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Posted by Sam Limbert on 02/12/2012

Should we really be surprised that Thierry Henry signed off from the Premier League with a winning goal? He's done it so many times before, yet his injury winner at Sunderland had that something extra special about it. It wasn't that it was a wonder goal, it was just a poacher's goal in the six yard box, but the goal was as important as it was symbolic.

Forgetting that it was Henry who scored, the goal itself was vital in our fight for fourth. Just two and a half weeks ago, we were lamenting the state of the team after the 0-0 draw at Bolton. Now we're in the position we hope to occupy at the end of the season. With other results going our way, a draw would have felt like another missed opportunity. We also had to build on the 7-1 win, and a draw wouldn't have been good enough. Now, the fact we were ruthless against Blackburn is looking extremely handy, as we're currently only ahead of Chelsea in the table on goals scored.

Sunderland have been in great form since Martin O'Neill took over, and made themselves extremely hard to break down. It was cold, the pitch was bad, the hosts were organised; the list could go on of reasons as to why the match that was a prime candidate for dropping points. The game also came at the start of a massive week for our season, with AC Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday, and another trip to Sunderland in the FA Cup next Saturday. Suddenly the team are going into those matches off the back of two very different wins, but equally as important ones. The 2-1 win at Sunderland said more about how much we want to finish in the top four than the 7-1 did.

The way we conceded the goal was disappointing, but ultimately we can’t go throwing any blame around. It was a terrible bit of bad luck for Mertesacker to collapse injured when he did, allowing James McClean to score. It could have been as a result of the pitch, but the way he went down made it look quite serious. I’m a big fan of Mertesacker and think he has been good, even though he is still adapting to the Premier League. Hopefully the injury isn’t as bad as it looked.

We’re fortunate that Kieran Gibbs is returning from injury, so Thomas Vermaelen can slot back into the centre of defence alongside Koscielny. However it means we’re one injury away from potentially looking exposed in defence again. With big games coming up, the players returning from injury have to get back up to speed quickly.

Generally, we kept Sunderland at bay well until their goal. Wojciech Szczesny made a few important saves, showing that some of his slightly shaky moments in recent weeks are behind him. Otherwise, Sunderland didn’t commit too many players forward as they looked content to just watch us pass the ball in front of them. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain couldn’t reach the heights of his recent performances, while Theo Walcott was a bit wasteful in some promising positions. Arsene Wenger’s substitutions have been under the microscope since the Manchester United match, however all three of the players he introduced in the second had a massive impact on the game, and effectively won it for us. Wenger got it spot on.

When Mertesacker was stretchered off, it would have been easy to bring on Gibbs and move Vermaelen into the centre, but Ramsey was introduced instead. Within minutes of coming on, it was clear that he’d benefitted from a break from the team. I think he was on the end of some harsh, and often unfair, criticism during January, so I was really pleased to see him on the score sheet. There was some significant luck involved in his goal, with the ball hitting both posts, but with some of the bad luck he’s had in his young career, no-one can begrudge him a goal like that. It was also good to see someone shoot from the outside the box. With Sunderland sitting deeper and the space to slide a pass being limited, the shot from distance was a good option, and Ramsey’s shot was well hit given the bobbly pitch.

So onto the winning goal. Andrey Arshavin needs to have a good end to the season, he needs to make an impact. If he does what he did at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, his critics will be quiet. It was what makes Arshavin so infuriating. We all know he has a huge amount of talent, he just has to show it more often, and when it really matters. In injury time, he did show it when it really mattered. His cross from the left was perfect, it just needed someone perfect on the end to finish it.

Apart from Robin van Persie, I’m not sure if there is anyone else in world football I’d prefer to have on the end of a cross like that, than Thierry Henry. In all the minutes he’s been on the pitch in this loan spell, frankly, he hasn’t really done much; except for scoring three goals. Even at this stage of his career, that is what sets Henry apart from others. Even though he isn’t physically able to score the type of goals he used to, he is intelligent enough and clever enough to know where to be to score, and then stay calm when in that position. When Arshavin’s cross came in, it was no coincidence that Henry was between the two defenders, and then he opened his body up well and guided the ball in.

Honestly, I didn’t expect anything from this loan spell. Plus, as much as we Arsenal fans didn’t want to admit it, there was always that niggling fear that he might be terrible and score no goals. It wouldn’t have ruined his reputation or status at the club, but there would have been some disappointment and a tinge of sadness from fans. But why should we have doubted him? He is Thierry Henry. He has some much pride in his football, and even more pride when wearing the cannon on his chest, that he wouldn’t have allowed himself to let Arsenal down. He has enhanced his reputation, and his legend status at the club, and in the Premier League as a whole, has been assured. As long as the Premier League exists, people will talk about Thierry Henry, and he is 100% a Gooner.

His goals have been crucial. Leeds United was one of the most magical moments I’ve experienced in a football stadium, and it won us a match that we’d lacked a cutting edge in. The Blackburn goal was a bit scrappy, and was seemingly a bit meaningless, but now we’re level on goal difference with Chelsea, that could be vital by the end of the season. Also, in his last home match, the script writers weren’t going to let him not find the net. However he saved the most important goal for last, with the winner at Sunderland. Or was it his last goal? The San Siro awaits on Wednesday. Thierry has history there. You wouldn’t put it past him writing one last paragraph in his incredible Arsenal love story, the day after Valentines’ Day.

He has put a massive smile on the face of every Arsenal fan. Even if for fleeting moments, it’s occasionally felt like the good old days. From a playing point of view, it’ll be sad to see him go again later in the week. We’ll be back in a vulnerable position in the squad without reliable back up for Robin van Persie. However we need to be positive at the moment. Henry never truly left Arsenal, and he never will. I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar loan deal was done next season. The words don’t really exist to justify what Thierry Henry means to Arsenal fans, what Arsenal means to Thierry and what a legend he is. Thank you Thierry, you’re one of us, but you’re also an Arsenal fan that is one of the greatest players ever to have played in England. Thank you Arsene for signing him in the first place, and then for bringing him back.

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Posted by Anonymous on 02/13/2012

Good post, I'm still smiling... Long live the king.

Posted by Peter J Paine on 02/13/2012

Well written Sam and especially the lovely words about Thierry. So now on to the San Siro and another win. Come on you Gunners!

Posted by nick b. on 02/13/2012

Sam: Awesome article as usual! I've been following your blog since the start of this season, but I must say that you write, by far, my favorite Arsenal blog.

A much needed result at the stadium of light and what a way to get it - Arshavin finally (even though I do love him), producing again and when it really counted! And as you said so well in your article, Henry is an absolute legend, what an impact he's had in his short loan and he did it again to win Arsenal the game! Brilliant move by Wenger to bring him back! In Arsene we trust! Gooner for life!!

Posted by Adrian on 02/13/2012

While I am sad to see him leave, his going is good because I will get to see him vs FC Dallas in March. Thierry is a fanatstic player and I wish I had been following the sport when he was in his prime! I also hope that Mertesacker isn't seriously injuried as well, because the thought of Djorou or Squallci (sorry about spelling) in the starting line up scares me.

Posted by Philip on 02/13/2012

Sam, one thing I love about your blog is that you always make me smile :) Your writing epitomizes what it means to be a true gooner. Respect :) and I hope you will carry on writing Arsenal blogs for years to come.

This was a fantastic day for Arsenal FC. All the other results went our way, and it's not every day Arsenal go down in the second half only to come back and win. I definetely think we deserved it and credit to the lads for their spirit.

One thing the match does prove is that we can't let go of Arshavin! He is quality I tell you! We've seen his talent before, and if we stand by him, we will see it again! The moment he stepped onto the pitch he looked like a man on a mission. Well done.

I still think this was the most important match of our week. I would rather come 4th in the league then do well in the FA Cup or UCL. But I certainly think we can beat Milan and then Sunderland again. If we get to the UCL Quarters, anything goes...

-In Arsene We Trust--

Posted by Farr on 02/13/2012

Glad to see Arshavin with the winning assist. You've stated teh emotions that go with King Henry better than I could. So, after all that has gone wrong for him this year, I'm glad Arshavin, not only got the assist, but put in the perfect ball - with two men marking him, to scoop it over the head of the first defender with enough distance and pace to leave the keeper rooted in place. It was a perfect ball, and that is great to see.

Posted by zebra on 02/13/2012

Hey Sam, thanks for writing. thanks for the frequency of blogs that you post. i really appreciate and enjoy reading them. and it also helps us fans come together.

good news is great! i was so disappointed when we went down because it truly seemed like there was no way the team could break down the defense. there was no way in! poor Mertesacker. hope he is not out too long. but i will also enjoy seeing Vermaelen back in the center.

Ramsey's goal was amazing! it lifted so much weight from the team and fans. and Wenger's subs were spot on. bringing Ramsey in was something i hadn't considered and ended up changing so much, maybe even the season!

with huge fixtures ahead, i hope we can continue building momentum and be healthy and successful. our fitness levels are good in the team, which showed at the end of this last game. with Gervinho returning, we will have more creativity up front. hopefully he can help in the absence of Henry

Posted by Raza on 02/13/2012

I think 2 factors have hindered Ramsey this season; fatigue due to playing every game, and the CAM Cesc role he has been handed for which he doesn't have the vision. Clearly a rest has done him good. i thought Rosicky was again very good in his capacity; he's forward-looking and passes better than Ramsey, so he'll hopefully continue in that role. Perhaps we can also give Theo a rest when Gervinho returns; hopefully that will have the same positive effect.

The Per injury is unfortunate; I think we do have players right now to cover for it barring more injuries, with Gibbs returning, and Coq having impressed at full back.

So glad to see that for once Wenger's subs worked. I'll readily admitted that I groaned when Arshavin and Ramsey came on.

Posted by Sainty on 02/13/2012

Great to see the team pull a hard game out of the fire. HORRIBLE pitch, but hats off to the blk cats as they must have been gassed after their mid week marathon but never seemed to let up.
Standing in fourth is a nice feeling, but I still believe that no extra bodies on defense or forward will be the end of the marvelous record for Championship appearances. Arsenal has a lot of high quality opponents left this year, and the injury to Per is typical. Here's hoping a speedy recovery, he sure had some gaffs this year but he seems completely committed to improving. Regarding the subs, good for Ramsey, I hope the break will settle him down. You can't doubt his work rate but he can learn from Thomas that being in the right spot at the right time is key to offensive flow.
As for the Russian Albatross, great cross. Can't believe he didn't aim for RVP, but hey, who cares. He is almost always solid for an assist on off. and a goal against on def. so it was good he ended the game at +1.

Posted by blave on 02/13/2012

Tremendous win to keep the momentum going! Great to see Thierry still providing such crucial and dramatic contributions.

It would be absolutely incredible if he could conjur up one more moment of magic to sign off on his 2nd go around with the Gunners. Alot to expect, but I wouldn't put it past him either.

Seems like a great matchup. A positive result in Milan would be phenomenal and no doubt great for the morale of the team and fans!

Any prediction on how the match in Italy might go Sam and do you think Gibbs get the call or perhaps Coquelin?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I think it'll be tight, but we've got a good chance. As it's the first leg, we have to be tight at the back but an away goal would be massive. I think Gibbs might start, or Djourou will come into the centre with Vermaelen on the left.

Posted by zebra on 02/13/2012

i just want to add that having Henry has been special. he has such a love for the club that you can't compare it. i don't think that we could have signed anyone during the window who would have contributed as he has. he is so committed.

if you see Ramsey's goal again, you will notice that Henry is the only one who is ready to pounce had that ball not found its way in.

Posted by Aneesh Chandoke on 02/13/2012

Awesome post.I absolutely agree with you on mertesacker point.people forget he isn't used to play matches where defenders play a part in like arsenal involves defenders.he has been good for us.I don't understand his critics.Only regret I have is why can't Rosicky score??he works so hard..his runs,passes are excellent but just luck costs him.

Posted by Gooner on 02/13/2012

What a nervy game , the pitch was bad, sunderland defended well and we could not find a through past to give our striker the chances needed to score. our wings we poor on one on one and often tried to come in rather then go wide and swing a cross for the forward and finally of all people Ashwin did it and that tell us we should have a plan B. The win is great with Henry scoring the winner but this will not happen always.We should always have plan B. Try our usual game for 60 min if not working we should go for wings crossing in for strikes and play two forwards. Which prove to be effective the last game but was very late and could have cause us the game. Hope we will learn from this and all th best for arsenal.

Posted by javid francis on 02/13/2012

AWESOME job as usual sam i look forward to reading your blogs every week its like your a mind reader conveying every aspect of my thoughts....lovely words about henry fitting for the king but luck was on our side in the game....people keep praising henry they need to praise schezny(sorry for the spelling)...finally we have a capable and dependable golie able to keep us in the game when things are tight he made two wonderful saves both off vollies and that enabled us to keep in the usually sam i have a question do you think schenzy deserves more credit and praise and if mertersacker is injured wats the formation of the backline gonna be like i say switch vermalen back to cb bring in coaqulin at lb not gibbs sangna at rb and kosheilny the other cb so sanga kosheilny vermelen and coaquelin...also wat did u think of ryos debut for bolten brillant i think..a little more compusure and he would have got his self a goal he s truly a gem...and wat did u think of the ox performance

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I'm a big Szczesny fan, and think he was very good at the weekend. Without Mertesacker, I think we'll see Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen and Gibbs at the back. Ryo looked lively for Bolton, will be good for him to get regular Premier League football. The Ox wasn't quite as effective he has been in recent weeks, but that is understandable. He's still very young and we can't put loads of pressure on him.

Posted by Uncle Bear on 02/13/2012

That's why I've bought a Henry 12 shirt, which is only my second Arsenal shirt with player's name and number on it (the first one was Bergkamp 10). Thank you KING HENRY !!!!!!!

Posted by KENNETH on 02/13/2012

Nice blog!! what a way to end the loan spell. King henry is a living legend. Arsenal will always remain grateful, for such a talented footbal does not come often. A marriage made prefect in heaven.

Bravo Henry. At the end of the season,the team will live to remember the goal that won the forth place. it was a well timed placing by the master.
i couldn't hold my joy. long live Igwe!!!!!!

Posted by fakazani on 02/13/2012

good game and nice analysis but am really worried by our lack of plan b .We need to play with more pace to break down teams that park buses.
on the plus Rosicky has been playing very well lately,his energy is good for the team dont you think Sam

Posted by arsenalDheart on 02/13/2012

Sam great post..
just wandering there's this article I read before saying that Arsene Wenger want to buy Hazzard but he need to full fill the club profit requirement, I really don't get our club in debt or are we not making money from our previous player sold? where did cesc,ade,ktoure and etc money went to?
Our club charges the highest ticket in the EPL aren't we making money? If I'm not mistaken we already paid fully for the Emirates stadium right?

Why do we still need to full fill the profit requirement? or isit a must to make profit every season? so blur....

Posted by Arsenal Army on 02/13/2012

My prediction for 10 Arsenal next matches on Ars-MU blog-almost 3/3 correct but last minute Henri's goal just make 2/3.However, I remain feel that Arsenal at 7th after completed 10 matches.
I still worry on our defense fragility in certain condition and our forward is not showing a long lasting enthusiasm to score.It is not that they are lack of motivation but sometimes the way how the opponent structure, organize and control their defense can quickly make our attacking lost their movement and rhythm.They start to have mental block and unable to shoot well.
When Blackburn unable to organize their defense, we can see clearly how much they were force and fierce on every attempt to score goal.We can see how wonderful their game at that time and i wish to see they play like that all the time although we defeated.
However I start get my mood back after 2 wins. Hopefully they keep building the momentum and never step back.My heart tell me - Arsenal at 7th but my hope-We at 4th.Luv U Arsenal.

Posted by DaveC on 02/13/2012

Sam, great article again !
Apart from all the great stuffs that you have mentioned, here's my observation that I got from the Arsenal vs. Sunderland match :-

- we always choose to attack from the right despite the unreliable delivery and keep ball from Walcott, why ?

- every time when the OX is in a great position to receive the ball, nobody wants to pass the ball to him. This is very strange, because I personally feel that if we give him the ball more, we can be more dangerous from an attacking point of view. Do you agree ? Also, we should be making use of our left side as well as the right side of the field when attacking.
Please let me know where you see the same ? Thanks !
Btw, great to see the King score again ! Such wonderful feeling !!

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Not sure why we might favour passing to Walcott over the Ox. It's not a general trend I've noticed, I think it changes game to game depending on the defender in front of the winger. Bardsley did well against the Ox so maybe the others thoughts Theo had a better chance of beating the left back.

Posted by david fitch on 02/13/2012

Good win, but if we look at the first half Sunderland gave a masterclass in how to defend they were able to take out the Arsenal front men kept both wide players quite by not letting them get in behind their defense and cut the service for Van Persie.What it did show was Arsenal do need a second striker i am sure the focus of the defense was on V.P giving Henry the space not so easy to defend with the two gaps will appear,great to see someone take a shot from edge of the box and not look for an inside pass.Arsenal are at fourth spot by the skin of their teeth if you look at the fixtures for Chelsea they have an easier games the next two games if Arsenal lose both they could be six points behind them so they have to get something from these games.Arsenal need to finish the season strong and not drop off some players will be returning but unless they play with pace and use the talents they have they could get that forth spot they must stay focused.

Posted by JAAC on 02/13/2012

Lets not forget.... Great win, great moment, but the truth is that they are still not playing good enoughf. Terrible consisntency from some players like Walcott. We still have to play against the big guns, then we will see...
And if we finish 4th, I hope people don't forget that changes are needed.

Posted by Gunnas on 02/14/2012


Posted by Filip on 02/14/2012

After reading this, I had to youtube ManU-Thierry Henry-last second...
Just the coolest cat in english football, ever!

Posted by chuckles on 02/14/2012

why do we wanna finish 4th? I'd rather we finished below that so the club can get the shake up it needs, better that than another year of mediocrity.

Posted by Mark on 02/15/2012

good post. My biggest fear..our biggest for VP to get a season endng injury right after Henry leaves. Should that happen, with our complete lack of quality depth at forward, and we can kiss title hopes and 4th place goodbye.

Fingers crossed.

Posted by lawal ghana on 02/15/2012

one love arsenal one love thierry henry the king of Henry is an absolute legend, thank you henry Gunners for life

Posted by Cliff on 02/15/2012

Great result at Sunderland, but, we need to show a little bit of consistency in the remaining matches.
Good luck.

Posted by zebra on 02/16/2012

just too sad, Sam.. too sad. what happened to Arsenal? all because of Mertesacker? too disappointing..

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David Young Sam Limbert: My retirement as a football player came at the age of 14 due to being rubbish, it's fair to say I was more Kaba Diawara than Thierry Henry, so I turned my focus to writing about the game. I'm a lifelong Arsenal fan and have been lucky enough to watch the team across England and Europe. My favourite Gunner of all time is Dennis Bergkamp, and the 2004 Invincibles is the greatest side I've ever seen in English football. I try to be positive about the Arsenal as it's the hope that keeps us going! Follow me on twitter @SamsMatchReport.

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