be impossible.

And yea, if the season started now (with Henry out of Arsenal), they’d still finish above Tottenham.

And he still should have left last summer. Think you guys would have gotten 16m for him then?

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