I don’t have a penchant for transfer speculation so I avoid transfer talk and avoid offering any sort of opinion on players that I feel we need because quite frankly, I am in no position to offer the such.
Having said that; I will also say that I am a man for nostalgia – I enjoy looking back at some fantastic goals and/or moments that the Arsenal has given me. Last week I decided I would make nostalgia a permanent fixture in my column for the season break and recall some fantastic goals over the years. However, it won’t be simply a goal that caught the imagination because of its sheer brilliance; it will be goals that were either:
- Technically fantastic especially in the context they were scored in
- Seemingly ordinary/not too difficult to execute; but, meant a lot at the time
In either case, it’s the story in the build-up to those goals that make them more memorable while a technically brilliant execution is the cherry on top.
Today, I look at another piece of Henry’s brilliance at a time when we needed inspiration.
Patrick Vieira had left Arsenal in the summer of 2005 in search for European glory and signed for a club that seemed more likely to satisfy that ambition – Juventus. Ironically, it was the Gunners who knocked out Juventus from the Champions League that season but that’s a tale for another day! The point being, Arsenal had lost their midfield General and Captain.
The Gunners were having a poor season in the Premier League and had amassed 11 losses by the time the North London Derby arrived late in the season; however, the Gunners had managed to place one foot in the final of the Champions League just before this game. The reverse fixture earlier in the season had seen a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane. This game, however, had more hanging on it then bragging rights.
Spurs were having a similar season to the Gunners if not slightly better. Heading into this game, our rivals were on 61 points from 35 games. Arsenal was on 60 points from 34 games. Spurs were 4th, the Gunners were 5th and Blackburn close behind.
4th place HAD to be sealed to ensure Champions League qualification because winning the competition did not guarantee a return to the competition to defend the title; that rule changed when Liverpool won it in the next year if I’m not wrong.
If Arsenal were to lose this game, they would fall 4 points behind with only two games to spare, not good prospects! Can you imagine losing your spot in the Champions League – a competition that the Gunners had qualified for eight consecutive years till then – to Spurs?!
This game had a lot riding on it to say the least; plus, it was at Highbury!
Thierry Henry wasn’t fully fit and started on the bench; new signing Adebayor started up front.
Spurs took the lead mid-way through the second half amid controversial circumstances – Gilberto had collided with Eboue leaving the Ivorian on the floor; Arsenal shut off for a couple of seconds expecting Spurs to put the ball out of play, back then it didn’t have to be head injury to push such an action. Spurs played on and scored a relatively simple goal as Davids crossed the ball from the left for Keane to slot home.
Henry had been introduced to the game just moments before that goal. Arsenal was struggling to create anything meaningful till that point. However, the Gunners became more assertive and around the 80th minute a long-ball was played to Adebayor who took the ball in his control near the half way line, in the middle of the park, with his back to goal.
Adebayor shifted away from his marker using the outside of his boot, still with back to goal, he kept going till the sideline and then ran towards goal, brushing off the attention of the Spurs fullback – what was his name? He was a Canadian fellow. Anyway, he moved in towards the center and Henry made a diagonal run from a deep central position into the gap left by one of the center backs ; Adebayor had drawn the center back’s attention.
Adebayor slipped in the pass for Henry, and what happened next was unimaginable! Check it out below:
The brilliance of this goal cannot be understated. Not simply a matter of one touch-BAM!
Considering the marker stuck with Thierry, the Frenchman luckily had half a yard on his marker but knew he could not take another touch to set up a shot with his left foot because the angle would become way too narrow and/or give his marker a chance to tackle. Secondly, because his first touch was with his right foot but kept the ball close to his right foot, the left could not be used due to this reason as well. So he flicks it with the outside of his boot into the far corner.
A flick! A bloody flick! How on earth did he generate enough power in a flick to beat the keeper?! The confidence that Henry had in his abilities was awe-inspiring. I don’t think any other striker would attempt something like that, but Henry did.
What Happened Next?
The game ended 1-1. Arsenal and Spurs went into the final day of the season with the former needing a draw and Spurs needing a win. A number of the Spurs squad suffered food poisoning just before their match and at one point they were winning their game while Arsenal were losing theirs! Luckily the King scored a memorable hat-trick to secure Champions League for another season.
Till next time!