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August 2021

The miracle man

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By Walter Broeckx

When Wenger brought Thierry Henry to Arsenal he wasn’t a complete unknown for Wenger. Wenger had insisted that Henry would come to Monaco as he could see the big potential of the young lad.

And I can imagine (and this time my imagination is taking over) Wenger talking to Thierry Henry who had been a bit of a failure at Juventus. A failed winger one could say. And I imagine Wenger saying to Henry: “Son, if you listen to me I will make you the best striker in the world”. And maybe Henry will have nodded in agreement but maybe inside he was thinking: “are you kidding me?”  He was fast, he could dribble but nothing in the early days of his career pointed at him being a top striker and finisher.

But Wenger took the failed winger under his wings and slowly created the Thierry Henry we all have seen in his first spell at the club. One of the most amazing strikers ever to have been on a football pitch in the world and the best striker that ever has worn an Arsenal shirt. Breaking all kinds of records with an ease that still is amazing looking back at it all.

Him leaving Arsenal in tears was something hard to take. But after all he had given to the club we understood his personal dream and the fact that he wanted to go to Barcelona to win his Champions League medal. My only sour note on Henry is the fact that he should have won it for Arsenal in the final against Barcelona but for once his deadly precision let him down when he had the chance to put us 2-0 in front in the second half. I still have nightmares of him shooting wide and I think that it will have haunted him in his nightmares also. Maybe it still does haunt him?

The warm welcome he got whenever he returned to the Emirates was a testimony of the eternal love from the fans for their favourite player. Like the warm welcome he received when he played for Barcelona in the CL against us and which raised eyebrows in Barcelona and got them thinking he still was more an Arsenal player than a Barcelona player. No player of a visiting team will ever receive such a warm and well meant round of applause when he started warming up that day. Well apart from Eduardo when he came over with Shakthar last year but the relationship between Eduardo and Arsenal has more to do with his terrible injury and the way that people just knew that this was the only reason Eduardo didn’t make it after that at Arsenal.

Now one cannot underestimate the role that Arsène Wenger has played in the career of Henry. Even though Wenger said that Henry would have made it anyway…. I really doubt it.  It was only under Wenger that Henry got to the high levels we have seen. It didn’t happen at Monaco (after Wenger was gone) and at Juventus. So somewhere the magic words ‘Listen to me and I will make you the best striker in the world and in the Arsenal history” must have done something.


Now for a manager to do this trick (turning a player in to a top class player) is something that only a few managers can do. Turning a fast winger in to a deadly finisher is something that only a few managers do in their career. I think most managers never do this in fact.

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But now we can say that he has done it again. Because now it is clear to see that Wenger has turned Van Persie in to a world class striker also. Again Wenger saw something in a player that nobody else could or would see.

Okay I knew Van Persie was a very talented player. Very skilful, not as fast as Henry but maybe with much more control on the ball than Henry. But nobody considered Van Persie as a player who could play as a central striker. As a second striker, yes. As a winger coming in from both flanks,  yes. But how on earth could this player who looked so fragile at first (and who was in fact fragile mostly down to bad tackles in fact) could be the main striker of a club like Arsenal.

And not just the fact that he would be played there but most of all the fact that since he played there he has developed in to one of the best strikers in the world. People generally consider Messi and Ronaldo as the best strikers in the world. But all stats point that Van Persie is just as good as those two if not better for the moment.

The way Van Persie has developed under Wenger in the last years is as amazing as the development Henry had in his first years under Wenger. People can be critical about Wenger if they want to. But name me one manager in the modern era of football who has turned two players in to world class strikers in a 10 year period. Maybe some will attempt it in the comment section but for the moment I cannot think of one manager doing it twice in the space of some 10 years time.

Arsenal don’t buy world class players is much heard amongst the fans. Some regret it. Arsenal make world class players is much said by some fans.  Some don’t like it. But believe me I love it. I think no greater pleasure and satisfaction to see the little duck turning in to an amazing and beautiful swan. And how privileged we have been that most of us have not seen it once but are seeing it twice.

Whatever you might think of Wenger as a manager remember that no other manager in recent and modern football has achieved such a thing. Turning two unknown and almost failed (remember the “we must get rid of-lists” a few years ago that had Van Persie on it because he was always injured???) players in to the best strikers of the world. And only God knows what could and would have happened to some and what still will happen for those who are clever enough to stay around under his guidance and let Wenger develop them to the best player around. Could he do it a third time in the future? If so it would be almost a miracle. But if there is one man who could perform such a miracle it has to be Wenger.


20 comments to The miracle man

  • Rhys Jaggar

    Best to analyse Wenger as a venture capital fund manager.

    He makes 20 or so investments, a couple of gold bars emerge, several do OK and several fail.

    The naysayers focus on the failures, the disciples focus on the gold bars.

    The real evaluators will look at the whole picture……….

  • insideright

    Correct assessment Rhys, but it will still remain the case that even the gold bars never cost ‘Torres money’ and the failures usually cost very little.
    Value is everything – as Kroenke pointed out when he said that Moneyball is really about Wenger.

  • Kentetsu

    When Arsenal signed RvP I was thoroughly unimpressed. He received a lot of negative press in Holland during his time at Feyenoord. Add to that that as a little boy I always supported Ajax – the main rival of Feyenoord – and you can understand why his signing did not fill me with excitement. But a couple of years down the line and RvP has really matured as a player and as a person. Now he is one of my favourite players at the club.

  • El Gringo

    And it’s not a perfect analogy…the fund manager doesn’t develop the investments as a football manager does. The fund manager must pick shrewdly, while the football manager must pick shrewdly and then pour considerable amounts of time, energy, wisdom, and technical knowledge into the player.

  • Chowdhury

    Great post Walter.

    He might not be a striker, but little Jack has to be it. He has to be where we see it happen once again. He has every ingredient to be “world class”. If he keeps his promise, Jack has to be the next big thing for England after “Gazza”. Simply sensational he is.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Agree Chowdhury.
    Jack will be the next gold bar if one want to name it like that. Be it in a different position but he will be immense.

  • Chowdhury

    And let’s not forget the one that “got away”. El Capitán. 🙂

  • Sharky

    Surely Bergkamp should also be included. After all we only just bought him before Arsene took over as manager from Rioch.

  • bob

    Yes I get your analogy, Rhys, but to each his own.
    In my orb, I’m thankful that Arsene (whilst a businessman and talent developer) is not a fund manager. He has beaucoup class. Class not crass, she wrote.

  • Flavour

    Will he create the miracle again? Yes and I think this time he is moulding Theo Walcott. The reason I think I might be right is the fact that even RVP said Theo has been criticised more than any player but Theo gave him more assist than any winger and he see Theo scoring 20 goals that we should be patient. I believe they both know something we don’t and I think the miracle has begun. Remember Henry and RVP were unbelievable low rated, the fans gave Arsène Wenger grief but today it is a different story.

    Sorry for my next line but I just have to say this. When AOC was bought I read in one of these nasty blog that Arsène Wenger has bought another kid and was called a p….. The same fan that misjudge him signing the lad also have misjudged the miracle worker when he changed the lad with Arshavin. WOW! Just imagine who would have given that cross in Sunderland to the king if we have disposed the future Russian President during the January transfer window.

  • FinnGooner

    Great article Walter. I think We had to let Henry go to give RvP chance to became player he is. Oh and I love how he keeps reminding us about Theo’s assists (like true captain should he defends his team) That post match message on his website after Blackburn was great (he mentioned Theo’s assists, Goals by Ox and Legend…ignored his own hattrick).
    I too love seeing ducklings turn swans. Especially when he comes from “our owns”. I remember few years ago reading about this young goalkeeper (who had played really well) breaking both his arms. What a sad story then… Now he is one of the best goalkeepers in EPL and our #1 (well 13 ;)) .
    So there are lot of failures but the golden ones are worth more even there are not as many.

  • 037

    I hate to say this, but Fergie definitely has knack in creating superstars. Ronaldo, Beckham, Scholes, Giggs, I think they fall under the players who developed well under Fergie.
    Guardiola also has a great track record in developing stars so far. Messi is pretty much his doing.

  • Anne


    La Masia (Barcelona’s youth academy) deserves credit for developing Messi. Not Guardiola.

  • Chowdhury

    I don’t think Messi needed anyone to become him. It was pretty much written from above when he landed on planet earth. What? You mean he comes from the same planet as we do? Yeah right!!!


  • nicky

    As we come back down to earth about Henry, we must remember that his last season at the Emirates was not a particularly good one and most of us were not too sorry to see him depart for Barca…..a great servant of our Club and a legend for ever.
    His inevitable decline in Spain and subsequent move to the US has, however, failed to eliminate entirely his wonderful talent as a clinical finisher and we must be grateful that he became available to us, even for a short while.
    What he has shown is that our current posse of strikers simply must learn to be in the right position at the right time to complete the attack successfully. Not frightened to shoot from outside the box, if required. Watching the Club’s videos of Henry in his pomp should help!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    For me while Tony Adams will always be “Mr. Arsenal ” ,TH 14 is the greatest ever player for us.He served with passion and fighting spirit.
    I would have to agree with Nicky that near the end of his first coming, TH 14’s heart was not in it (probably due to his family problems at that time) and I too was not sorry to see him go.
    When he came back recently it seemed logical to me and he gave us only joy . I do hope he does something extraordinary today and cement his place in our hearts .

  • Gf60

    I do wish that AW would work his magic with Marouane and Park…and as for Theo, after about 5 years, he still has the consistency of blancmange.

  • Damien Luu

    @Flavour: Agree with you. I really hope to see “the third miracle” in the name of Theo Walcott in just few years. And the fourth is The Ox, the fifth is Ryo, (or vice versa) why not? 😀

  • Damien Luu

    @Gf60: What? Theo IS one of the greatest wingers, if not the greatest, of the EPL this season.

  • bob

    Damien Luu,
    Earth to Damien. Do you really think that writing so makes it so? Vast potential is not clinical finishing/attempts to goals ratio, etc. Can that be taught/learned? Probably. There are so many questions surrounding Theo and one can either cut bait or hope for the future. But to put it the way you just did is either winding everyone up right now, or tribalist bleating. Some degree of perspective would help some of us here to think and assess our needs. For me the jury is out and there’s a crying need for the clinicality that your man here has only shown signs but not close to ever having provided with consistency.