HENRY WATCH – 2012 Review

First thing’s first, let me apologise for the lack of Henry Watch over the past few weeks. I can only put this down to disorientation induced by Arsenal’s recent turbulence. In this challenging time I have sought solace in one of our former heroes. Thierry Henry is still alive and kicking in New York but how has he fared as his MLS campaign comes to a close?

ROUNDUP

When I last updated on Henry and the Red Bulls they had just lost to divisional rivals Sporting KC. They were left with five games to secure a place in the playoffs. Two wins, two draws – aided by two Henry goals and five assists – meant that they finished in third place in the East. This set up a spicy encounter with close rivals DC United who finished  just ahead in second spot.

The first leg was scheduled for November 3rd at Red Bull Arena however Hurricane Sandy meant that the schedule had to be reversed. New York travelled to the capital instead and played out a relatively drab 1-1 draw. The most interesting incident came when DC full back Andy Najar received two yellows in a minute. The first came for an unsubtle trip whilst the second was given for quite wonderfully slinging the ball at the rightly aggrieved referee.

Despite the insignificance of away goals in MLS playoffs the 1-1 draw on the road was a decent result for New York who’s home form has been markedly better than it has on the road. This set up an all or nothing shootout between two of the fiercest rivals in MLS.

It was an incident packed match that New York dominated. They went close on several occasions and were presented with a perfect opportunity to wrap it up when Kenny Cooper was dragged down by Bill Hamid and the keeper saw red – in more ways than one. The dismissal appeared to be fully justified although the furious stopper disagreed, ranting to anyone and everyone as he reluctantly disappeared down the tunnel.

The resultant penalty was despatched by Kenny Cooper only for more drama. The referee whistled for an infringement from Henry; the Red Bulls captain had strayed into the box before the ball had been struck. As if scripted, the subsequent penalty was kept out by sub keeper Joe Willis.

As if that wasn’t enough, Rafa Marquez lunged in late and received his second yellow reducing both sides to 10 men. This was the Mexican’s second red in success playoffs and could well signal the end of his divisive spell in New York. The game became more and more open. DC broke forward and breached the wrong footed Red Bulls defence allowing Nick DeLeon to notch the winner. For the third successive year New York and Thierry Henry crash out of the play offs before the divisional final.

OVERALL PERFORMANCE IN 2012

Henry finished the season with 15 goals and 12 assists in his 25 appearances; RBNY’s second top scorer behind Kenny Cooper, with 18, and comfortable leader on the assist tables. League wide he was fifth top scorer and joint fifth top assist maker.

Aside from a mid season injury layoff and a slight dip in form just afterwards, Henry continued to represent New York’s greatest threat. Whilst there is a growing pool of talent in the MLS, much of it home-grown, Henry still manages to provide the greatest individual highlights of any single player. No one came close to emulating the moments of genius Henry was regularly able to contribute.

SEASON HIGHLIGHTS

Volley vs Chicago Fire 

Goal from corner vs Columbus 

Goal vs Philadelphia plus taunting home fans  

WILL HE CONTINUE AT NEW YORK?

The smart money would say ‘yes’. Henry is the Red Bulls best player and the league’s best paid. The only question mark would be whether Thierry himself wants to continue. He’s now had two and a half seasons in the Big Apple and is yet to win any silverware, despite being part of one of the most expensively assembled squads.

There are big changes afoot in New York with Hans Backe being told his contract would not be renewed. Jerome De Bontin, former executive at Monaco, has come in as General Manager whilst Andy Roxburgh has also joined as Sporting Director. The Red Bulls await the announcement of a new Head Coach with Gary McAlister rumoured to be on the shortlist.

It’s also interesting to note the growing influence held by Henry’s agent Darren Dein. This report from SoccerbyIves.net suggests Dein is playing a prominent role in restructuring the club. Something that would seem unlikely if Henry was planning to leave it all behind.

Henry often cuts a solemn figure and has had little to say in the light of the latest Red Bulls disappointment. One would suspect that he would like to see some positive movement in the off-season although the chance of him wanting to leave New York, another adopted home, seems unlikely.

MIGHT WE SEE HIM BACK AT ARSENAL?

In terms of his ability to perform at the top level, there is nothing to suggest he has deteriorated since his last spell in North London, in fact his early season performances in 2012 suggested his return to Arsenal had rejuvenated him.  It would seem that he would quite fancy a return and don’t be surprised to at least see him back training at London Colney.

Whether he actually plays again would probably hinge on fitness – by the time he could be re-signed he’d have been out of action for two months – and whether Arsenal decide they need him. With another African Cup of Nations due for New Year 2013 Arsenal could potentially lose Gervinho and Chamakh as they did last season. One would hope that Arsenal move to add permanent reinforcements in January but it wouldn’t be unlike Arsenal to opt for a less expensive short-term option.

That’s that for Henry Watch this season and thanks to anyone who’s clicked through to read it. Also thanks to the Editor for indulging this particular labour of love.