Friday, August 31, 2007

Are Arsenal really going to miss Henry this season?

There is no doubt that Thierry Henry was one of the most beloved and influential players ever to grace Highbury (and Ashburton Grove for a few games last season). His pace, creativity, and clinical finishing made him the best striker ever to play for Arsenal - and for many, the best striker in the world. While many doubted his leadership skills, there were none who could doubt his incredible talent. However, after spending a good part of last season injured and scoring only 10 goals, Henry's departure to Barcelona came as no surprise.

It was a huge blow to Arsenal, and many people claimed that Arsenal's spot in the top 4 would come to an end without our talismanic striker. Others fooled themselves claimed that our strikers would do better without the pressure on Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor. It was clear to me though, that our front line would struggle, despite the incredible class of Robin van Persie. Without Henry to take penalties and free kicks, we were sure to score less off of our set pieces, and there would be no Henry to conjure up magnificent goals out of nothing.

However, van Persie has been doing an excellent job at filling his shoes, both this season and last. His strong left foot makes him a huge danger on free kicks, and his tendency to score from long range is reminiscent of his departed partner. I even think that van Persie has a good chance at taking the golden boot from Chelsea's Didier Drogba this season. However, it is unlikely that he will be as prolific a striker this season as Henry was in his seasons with Arsenal.

Who, then, will pick up his mantle? Not new signing Eduardo, but rather our midfielders. While I was initially disheartened by Henry's departure, my hopes for our team were lifted up by our pre-season friendlies and our first three matches of the season. In the first three games of the premiership we have scored 4 goals - 2 from van Persie, one from Hleb and one from Fabregas. In our Champion's League qualifier away against Sparta Prague, Hleb and Fabregas scored the only goals in a 2-0 win. In the return leg, Fabregas struck again as did Tomasz Rosicky. This newly found striking power in our midfield comes as a relief after next season in which Hleb and Rosicky scored only 3 league goals each and Fabregas scored only 2. Fabregas is currently our top goalscorer! Who ever thought we would be saying that?

I will have confidence in our ability to become champions if our midfield continues scoring goals. After all, our invincibles season saw a large amount of our goals come from Pires and Ljunberg.