Friday, January 6, 2012

Henry Loan Deal to Arsenal Finalized

Henry: "I just could not say no to Arsenal"
The ongoing saga of finalizing Thierry Henry's two month loan to Arsenal reached its conclusion today when the Gunners announced that they had an agreement in place with the New York Red Bulls and MLS. The deal is intended to allow Arsenal to bridge the four to six week gap when Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh will be away on Africa Cup of Nations duty.

Henry says it was his love for Arsenal that brought him back to his old club, but was also adamant that he would be back to help the Red Bulls start the season on the right foot and compete for MLS Cup:
I want to send a message to the fans of New York Red Bulls as well. I always said I would not play in Europe again. But it is hard for me when it comes to Arsenal. I am not coming here for the whole season, I will be back and I want to win the MLS Cup with the Red Bulls. I hope it is a win-win situation where I can help Arsenal and come back fit for the MLS season.
There's inherent risk in any loan arrangement, as we've seen just this morning with Los Angeles Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez tearing his ACL while on loan to FC Nuremberg. Henry can provide assurances that he is only at Arsenal to fill a temporary need or appear as a sub, but most Red Bulls fans will be watching nervously every time he takes the pitch for Arsenal, hoping that nothing happens to endanger his return. The Red Bulls don't have the easiest of starts to the 2012 season - away in consecutive weeks at Dallas and Real Salt Lake - and they will need a healthy Henry if they hope to take anything away from either match.

According to several reports, the Henry loan deal runs through February 16, with the option to extend to February 26, the date of the North London Derby. This means that Henry very well could miss part of pre-season training in Arizona, contrary to earlier assurances from Red Bulls' General Manager Erik Solér. The extension of the loan to encompass the Tottenham match may have been one of the factors in the protracted negotiations. It would appear that the Red Bulls blinked first.

Red Bulls fans can only hope that the loan goes smoothly, and that they get back a healthy, motivated player. With the extension of the MLS regular season and playoffs through December, Henry could well be playing football for a year straight. You have to wonder how much he will have left in the tank by the time the playoffs begin.

The other concern, of course, is that Arsenal might suffer an injury to a key starter (such as Robin van Persie), and then request to extend the Henry loan through the end of the Premier League season. The Red Bulls would be well within their rights to refuse, but the pressure from Henry, Arsenal and Gunners fans might prove to be too much to resist.

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