23 February 2017 | 7 °C

Regarding Henry

By London_Duncan Last edited 129 months ago
Regarding Henry
StadeFranceNight2.jpg

It wouldn't be a bad way to say, "Goodbye", would it? Raising Europe's most prestigious club trophy into the night skies of your home city against a backdrop of triumphant music and spectacular colour co-ordinated ticker tape.

Not such a good way to say, "Hello", to your new football family, though, as they skulk silently away from the same stadium. "Sorry about the Champions League final, chaps, but you'd already won it once and they never had so I thought you wouldn't mind." Still, Patrick Vieira was already playing for quarter-final adversaries Juventus and Robert Pires announced mid-semi-final that he was on his way to opponents Villareal so declaring in the wake of the final that he was joining Barcelona would allow Thierry Henry to round things off with a certain symmetry.

Somehow, if he comes out a day or two after the final and says, "Of course I'm staying! There was never any doubt in my mind!", whatever the outcome tomorrow night that decision, for so long the number one terrace topic at Highbury, will feel like an anticlimax. We don't think many Gooners would be too bothered about that, however. One Arsenal icon has already announced his curtain call and Ashburton Grove would feel startlingly unlike home in August without either Henry or Dennis Bergkamp, no matter who the club persuaded to fill their remarkable shoes.

Dennis has made it overland to Paris, but one definite absentee is man(child) of the moment Theo Walcott. So certain is Arsene that he's the right choice for Sven's world cup squad that he's decided not even to give him a place on the bench in tomorrow's mega-match. Some cynical people suggest that this might not be entirely unrelated to alleged clauses in Theo's contract that could, for example, trigger not insignificant payments to Southampton if Theo were actually to play for his new club at all and most especially if he were to be personally involved in some sort of European trophy victory scenario. We know, however, that Walcott's early presence at England's world cup base is due entirely to Mr Wenger's enthusiasm that his adopted country should glean the maximum benefit from Arsenal's superstar of the future. And if he proves to be rubbish in the summer he could always be farmed out to Birmingham or somewhere before the new season starts.

So no youngest scorer in the Champions League glory for Theo, though Jose Antonio Reyes is still all too literally top of the "Being Kicked Gratuitously" pile. The Gunners management will be trying to invoke the spirit of Parma '94 while warning against the twin evils of penalty shoot outs (Valencia 1980, Galatasaray 2000) and people being allowed to shoot from the halfway line (Zaragoza 1995). Thank goodness no current member of the Barcelona first team has ever chipped an Arsenal keeper from miles out like that.

Londonist's very best wishes are, of course with the Arsenal in hopes that they can bring back the big prize to the capital for the first time. Unlike Saturday, however, we're reticent about making bold predictions. What we'll see tonight is two top quality teams gracing one of the continent's finest venues in pursuit of the highest honour European club football has to offer. Everyone wants it to be a kind of footballing utopia, but that's unlikely, especially given that both teams got through their semi-finals courtesy of a single goal over two games, Arsenal not having conceded at all in their last ten European outings. Don't worry too much about missing the start. Arsenal have only scored once in the opening fifteen minutes in the Champions League, while domestically it all happens for them in the final quarter. If Thierry spots the ball up from 12 yards at 0-0 with only seconds to go we're confident he'll know what to do.

Photo of the Stade de France at night via Microbug's Flickr stream.

Last Updated 17 May 2006