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July 2021

Did Wenger really promise that Henry would not leave, and then sell him?

by Tony Attwood

There is an article in the Metro which is drawing a lot of attention.  It opens…

“As rumours continue to swirl surrounding Alexis Sanchez’s future, Arsene Wenger has been very clear that the Chilean [Alexis] is not for sale. But there’s a problem. He has taken that stance on countless occasions in previous windows, and each time Arsenal have eventually buckled.”

Now clearly the numbers are not countless because the Metro count them, and find six, and indeed some are not very convincing examples because the second example (and you might expect the second example to be very strong) concerns Adebayor and the quote the Metro have dragged up is…

June 3, 2009: ‘If he does not want to stay, he will leave but I think that he will be still at Arsenal this season.’

He left a couple of weeks later.    Much of the rest of the article is similar, but the very first quote is the one that fascinated me.

“June 13, 2007: ‘It is more down to imagination than anything else, Thierry Henry will be here next year. Can I guarantee that? Yes, of course.’

“June 25, 2007: Joins Barcelona for £16.1m”

Now we know that part of the manager’s job is to manage situations – including doing a fair amount of bluffing in regards to players wanted by other clubs, in order to put the price up.  They also deny they are chasing other players to try and keep the price down.

Indeed you can imagine the discussion that would follow in the media if Mr Wenger was asked, “Will Alexis be with the club next year?” and he says, “No I expect he will go.”   The price immediately drops, and there is fan outrage.  The media would go berserk about how the manager had lost the plot.

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Of course having it all ways is what the media does – they want to poke fun at Arsenal no matter what, and the Metro is certainly one of the worst of newspapers in this regard.   The demand for tales however is worse this year because the media have now got their own bloggettas and urgently need more and more stories to fill those as well as their own back pages.

But as the Henry quote began to be plastered all over the internet I wondered about its veracity.  I was very much an Arsenal supporter at the time Henry was signed, and for many years before that, let-alone at the time Henry left, and although I’m getting on a bit most of my football memories are moderately sharp.

What’s more I was also writing about Arsenal at that time in a couple of fanzines, while doing the dry runs for Untold Arsenal which launched the following January.

And what puzzled me was that at the time Henry left the biggest talking point was not Henry leaving but Wenger leaving – there was much uncertainty over whether he would stay on and sign a new contract.

Indeed two years ago Thierry Henry has admitted that he cried when he left Arsenal – with uncertainty over Arsene Wenger’s future behind his decision to move.

In an interview with beIN Sports on 1 Feb 2015 Henry said he didn’t want to leave the club, and didn’t particularly want to go to Barcelona since he started out as fourth choice striker and was pushed back onto the wing, as opposed to be a centre forward with freedom to roam.    He said specifically, “I never considered leaving Arsenal. But I was 29-years-old and in-form, I thought all the guys left and I did not know if Arsene would be staying.”

All of this made me very doubtful.  I didn’t remember the incident of Wenger saying Henry would not go and then selling him, but I did remember all the doubt about Wenger staying on.  And there was the fact that there was a huge discussion going on (among those of us who discussed such things) about where the power was in the club.  It most certainly did not seem to rest with the manager.

The dominant factor was that Arsenal were desperate to pay off the stadium debt quickly but were caught out by the drop in land and house prices which had affected the calculations concerning their income, and delayed some of the re-building work around the ground.  Certainly I was arguing at the time that the power was no longer with the manager but with the board who were very anxious about the financial collapse.

And just in case you are not into economics let me remind you, the global financial crisis of 2007–2008 is considered by many economists to have been the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  And Arsenal had opened the Emirates Stadium with unprecedented debts for the club, in 2006.

So the long and the short is that I had extreme doubts on seeing this story in the paper, and thus did the obvious thing – I went searching both on the internet and in my own files (and yes there are files because contrary to popular believe Untold Arsenal isn’t actually made up as we go along.)

And I can’t find anything like the quote the Metro are using.  Maybe I am wrong of course, and maybe Mr Wenger did say it – my files are fairly extensive but of course far from utterly comprehensive.  But one might have thought there would be more about it at the time if he really did say that and contradict himself a little later.

But I was reminded, via my search, that on 13 March – three months before the transfer – the Times were saying that Henry would leave for Barcelona and that the deal had been done.  Which of course is newspaper gossip, but still, slightly unusual for the Times which at the time didn’t do very much in terms of wild speculation.

Of course I can’t prove that Mr Wenger never said what is claimed, because proving negatives is hard, but overall it all seems quite unlikely, perhaps most of all because Mr Wenger’s situation.  Mr Wenger did not sign his new contract until September 2007, and the thought at the time was that he did not sign earlier because of his utter frustration about the financial situation he was working under.

But I do wonder at a statement as sensational as that claimed in the paper today, followed by one so weak as the Adebayor statement isn’t just a way of inventing a story.  After all, if the Wenger statement was made, and given that it doesn’t seem to turn up elsewhere on the internet, surely, with such a scoop, the Metro might actually decide to publish its source.

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18 comments to Did Wenger really promise that Henry would not leave, and then sell him?

  • Chris

    Remembering the (short) fallout of the infamous Conte text message to Costa and how immediately Costa’s ‘value’ dropped, I can’t imagine how the whole of fans, bloggosphere and Kommentariat would be screaming if AW would just say : yes, we do not want to keep Alexis, nor are we going to keep Jack, and Theo…..

    Then again, when you think about it, value is something they do not understand as what they ‘write’ has none of it : value.

    Just shows, as you say, that the Kommetariat has a bias and that truth is flexible, or rather that truth and facts do not count for much as long as the click happens.

  • esxste

    It was in the Sun & Independent on 12th May 2007. Page 72 (Indepedent), and Page 3 of The Sun SuperGoals supplement.

  • esxste

    Still, naughty of Metro to change the date it was said. A month is a very long time; and Managers always get questions at the end of the season about their biggest stars.

  • Stephan

    The point being made here is we shouldn’t put so much trust in what Wenger says cuz he’s only doing what every manager will do
    Say their players ain’t for sale
    We can only hope he is not sold and not completely believe him cuz history shows that most players he says will stay usually leave

  • Stephan

    The statement was also on the daily mail on May 11 2007
    So he actually said it

  • WalterBroeckx

    What is the trouble with the words from Wenger (if really said?): Only if TH would have died before ‘next year’ then he wouldn’t be here anymore.

  • markyb

    The Mail quotes and it’s definitely fact eh?

  • John L

    The Daily Mail: the bastion of quality journalism, ethical reporting, social awareness, hostility to discrimination and prejudice in all its forms, objectivity and balance.

    If the DM says it, its bound to be true>

  • Nitram

    The whole point as usual is, that it doesn’t matter what Wenger says/does or the Club say/do it will be turned against him/them in a way it hardly ever is against any other manager or club.

    Take for example how Spurs inactivity in the transfer market is touted as a positive.

    Where Arsenal ‘dither’, Spurs are ‘careful’.

    Where Arsenal are ‘tight’, Spurs ‘negotiate’.

    Arsenal win 3 FA Cups in 4 years and it’s a disaster.

    Spurs win 1 League cup in 10 and they’re a success story.

    The bottom line is Wenger has to say, and will say, whatever he needs to say to secure the best outcome for Arsenal FC.

    If that means saying Alexis is going nowhere, even if he knows damn well he is, then that’s what he will do.

    Every manager would do the same, as anyone with half a brain cell knows.

    All this proves is that the guys at the Metro are obviously short of the requisite half a brain cell. No surprise there.

  • OlegYch

    otoh in the same interview Wenger said Gibbs is probably leaving, so if he wanted to biggen up Alexis before sale he’d probably do the same for Gibbs?

  • Goonermikey

    Couldn’t agree more Nitram

  • WalterBroeckx

    About Gibbs he said:
    “There are talks, yes. There is contact but we are not close.”

    For me this sounds like: clubs know the price, some willing to pay it but personal terms are the difficulty for the moment.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    The important think for Le Prof to do now after his return from the Australia and China tour, is, I expect him to focus more intensely on Arsenal incoming and outgoing transfers during this current summer transfer window. More so, after the conclusion of the two Arsenal’s Emirates Cup games at the Ems starting on the 6th of August and ends on the 7th of the same month. This has become imperative for him to do so that we will not be outwitted by other clubs in the transfer market in our bid to sign any of our intended incoming targets linked with us to sign in this current summer window. Such as one of the pairing of: Thomas Lemar/Riyad Mahrez and Nemanja Matic/William Carvalho for versatile attacking midfielder and holding midfielder signings.

    Haven already sold Wojciech Szcesney this summer to Juventus against all Gooners wish, there has continued to be this media summer transfer.rumour that has kept rumouring that these seven senior Arsenal Gunners of: Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Oxlade Chamberlain, Lucas Perez, Mathieu Debuchy and Carl Jenkinson will all be sold by Arsenal this summer. Well, if one of Lemar and Mahrez is signed by Arsenal this summer as being speculated in the media. What role will Walcott be playing in the Arsenal team then, if one of these two targets is signed? So, the rumour saying he could be sold this summer may have been realistically invented by the media. But should Arsenal sign a top grade DM this summer, the position of Francis Coquelin as a DM in the team should not be jeopardized as a result of the signing of the new DM. Because all along, Arsenal have been in need to have two DMs in their senior team squad for a longtime for options and cover. Therefore, Coquelin should be retained at Arsenal. But already, we’ve all known that Debuchy and Jenkinson will all be sold this summer by Arsenal. So, there is no surprise there. And any sales of Kieran Gibbs and Lucas Perez by Arsenal this summer should not come to us as a surprise as these duo have been on the fringes at Arsenal. More especially Gibbs who has failed to recovered his lost top left back defending form for quite some seasons now despite all the seasons given to him to recover by Le Prof.

    But if Alexis Sanchez and Oxlade Chamberlain.insist on not extending their contract deals at Arsenal which will expire after next season’s campaign, for Alexis in particular, we can not afford to lose his service now at Arsenal. More so, as we don’t have any top quality striker in our current first team squad that can adequately fill the void he’ll leave behind in the Gunners forward-line should he departs this summer. And as Le Prof has no any immediate plan in place to bring in any top class striker of 30 goals per season kind this summer, therefore, Arsenal should keep him. But I don’t think the once injury plaqued Oxlade Chamberlain should hold Arsenal to random for a regular playing time or a starting role issue. Because it is his top game form productivity when it is current will inform Le Prof to start him or give him appearance in a match. So, let him pipe down or else, I don’t know what Le Prof might decide on his case.

  • para

    We should be aware that in public, no one really says what they want to say or even the truth, because of public perception and reaction, so they all play the game of words or the “forked tongue” game.

    This is the mentality or mindset that is prevalent and most people have come to accept it as “normal” yet still do wonder when we get lied to.

  • Far East Gooner

    Sanchez is definitely staying. I just hope so called Arsenal social media sites stop using this fake story as a hook.

  • Al

    Every manager does that, it’s called bargaining. Once you admit the player is leaving his price goes down as buying clubs know the player wants to leave. Klopp is in the news saying Can and Coutinho are going nowhere, but if they do eventually leave you won’t hear about it in the media the way they reporting on Wenger.

    Didn’t fergie once say he wouldn’t even sell the Madrid mob an effing virus in Dec 2008? Then what happened with Ronaldo? Went to Madrid 6 months later… these things are standard. People just need to wake up to how a different standard is used where it comes to Arsenal by the media, as eloquently put by Nitram. I feel sorry for Arsenal fans who get baited like this by the media and go into meltdown each time. It’d be hilarious if it wasn’t sad. Sometimes I feel angry about how anyone could be so gullible and stupid not to see this, but then realise it’s not my problem and just shrug it off..

    Basically I have stopped listening to, reading or paying attention to the media on anything. It’s absolutely pointless, unless I’m just bored. Just going on Twitter you’ll find out all you need to know about anything, and usually before the media twists the angle. You just got to know how to separate the chaff from the wheat. Having said this it’s shocking how many gullible idiots there are in this world. Absolutely shocking.

    Used to wonder how anyone could fall for fake transfer stories every season, but when you look at how fake news succeeded in determining outcome of election in the world’s biggest democracy then you realise the scale of the problem. So many idiots.., just too many. Shocking.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Perceptions –

    If a woman listens to you for less than 5 minutes then she is your daughter.

    If a woman listens to you for about 15 minutes then she is your sister.

    If a woman listens to you for over 30 minutes then she is your mother.

    And ultimately…….

    If a woman pretends to listen to you all the time but does not remember a word of what you said no matter how important, then she is….???????



    Yes , Yes….

    You are correct!!!!!!


    Why bring the wife into every joke ?

  • Lanz

    It is interesting that people now reger to Sanchez as a top quality striker. At the beginning of the last season, when Arsene chose to convert him into our main striker, the same people felt the manager was not making the best decusion: Sanchez is a winger!!! All that has changed today.