Thierry Henry oozed class in his time at Arsenal. He was a player that somehow became synonymous with the style of play that Arsene Wenger wanted which was based on speed, skill, and freedom of expression. He was able to create something memorable, something magical and in his time with the Gunners, he became a very special player in the Premier League and it all started with his modest arrival from Juventus.
There had been foreign players before him that had managed to shine such as Gianfranco Zola at Chelsea and his teammate Dennis Bergkamp but as a goal scorer, Thierry Henry was in a league of his own.
After his arrival at Arsenal in 1999 from Juventus, he struggled in the Premier League with many questioning the wisdom of Arsene Wenger in signing the £11m misfit from Juventus. The Frenchman’s knowledge of the athletic and intelligent 17-year-old from his time at Monaco would lead to a highly successful association in which Henry established himself as a global sporting superstar.
Thierry Henry was irrepressible, fiery and passionate with an insatiable appetite for winning. His speed and ability to time runs or his directness in front of goal meant that he would land 174 goals in his career as a Gunner, but he was also able to create a great many goals for others.
Superb close control, predatory instinct and the ingenuity of a highly tuned creative talent saw him wow the crowds time and time again, with solo goals, free kicks, back heels and audacious sprints from his own half into the box.
As much as Sergio Agüero has dominated the Premier League in recent years and is unquestionably a world-class player, Henry’s depth is superior.
At present, Arsenal fans are cooing over the efforts of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but Henry was far better in just about every department. So when supporters contemplate the loss of the Gabon striker, they should take heart that Henry’s departure to Barcelona was a far bigger blow.
The Frenchman could turn a game on its head with just one unpredictable piece of genius or overwhelm a match single-handedly by turning it into a victory. He was always a threat on the front foot but even he would admit that during his time, he had some fabulous talent around him with the likes of Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp and Freddie Ljunjberg.
From the 2001 season, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry formed a prolific and iconic partnership that has rarely been equalled, certainly not at Arsenal. Bergkamp created, pulled the strings and orchestrated the attacks with Henry adding the finishing flourish and speed.
Bergkamp could find his partner with a box covering his head in a spell of thick fog. It was an almost telepathic connection and became the heart of a successful Arsenal side which Wenger would struggle to recreate once Bergkamp retired and Henry left.
Many refer to it as a golden era and watching it, we were all unaware that this feast of artistic football would end, it became expected as were Henry’s sublime and imperious efforts. There was an arrogance as he turned away from goal, almost making his celebratory run before the ball had settled in the back of the net.
There was a majesty in the way he carried himself and the appearance of a ruthless executioner when in on goal. His image immortalised in a statue outside the Emirates, with both legs folded under him as he slid towards his supporters is my lasting memory of him.
It was a snapshot moment that reminded everyone of his solo goal against Tottenham Hotspurs in 2002, where he ran the length of the pitch before slotting past the keeper. It was a jaw-dropping moment for the Highbury faithful, in game against bitter rivals Tottenham and that elevated him from the best striker in the Premier League to the best striker in the world.