With the international break in full swing, it can be a time to discuss alternative issues to that involving the Premier League. So, I wanted to take a look at Thierry Henry’s career since leaving Arsenal for Spanish giants Barcelona. The 31-year-old has just started his second season at the club, but according to their sporting director, Txiki Beguiristain, he has ‘not looked convincing’ in a Barcelona shirt as yet.
Considering how influential and successful he was in Arsenal colours, this seems rather hard to believe. However, Beguiristain goes on. He says that Henry doesn’t look like he fits in the team at times and that his time in Spain has been dogged by ‘personal problems’.
Any fans in England will be wondering if Beguiristain is talking about the same player that scored 226 goals for Arsenal? Henry could do no wrong in England and was so often the match winner for Arsene Wenger’s side. In July 2008, the Frenchman was even voted the greatest Arsenal player of all time. So what has happened to him in Spain?
Well, it has to be down to a number of factors. First up, everyone connected with Barcelona possibly expected too much. When he arrived for just over £16m, there were thousands of fans ready to welcome him at the Nou Camp. They had pursued the striker for quite some time and now they eventually had their man – they wanted instant results. However, he didn’t grab his first goal until September and unlike Arsenal fans – who would rarely criticise Henry – the Barcelona fans were straight on his back.
In all honesty though, Henry’s first season in Spain was a poor one for everyone involved at Barcelona. There were no trophies won and finishing a rather staggering 18 points behind arch-rivals Real Madrid didn’t help proceedings. Perhaps as the club’s major new signing, Henry was made a scapegoat for their problems. In all fairness though, he still managed to score 19 goals to be the club’s leading scorer.
So, in terms of goals scored, Henry wasn’t too far off the pace. However, he simply hadn’t won the fans over. At Arsenal, everytime he touched the ball there was a buzz about the place and more often than not Henry delivered the goods. Quite simply, this hasn’t happened at Barcelona. Some sections of the media have even said that the Frenchman ‘lacks commitment’, something he had in abundance during his time in England.
I suppose part of the problem could be that he was played out of position a lot of the time. Barcelona’s boss last season, Frank Rijkaard, often played him on the left wing leaving him with numerous defensive duties. This isn’t the way to go with Henry. Yes, he hugs the left wing a lot when playing up front, but it is done without the need to track back.
The new season though has brought renewed hope for Barcelona and Henry. New boss Pep Guardiola even stated at the beginning of the new campaign that Henry would be his ‘main man’ as he looked to guide the club towards various honours.
So, has this been the case? Well, judging by the comments previously mentioned by the club’s sporting director – it would appear not. However, it has been said by the same man that Henry is ‘improving’. He is becoming a central part of the team and having much more of an impact on how Barcelona are playing. They have won their last four games and although Henry has only found the net twice – he is starting to stamp his authority on the team like many expected him to last season.
Barcelona fans will want trophies though and if they fail to deliver them, it is the likes of Henry that will unfairly get blamed again – no matter how well they may be playing.
By Thomas Rooney
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