Henry magic cast an instant spell on me, says Wenger
Arsene Wenger knew on the first day he saw Thierry Henry back at Arsenal”s training ground that he wanted to re-sign the star.
That special something – the va-va-voom – was still there, even if Henry”s football brain may sometimes now have to compensate for what raw pace once achieved.
I know him so well: Wenger (right) with Henry at Friday”s training session
The Arsenal manager confirmed on Friday he was “certain” Henry would return to the club he left in 2007 for a two-month loan, as Sportsmail revealed earlier this week.
Wenger stressed the New York Red Bulls striker needs “two good weeks” work” to be fully match fit, but the paperwork could be finished in time for the 34-year-old to be named as a substitute for Arsenal”s Barclays Premier League trip to Fulham on January 2.
Henry”s full “debut”, however, is more likely to come against Leeds in the FA Cup third round a week later.
The Arsenal boss has yet to determine whether he can register Henry for the Champions League last 16 games against AC Milan on February 15 and March 6 – the Major League Soccer season kicks off just four days after the second leg.
But Henry is in line to savour the Sunday lunchtime duel with Tottenham at The Emirates on February 26.
Wenger said: “For two months it is certain that it will happen. The first day (I knew). I met him when he was 17 years old. I had him here at 22 so I know every movement he can make. He is a super-intelligent guy and he is a special talent.
“He has something. He knows where to be. He knows how to give a problem to the opponent. You never lose that.
Getting to know you: Henry with Theo Walcott
“He and I are conscious he is 34 years old but he has not lost his class or his brain. That will be just enough for us.
Any chance of that No14 shirt, Theo…
Returning hero Thierry Henry tries his luck at regaining his old shirt number for a two-month loan spell at The Emirates. His former squad jersey now belongs to England striker Theo Walcott. It is believed Henry will wear the No 12 shirt on his return.
“We will see. I don”t want to put too much pressure on him. He wants to be as discreet as possible and help the team out when it is needed.”
The chances of a low-key return to a club which proudly unveiled a bronze statue of Henry only three weeks ago are slim, but Wenger is keen to stress the pragmatism of his decision.
He described his fellow Frenchman as a “short-term solution” and emphasised that his true value will be shown on the pitch – not in the dressing room.
Unlike Arsenal old boys Sol Campbell and Jens Lehmann, who returned, in part, to bolster a young and inexperienced squad, Henry will help to lighten the burden on Robin van Persie while Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh are at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Wenger said: “We need a short-term solution and he has the quality and capacity to help us out. You do not find players on the planet of this quality who are available for two months.
“I”ve done it before with players who have a special attitude, special weight in the dressing room and I”ve done it at periods where experience can play a big part in the dressing room, from January to March.
“Players who have won before can help others keep calm. Now I do it for footballing reasons because I need a striker for two months and I don”t have one at the moment.”