Wenger: Henry's Arsenal return like a dream
Arsène Wenger said last night that Thierry Henry's dramatic winning goal for Arsenal on his return to the team in their 1-0 FA Cup third-round win over Leeds United was like a "dream".
More than four and a half years after he departed for Barcelona, Arsenal's all-time top goalscorer added a 227th goal to his club-record haul with a 78th-minute strike, having come on as a substitute nine minutes earlier.
With the Emirates in raptures and Henry embracing Wenger as part of his celebrations, the Arsenal manager also suggested that the player could extend his loan from New York Red Bulls from six and a half weeks to eight.
"It was a little bit a dream," Wenger said after seeing Henry score from Alex Song's pass. "It was the story you would tell some young kids who you wanted to tell a story about football. And fortunately, it's not often like that in our game but sometimes it happens."
"He was already a legend here and he added just a bit more to the whole story. When he got in this position I thought 'Oh, that's your angle, but it is a bit too close,'" Wenger said afterwards. "And that's where he surprised me. He didn't force the shot, and still made it look easy.
"He had that special finishing that he has shown tonight. That was the Thierry Henry finishing."
Henry, whose return to Arsenal was gleefully greeted by the home fans, said that he hoped it would not be his last goal for the club. "I don't know what to say, to be honest," he said afterwards. "I love the club. I want to help out at the end of the day and hopefully I can do more. I don't know: I hope it won't be the last one."
His own emotion at scoring was obvious, and he said he could enjoy this goal more than any before. "The feeling I had when I scored was amazing. I am enjoying the club as a fan, I wasn't before," he revealed. "I will always remember tonight. I don't know why, but when it comes to Arsenal, something happens with me. Sometimes in a bad way, but most of the way in history in a good way."
Wenger was not surprised by the impact Henry made on a game that was flat for the 68 minutes before his arrival. "He has seen it all, has done it all," Wenger said. "So you could see straight away when he came on that he was a presence on the pitch. And if you could find him he will be dangerous. He's sharp physically."
As Henry promised, he demonstrated he still has an exceptional footballing intelligence. "Straight away through his runs he made them [Leeds] drop a little bit deeper," Wenger said. "The intelligence of his movement always gives defenders a problem. After 10 minutes on the pitch he knows where to go." Wenger added he had not decided how to combine Henry with Robin van Persie.
Leeds manager Simon Grayson, who saw his team defend well before the goal, was not at all surprised by what happened. "It was probably written in the stars that what did happen would happen," he said. "And that's the class of Thierry Henry who's shown that so many times. How many times has he been in that left-hand channel and bent one into the bottom corner?"