Did the Premier League’s greatest ever player retire from football today?
Thierry Henry announced this morning that he would be hanging up his boots for a place in the Sky Sports studio, whose pundits he left lost for words on so many occasions during his Arsenal days.
There was a jaw-dropping turn and volley against Manchester United, a mind-boggling run through Liverpool’s defence, a nonchalant back heel against Charlton, a hat-trick in the last game to be staged at Highbury. The Frenchman undoubtedly left his mark on the English top-flight.
Yet even more impressive than the many moments of magic was Henry’s unrelenting excellence. The dominance of the Premier League’s scoring and assisting charts that very few players have ever come close to matching.
Henry is not the highest scorer in the division’s history. That particular accolade belongs to Alan Shearer, who scored 260 goals in the division. Andy Cole and Wayne Rooney have also scored more than the Arsenal icon’s total of 175.
Yet all of those players featured in considerably more games than Henry, who has the highest goals-per-game ratio of those elite Premier League players who have scored over 100 times. Across his two spells in North London, Henry scored an average of 0.68 goals per game, with 175 goals in 258 appearances.
Not only has no other player matched Henry’s scoring rate in their career, but most struggled to keep up with him for a single season. Henry topped the league’s goal-scoring charts on four different seasons - a record.
Of course, as anyone who has seen Henry play knows, there was so much more to his game than simply finding the back of the net.
Henry was a defining element in the what was arguably the Premier League’s greatest team - the Arsenal invincibles of 2003/2004. The record-breaking side was so effective thanks to its all for one and one for all attitude. Each and every player performing for everybody else - Henry was no different, as demonstrated by the enormous number of goals he created for others.
The man who made number 14 cool for an entire generation picked up 80 assists during his time in the Premier League. Again, there are number of players with a higher total (Cesc Fabregas, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Ryan Giggs) but only one with a better ratio to number of games played (from players with over 50).
On average Henry made 0.31 assists-per-game, only Fabregas averages better with 0.36. During the 2002/2003 season, the Frenchman made a whopping 23 assists - still the highest total since the league’s inception.
Of course, there were those qualities that can’t be counted or placed in a chart. Henry’s cool, attitude, imagination and leadership. His ‘va-va-voom’.
And some may also argue that even with an inferior goals-per-game ratio, Alan Shearer’s record is more impressive when you consider the teams he played in. Henry had Robert Pires and Cesc Fabregas. Shearer had Laurent Robert and Rob Lee.
There’s also the fact that judging a player solely on attacking qualities discounts all those goalkeepers and defenders who never got as much adulation from the crowd.
So is Henry the greatest player in Premier League history? Perhaps that will always be up for debate.
What’s certain is that for Arsenal fans, he will always be The King.