Arsenal youngsters relish chance to play against club legend Henry

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

By MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

The level of impact Thierry Henry has had on Arsenal can be seen walking around the Emirates Stadium, where a statue in pose of a knee slide after a goal rests. Ask who the greatest player for the London club is, and the answer will always lead back to the Red Bulls’ captain.

For the Arsenal youngsters on the pitch at Red Bull Arena, that fact was omnipresent as they took the field against their club’s legendary striker.

“Another dream come true,” said Gedion Zelalem. “I watched him when he was at Arsenal. To play with him tonight was great.”

While the Henry in New York may not be the same as the one that graced Highbury, and later the Emirates, his ability is still unquestionable.

“I grew up supporting the club, watching him score week in week out,” said Jack Wilshere. “He’s the club record goal scorer, he’s a special player and you can tell today, even though he may have lost a little bit of pace, he still has the skill and the ability to open up defenses.”

Henry nearly gave the crowd a reason to explode with a goal in the sixth minute. However, Arsenal goalkeeper  Wojciech Szczesny, who admitted to being “bullied” by Henry during his winter training stints earlier in the week, made a fine save.

While Henry may have lost a step of his famed pace that terrorized defenses in England, he still flashes that brilliance that made him one of the best in the world.

“Thierry can be dangerous from everywhere. He understands very quickly what he can take advantage from. He was sharp today as well in the one-on-ones and you could see why he was a great player because when played in midfield, his passing was excellent and his vision as well. You could see that he can play everywhere,” said Arsene Wenger.

It was a special day for Arsenal, who visited the United States for the first time in 25 years, to play against a club legend in Henry. The French striker also received the well-deserved admiration from the fans, first with a large tifo reading “Gunner. Red Bull. Legend.” and then a standing ovation as Henry exited the match in the second half.

As much as it was a great moment for the Arsenal players to play against a player they grew up watching, Henry was equally as happy for his young teammates to get a chance to play against Arsenal.

“It was more important for me that Andre Akpan played against Arsenal. Ruben Bover, [Michael] Bustamante and all the guys that we have sometime don’t play a lot in the league. It’s not always you can play against Arsenal in New York so that was where my mind was,” he said.