The high of the cup win has started to wear off and the reality of the season break is beginning to sink in. Transfer speculation is rife in the Goonersphere resulting in endless debates among Gooners about who Arsenal need and why they need the said player(s).
I never get into any of that, although I was recently put on the spot during a podcast when a question about preferred transfer target came up so I uttered the name Cech! Otherwise I don’t.
Anyway, with the chances of transfer/personnel-ridden posts to circulate the internet being quite high, I thought let’s do something different (if not original) for the off-season. Like me, I’m sure several of you like to re-visit goals scored by favorite players or by Arsenal in our spare time.
Today, I want to talk about one goal scored by the King himself which I’ll never forget – not only because of the quality of the goal but because I felt it gave a message at the time.
It was the first half of the 04/05 season and Arsenal were extending their Invincible run. There was an up and coming force in the form of Chelsea Football Club. Chelsea had been bought by Roman Abramovich and millions had been invested – first by Claudio Ranieri in the previous season (or was it the season before that?) and then by Jose Mourinho. The latter was making his debut in the Premier League that season. Mourinho also splashed some cash that season. The Blues were performing well and were already garnering a reputation for being efficient – doing enough to get the job done.
The Gunners were leading the table until their undefeated streak came to an end at Old Trafford. That weekend saw the Blues close the gap to two points. We all know how that defeat de-railed the Gunners’ season and two months later, heading into the match at Highbury, the Gunners trailed the Blues by five points. Chelsea suddenly seemed hot favorites for the league as well; suddenly they had also become THE team to beat.
Before the match, a lot of talk surrounded the tight Chelsea defense and the brilliance of their goalkeeper Petr Cech – also in his debut season in the Premier League I believe. Moreover, Mourinho was fast growing a reputation for delivering quotable quotes.
This was the match that Arsenal HAD to prove that they are champions. That they will not let this new kid on the block run away with it – I say ‘new kid’ because Roman’s investment had changed the face of the club. I was already beginning to hate Chelsea – Roman’s investment just seemed unfair in terms of fair competition. Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, and other clubs had played their way to financial earnings – what I like to believe as the proper way. The King summarizes it perfectly here:
Overall, we were facing a tight defense, great keeper, and the league leaders. Could Arsenal do it?
The goal came pretty early in the half, in the second or third minute actually! It was unexpected but with Thierry Henry, I guess you have to expect the unexpected!
A long ball was played to Henry, who was on the edge of the box, slightly towards the right corner, courting the attention of two defenders, Henry jumped and nodded the ball down so it sat up for Reyes who was out wide on the right. Reyes headed it back almost immediately. Henry had barely moved from his position and the Chelsea defence was standing off the King a little.
Henry took the return pass with his right foot – one touch to kill any pace. His body was facing goal but slightly angled towards Reyes because that’s where he was receiving the pass from. The second touch was a shot with his left foot. His first touch let the ball sit up nicely for him, the King had to swivel his body ever so slightly and before smacking the ball with, what seemed like, the in-step of his left boot. The ball flew past Cech into the far corner! The Czech didn’t even move!
You can watch it below:
What Happened Next?
Chelsea went onto equalize, followed by a cheeky Henry free kick which restored the Gunners’ lead but I think it was Lampard or Terry who equalized again. The game ended 2-2.
We Didn’t Win, So Why Love the Goal?
The manner in which the goal was scored and the fact that it was scored so early – I felt it all brought Chelsea crashing back to earth.
The goal also said I’m Thierry Henry, we’re Arsenal, this is what we’re capable of, don’t get ahead of yourselves!
The celebration reiterated that. Just look at the expression on his face, not sure what he actually said but they seemed to be brushing Chelsea off.
I guess also seeing a big player step up in a big match with a moment of magic makes it all more memorable so perhaps that’s a factor for my love for this goal.
I really wish we had beaten them that night, who knows how the season would have panned out after that?
Anyway, till next time!