Whither Henry without the title chase?


LONDON: Runner-up with Arsenal in the Champions League. Losing finalist with France at the World Cup. Third for the European Player of the Year award. 

Thierry Henry is getting used to losing. 

Now, with his relationship with Arsenal showing signs of strain, maybe he needs a new challenge elsewhere. 

The talented France striker has plenty to think about these days. He's sidelined partly through suspension and partly through a back injury which could keep him out until sometime in the new year. 

Henry says he wants to stay with Arsenal for the rest of his career. But are Arsenal good enough for Henry? 

The Gunners are 16 points behind Manchester United in the Premier League and 10 behind second-placed Chelsea. 

Arsenal's fate hangs in the balance in the European Champions League and they face a resurgent Liverpool in the third round of the FA Cup in early January. 

If things go wrong, the Gunners could be out of contention for all three titles by the time Henry returns for injury. 

If that happens, Henry's current separation from the team could wind up in divorce during the January transfer window. The likes of FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan might be listening closely to developments at Arsenal in the next few weeks, even though Henry is only a year into a four-year contract. 

Henry has played in a major part in Arsenal's transformation under manager Arsene Wenger from a pedestrian, defence-minded team that routinely won games 1-0 to the enterprising, quick-passing collection of young stars whose skills with the ball have attracted a worldwide fan club. 

But Henry has become frustrated at what he sees as a lack of ambition behind the scenes and lack of support on it. 

While the club has built a spectacular new 60,000-capacity stadium, it has remained stingy in the transfer market. The Gunners signed Czech Republic midfielder Tomas Rosicky during the off-season but Henry wanted a co-striker. But Wenger has emphatically said that he will not be buying. 

Henry was also disappointed the club let captain Patrick Vieira leave for Juventus a year ago and didn't do more to keep Dennis Bergkamp active instead of letting the Dutch striker drift quietly into retirement. 

Last season, Wenger started using a 4-5-1 formation with Henry the lone striker and, while it got the Gunners to the Champions League final, the player watched forlornly from the other end of the field as Barcelona came back from a goal down to win 2-1. 

After a poor start to the season, two losses in a row to Bolton and Fulham last week pushed the Gunners further out of league title contention, and Henry reportedly was furious when told he would miss Saturday's game against Tottenham. 

Henry admitted to the French sports newspaper L'Equipe that sometimes he is not easy to deal with. 

“Quite simply, it is true that I can be a pig. It is not a lie to say that,'' he said. “Sometimes, I feel that I am in the right even when I am wrong. But to claim that I wanted the power – no. To say that I wanted to play in a 4-5-1 – no. Everyone that knows me knows that I prefer to play alongside a teammate (in attack).'' 

With the season not even halfway over, Arsenal appear to have little chance of catching the two teams above and there are no signs that Wenger will give Henry his co-striker. 

After seven years of slaloming runs, bending free kicks and record-breaking goals for the Gunners, it might be time for Henry to think about scoring them somewhere else. – AP  

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