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Was Wright a better striker than Henry?

by “BGf60”

There’s very little positive that can be done during the international breaks but for gooner addicts it does allow an uninterrupted chance to revisit some of the old tapes/dvds.

Amazing how the heartache can return as well as the joy.

But amidst all this history/euphoria/sadness a disturbing thought came to mind. Was Ian Wright a more natural striker than Thierry? It seems almost heresy to ask but watching replays of all their goals via the “Legend” series, a few things stand out that lead me to think that Wrighty was better. Not as an all round player. Purely as a striker.

Admittedly his 128 goals in 221 league appearances do not compare with Thierry’s 174 in 254 (All games 185 in 288 appearances vs 226 in 369 for Thierry) and for sure, he never made nearly as many goals as TH.

So why the thought?

Simple really. He mainly played for us when we had a good defence, not a bad set of forwards (Merse, Rocky, Anders) and a midfield of baggage men. Think back to the Jensens, Hilliers, Schwartzs, Sellys and Morrows…really without a creative brain in their collective heads. Even The Romford Pele was very young and still with so much to learn.

Thus if Wrighty was playing, the one thought that seemed to pervade Arsenal’s play was “Bang it somewhere near Wrighty and he’ll do the rest.” And did he ever do it. Now try to imagine Thierry in those circumstances…. ‘Le Pout’ might have been double the size.

Thierry’s silky skills aided and abetted by the Vieiras, Pires and Bergkamps made scoring a great deal easier for Thierry. Wright really had to work at it.

Which leads me to comparing techniques.  To my mind Wrighty’s directness leaves the feeling that purely as a striker, he shades it. There’s the ball. There’s the goal. To hell with any defenders. There’s a gap. Shoot. More often than not, a first time shot out of the blue at that. 1-0 to the Arsenal.

The first time shot was far less common with Thierry. His pace and ball control skills allowed him to set himself up more often than not…though who could decry Wright’s ball control when scoring against Everton? Certainly as good as Bobby Pires lobbing Schmeikel in the Villa game.

Be interesting to hear other views. For sure I think we might just find a place for either of them at their peak even now when the whole side wants to score!

Gf60

Editor’s Note

If you would like to write for Untold Arsenal, please do drop me a line with your idea to Tony at Hamilton-house.com    Meanwhile over on the MAKING THE ARSENAL site there is a further extract from the Making the Arsenal novel.  The novel is published on October 30 and will be available via this site.

Coming up next on this site: Arsenal vs the Evil Empire, this saturday

40 comments to Was Wright a better striker than Henry?

  • Adam Smith

    BGf60 an interesting article which I feel could be debated for days on end.
    Wright to me was an out and out striker but I don’t think I will ever see a player like Henry again.He was a one off and as you say ably abetted by especially DB10 Both had a touch of arrogance,but that wasn’t a bad thing,but with Henry sometimes one really didn’t know what he would do next, and that edges it for me.
    Not really directly on subject,Wrighty hasn’t been shall we say kind to the Arsenal with some of his comments and hasn’t adhered himself to many,whilst Henry,well it speaks for itself with the reception he got last week when we played Blackburn.

  • Well you did fail to mention the fact that all the other teams in the league back in wrights’ days were far less creative too and had leaky back lines compared to ours. I say no comparison at all, and Wright has been pissing me off ever since he left Arsenal always gobbing of with negative vibes. Anyone would think he was a secret Spurs fan.

  • Paulette

    I believe you have a great point. Wrighty virtually carried the side when we had deck chairs in midfield, although Paul Davis was quite a creative guy at times. Henry had an embarassment of riches feeding him the ball. Once Bergkamp, Pires, Vieira & co had left he wasn’t nearly as prolific.

  • henrykissinher

    what we are debating is the striker position, and i have to agree with BGf60 wrighty would just take it. Henry was without a doubt a footballing genius and all round better player but wrightys ‘got the ball score the goal’ mentality is what strikers are there to do.

  • walter

    Although it sounds like blasphemy, I really think that Ian Wright was the better “striker” of the 2 players. TH was the better “player”.
    I once read or heard a statistic and it pointed out that TH needed a lot of shots to score one goal. A range of almost 8 or 9 shots for one goal. And that Ian Wright only needed 6 or 7 to score one goal.

    So yes let’s stick to the old Monty Python tradition and break all taboo’s. IW was the better STRIKER.

  • walter

    Let me add that I really think that as a person I really love TH much more then IW.
    As is mentionned before IW seems to have some kind of bad sentiment towards Arsenal (or against AW ??) since he left. Has it got something to do with Saun ?

  • Henry wins hands-down. Wright is the one Arsenal player I’ve given the most adulation to. I completely and utterly rated him. We even have the same name.

    But Henry was by far a better footballer and striker, who led the league in goals and assists for several seasons.

    I also think the argument made for Wrighty can be turned on its head. Henry had several world class creative talents around him, and those players could finish and get goals too.

    Ian Wright was the one, the sole, the ultimate channel of Arsenal’s play before the Wenger era.

    I could flip the other argument too. I agree I don’t see Henry functioning extensively in the team you described.

    But Wrighty wouldn’t have done as well as Henry did in the invincibles era either.

  • LRV

    Interesting conundrum, “BGf60″. Ian Wright was an all out striker, a fox in the box type. Wenger did try to find others of his ilk, but failed in the process. Just when he found Anelka and was trying to mold him into that position, alas greed deprived him of NA. He tried the Christopher Wreys of this world, but no. He thereafter decided to give up and go for the “Silky-Strikeforce” instead. That’s what Henry was and, to a large extent, still is, a complete and true “SS”. Pure class.

  • LRV

    Sorry, I forgot to mention that Ian Wright was an “OS” striker true and through. Pure “Old School”.

  • Henry takes the prize. He was a much better all round player. Wrighty’s directness had its merits, but they served him for the type of players he played with.

    I also agree that Wrighty’s public pronouncements about Arsenal have been nothing short of shameful.

  • walter

    Sorry to go off topic Tony, but I thought I give you some financial information about AZ.
    The main sponsor (shirt – stadium – … ) from AZ is DSB Bank, a Dutch bank. It is almost one step away of going bankrupt. For this year they have payed theire sponsoring money to AZ but this could mean the beginning of the end from a succesfull period for this team.

  • Aaditya

    As a striker, Wright was indeed better than Henry. Similar to how Eduardo is a better striker than Van Persie.

  • Finsbury

    i think Aaditya describes it best. In the current squad with the likes of Dudu, RVP and Walcott (not mention VelaArshavinWilshereetc.etc.etc…) we can have the best of both styles. And that is the most amazing thing about the current squad. I’ve always thought of Walcott and RVP doing a good impression of DB10 and TH14 in a few years time when Walcott will be playing more as a striker, but maybe with this newish formation thingy that people keep talking about but seems a lot like our old formation but with some tweaks here and there, that’ll happen sooner? There are vague similarities between the two pairs, but obviously Walcott is still maturing, RVP is ‘his own’ player, and has his own brand of sublime goals.
    The depth of quality in the current squad is amazing, they might lack overall maturity and experience as a unit, but that’s what we shall enjoy seeing happen over the next few seasons.

    As for Wrighty, Great player, but I think most people lost all respect when he sent his son to be tutored by that coach who did so well with amazing talents at Chelsea such as Robben, Gallas, Mutu etc…etc…, rather then send him to study under the Master. SWP seems to have to have recovered from that personal tragedy. Just.
    Initially there was widespread disappointment, how could he have chosen Moanrinhioballs and his ‘shit-on-a-stick’ brand of football (Robben and Cole made them bearable in his first season) over the Coach who gave the world George Weah for SWP, but his actions/words latterly are self explanatory.

    More importantly, this Interlull I have been wondering, who’s volley was a better finish:

    1) Eduardo’s deft flick against Wigan last season
    2) Fabregas’ last Sunday against the Walrus Men. He did seem to slow time down, & have a picnic, write a thoughtful kind letter to his old landlady and do the weekly shopping in the time between Rosicky hooking the ball back to Fabregas and the ball ending in the back of the net. Quite impressive.

    Technically, two very different goals, one from a lovely lofted pass, the other from an instinctive return, I think I’ll just have to admire them both equally.

  • Finsbury

    Sorry for the poor time-sense and grammer in that post, Fabregas’ Time Lord impersonation left me a little befuddled.

  • Finsbury. I think the strike you’re talking about is Eduardo against Burnley in the FA cup fixture after a lofted pass from Alex Song.

    Even Owen Coyle admitted that if he wasn’t the Burnley manager, he would have sprinted to congratulate Dudu for one of the best goals you’ll ever see in football.

    One of my favourites is also by Dudu 2 years ago against Sheffield Utd in the Carling cup when he smuggled an exquisite left footed volley into the top corner and stood hands akimbo at the edge of the box as if to say “What the f@*^ did you all expect me to do, huh?”

  • Henry was voted Arsenal´s best ever player. His position was striker. Therefore he was Arsenal´s best ever striker. Anyone that says otherwise is a fucking lunatic. How many times was Wright top scorer, player of the season, close to World player of the year??? Enough said about this.

  • Funny idea of what a striker is that some people have. Someone scores more goals than anyone ever has, and some people say he wasn’t a pure striker. What does that mean for Crissakes?

  • After about half a dozen games into Henry’s first season I said to my mate Roger, “I don’t get it. He can’t shoot on target and spends half his time on the left wing”.

    After about half a dozen games into Pires’ first season I said to my mate Roger, “I don’t get it – Wenger keeps playing him, and then taking him off on the hour. What does he give us?”

    By the start of Pires’ second season the world had changed. It wasn’t just that he was an infinitely better player, it was that he and Henry had worked out how to play together. How many times did we see Henry take two or three defenders out left, leaving Pires in the middle unmarked?

    In my opinion (and nothing more than that) Wright wasn’t a man who could form the perfect partnership that allowed Henry and Pires together to express the individual genius as more than the some of the two players. Wright was such an individual he could not adjust to others – and when asked to do something different (remember Rioch playing him as an outside right) Wright promptly handed in a transfer request.

    So for me, Henry was the better player, because he not only scored his goals, he allowed Pires to get all his too.

    In terms of what Wright has done since – he is like most ex-footballers and indeed most bloggers. They feel they can get more attention by criticising, rather than praising.

    Criticising is easier – you say he’s wrong to do this or that, and then you go on and tell him what he should do. If you praise, what then? You say, “Arshavin is a fucking genius” (or words to that effect) and then what? You say it again.

    It is much harder to write a piece explaining why Arshavin, or Henry, or Pires, or Wright was a total genius than it is to criticise.

    So Wright is negative. So is Merson. So is Alan Smith. So is Tony Adams. In fact the only one of our ex-players who is endlessly positive about the Lord Wenger and the club, is Charlie Nicolas. Watch him on Sky – he is a mine of information, and totally positive about everything that our Great and Glorious Leader is doing.

    (How about that for being positive).

  • walter

    Tony Attwood is a fucking genius. And then we just say it again. 😉 I couldn’t let this one go.
    I think the other regular readers and writers know what I mean. I could try to explain it but then we would get off topic.
    Your site is really so good, not only for most of the articles but also for the replys written.

    Like the reply from Finsbury, I really loved your description and you know… it really felt like that at home. When the ball came to Cesc it was as if he stopped time by some magic trick and it seemed ages before the ball hit the net but from the moment if left his foot I knew this was one of the best goals I had seen. It really was a strange few seconds indeed. Great seconds.

  • Jimmy

    Henry was surely the better footballer, and could do things with the ball that Wrighty couldnt. For all I used to adore the guy he wasnt the complete forward that Henry became. Although lets face it, he was as good as anyones ever been for us at converting the half-chance, he just didnt have as many facets to his game as henry did.
    Also, talking about the comparison of midfield creativity, while yes, Hillier Selley Jensen and Morrow (did they ever play together? My mind has thankfully blanked most of the midfields from the early-mid 90’s) didnt quite compare to Pires, Freddie, Viera and Gilberto – all the chances, all the attacks, all the passes used to go to wrighty, whereas as comparatively Henry would see less of the final ball as other players were also capable of finishing things off.
    And as for which is the better person? well, put it like this, i dont ever expect to see TH14 presenting an abomination as terrible as gladiators on skyone!

    Speaking of great goals, anyone seen Fabregas’ for spain against Armenia last saturday yet?
    http://www.footytube.com/video/armenia-spain-oct10-24741
    Awesome stuff!! Looks like he’s been learning from the Eddy volleying technique!

  • Jonny

    Speaking of that Cesc gal and neatly segueing into past players being hyper-critical. David Platt was endlesly egative of the Arsenal during that game – the very best he could muster of Cesc’s goal was that he didn’t catch it ‘cleanly’. I found this rather odd, given that it curled into the top corner past a rooted keeper.

    Not one to let it go when the replay showed Cesc cutting his foot across the ball (coming clearly from his laces) Platt claimed that the slow-mo illustrated what he meant and that he had ‘scuffed it’.

    This was one of many bitter jibes (including criticising Cesc for kissing the badge and suggesting we should see where he is come the end of the season) he came out with to sully what should have been a celebratory day for any ex-gooner.

    As for the rest of the debate the two players are not really comparable but I do know this: if you had a situation where a striker was through on goal in the 89th minute, with just the keeper to beat, would you rather have

    a) Theirry
    or
    b) Wrighty

    If you chose ‘a’ you are mistaken. Thierry was frequently profligate – in fact he wasted numerous easy chances but created so many more. Wrighty was the opposite – he might only get one chance or half a chance and he would bury it 9 times out of 10. I doubt Wrighty would have missed the opportunities Thierry had in the CL final.

    As an aside I always felt slightly disappointed that TH did not hold his hands up and apologise to the fans and the team for that, instead of lambasting Barcelona and looking to blame the world. He had the opportunities to win us the game but he did not take them – I accept that without looking to name and shame him but I think he should have been man enough to admit it afterwards.

  • Finsbury

    Thanks Walter,
    I had to watch that goal by Fabregas a few times before I figured out that he was actually bending the space-time continuum to his will. Suck on that Nietzsche!

    Darius,
    That does look like a Burnley shirt hiding behind the Crozillian in my avatar, thanks for the correction.

  • Finsbury

    Jonny,
    I think the referee should have been ‘man’ enough to say that sending off the keeper in that game was a tragedy for the CL, in spite of Blatters blithering laws. And we have yet to see the two greatest teams of the modern era, Barcelona and Arsenal stun the world with their display of football wizardry in a competitive fixture. Not to worry, maybe this season, Arsenal can correct the history books.

    Poor Jens,
    No, I’m not still bitter…

  • Finsbury

    Sorry I mean we’ve yet to see Barcelona play Arsenal with eleven players on both sides. I thought Henry did pretty well all by himself against a whole defence. Maybe Pires should have stayed on, that’s the only issue we can debate about regarding that game…

  • Flint McCullough

    BGf60 (what can that name stand for?)comes up with the age old comparison from different eras, for that is what it is, in spite of it being within 2 years of Wrighty & TH14 being able to play together.

    Ian Wright played in a much less technical English league on old fashioned pitches that would have been a big big disadvantage to TH14’s style.

    However my impression is the same as most here – IW8 was the better out & out goalscorer but wasn’t anywhere near the same class as a player. Perhaps he could have been with more years under AW & the changes in the game but that we will never know.

    For all the goals he scored I will always feel that George Graham sacrificed what was a great team to service Ian Wright. Still he gave us many moments to remember.

    Sadly his reputation with genuine gooners is pretty low because of his conduct with the gutter media.

  • Paul C.

    Tony – I think you are being harsh on Alan Smith when you class him as one of the “negative” influences in the media. I actually find Smith to be one of the most nuetral and balanced pundits out there. He gives priase where praise is due and citicism when HE feels it is justified. However, I never have gotten the feeling that he criticizes for the sake of publicity or to create a headline. Like you, I think Charlie Nicholas has become one of the finest pundits out there, but I would also put Alan Smith in that class. I do not always agree with his comments, but respect his views and would not say he is “negative” simply for the sake of it.

  • stuartlondon

    OK, deep breath, two heresies, for which I humbly apologise in advance:
    1. I was not yet an Arsenal fan when Ian Wright played for the club, so I can’t comment on their relative merits. In my defence, I wasn’t a fan of any club, so Arsenal was my first love, footballwise.
    2. It was Henry’s remarkable abilities that first made me aware of how special was the Arsenal’s way of playing. However in, I think, Thierry’s last season with the team, I began to feel that Arsenal was perhaps in trouble, and that Henry’s dominance within the team might be the reason.

    I can recall watching televised matches and thinking that maybe he had too much of the ball, and that others around him looked perhaps a little dejected, and weren’t trying to get into goal scoring positions as hard as they once might have done.

    I think Thierry is a supremely talented player, and his dignified and supportive behaviour after leaving us is something other lesser players could learn from. But for me, we have a better team now, partly because we have numerous highly talented players who create opportunities for each other. Cesc’s performance in the Blackburn match was an excellent example of this. An incrediby effective goal scorer who spent much of the match setting up chances for his team mates, and 6 goals from 6 different players.

    Of course, my knowledge of the game and our wonderful club, (a sentiment I hold with absolute sincerity) is comparatively rudimentary. And I must admit that it was a big thrill to see Thierry at the Blackburn game. But, judged as a team, I feel more excited by the way we play now and the balance of capabilities we now demonstrate. Sorry everyone, Stu

  • prick

    That cl final really brings back bad, and also fond memories. We could’ve nicked the trophy from under barca with 10 men. We were THAT good. I do really pity jens. He was always my favourite keeper in the sense that TH will always be my favourite striker. Really, who doesn’t love Jens? If anyone would argue, give me another keeper who have not lost a game for a whole season 🙂

    Sorry for being off-topic. I can’t help it when someone brings back that game.

    P/s: Ljungberg was awesome. He really gave his all that night.

  • Finsbury

    Sorry Prick,
    Mixed memories, but yes, Ljungberg was tireless, as always. I guess I was just thinking that it was a shame for Pires.
    Jens and Seaman were both quality characters. One was uber-mellow, thought a pony tail looked good on a 35 year old with a tasch, and liked to relax to the soporific tones of Def Leopard. And the other is fondly known as Mad Jens, infamous for winding up pompous ego’s like Oliver Khan. Almunia is just a bit ‘normal’ when compared to those two, which is no bad thing either (Def F**king Leopard!), but it does seem to leave him open to xenophobic ‘Spanish waiter’ barbs.

  • Jazbo

    Woooah, Paul C, are you sure Alan Smith, balanced when did that happen???, look the best person on the box to ive serious praise about Arsenal is Grahame Souness, he loves the team and the manager and stated live on TV that Arsenal is the only team he’d buy a season ticket to see.

    As for strikers year that clown Ian Wright was just that a good striker and nothing else, i used to have time for him but once he started mouthing off about how Arsene broke a promise to him and blah blah blah i knew he was no good, and so it has been proved by making sure everyone knew he was never going to allow his son Sean to play for the Arsenal no matter what and then he goes and joins the anti Arsenal radio station ” talkshit” and became the fool on the air waves, mind you he got his cumuppence when a west indian guy came on the show and called him a fool and a disgrace to all Arsenal fans who once supported him, now that was a great moment in radio broadcasting and i for one will never forget it because i was on cloud 9 to have finaly heard someone give him a proper going over, although i must admit since that day he seems to have remembered that Arsenal football club made him and gave him the greatest break in his whole life as footballer, you always remember where your coming from because some one will always remind you no matter how far you think you have climbed.

  • Jazbo

    Th14 is the greatest Arsenal striker and player we have seen so far. but who will be the next big thing ???

  • LRV

    I am truly sorry to go off topic. But I do not know if anyone saw the piece from Oliver Kay on the times online today. Go to this times online site and read for your self – http://www.timesonline.typepad.com/thegame/2009/10/oliver-kay-picks-his-23man-england-squad-for-the-world-cup.html

    Our Almunia (I love calling him ‘Aluminium’ by the way) seem to have made quite an impression on some other football fans from other clubs (except for quite a few Arsenal fans), doesn’t he?

  • lordgunner

    how can you compare wrighty to king Henry.compare the league they were playing Henry is 10 time the player and striker than Wright was.Maybe Wright was a slightly better finisher and far better with his head but the rest of this game wasn’t.he was a selfish old style striker with pace, a better version of Defoe.
    Henry was a genius,he could score or make goal,keep the ball,use skill and pace to destroy any defence
    since he left only Eboue come close ;)to his genius (except scoring…more like destroying goal 😀 )

    But he is still a legend as player,specially him going mental whenever he score.As a hack , he is a clown and a disgrace to his former club who make him a name

  • prick

    Reading the comments on the article linked by LRV.. makes me thank God almighty I found this place. All the comments are with lack of a better word, idiotic. My brain shut itself down after the comment “….Cudicini and Hilario both come to mind, and both are vastly superior to Almunia”. I rate him very highly. But then again, I rate our players higher than usual because of these red tints on my glasses. Oh well.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    TH was the greatest ever player to play for Arsenal .I’ve been a fan since
    1971 and until he showed up Ian Wright was to me the best.IW was the better
    striker while TH was almost the complete player .At times TH ‘hid’ during games by going to the left wing aspecially when things were not going according his plan[I’ve noticed Adebayor and RVP doing the same].TH also
    intimidated his teammates – I’ve seen against Lauren ,Wiltord ,Adebayor ,
    Jeffers to name a few .I agree that he could have won us the CL against Barca and also cost us in the FA cup against Liverfools where he was woefully wasteful .Ian Wright was no angel and would always be ready to scrap .Other teams hated his ‘in your face’attitude.I think his negative comments have hit a sore note with fans while we tend to see TH with rose-tinted lens.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Following up on the above comments -Tony Adams will always be my Mr.Arsenal.

  • Gf60

    Flint McCullough…BGf60?…saw Tony add a B (for Beautiful maybe?! I doubt it). It’s actually Gf60 which stands for Gooner for 60 years. (It’s 63 now but the hassle of changing it every year became too much!)

  • walter

    Gooner for 63 years. My God, you must have known some good times and bad times. Hope that I can name myself like that in 33 years. 😉

  • Gf60

    Let’s face it, we’ve had some wonderful times in the past 30 years. I try never to remember the start of the 1953/4 season where as champions, we started off the season worse than the spuds last year…at least they didn’t get a 7-1 whipping at Sunderland! That was a bad time. “Cheer up”, they said,”things could get worse.” So I cheered up. Sure enough they got worse. But what a way to end the real bad times with the 70/71 championship at Shite Fart Lane and the double!