I am still relatively young. I’ve been watching football for less than a decade, which means that I did not watch Thierry Henry play live in his prime. Believe me, I regret that fact immensely — one of the reasons why is what he did in the 2003/04 Premier League campaign.
Everyone remembers what Arsenal did that season. The Gunners went unbeaten in 38 league games, becoming the first side in Premier League season to do so. They won 26 games and drew the remaining 12. Henry was a significant reason why Arsene Wenger’s side managed the feat. The Frenchman scored 30 goals and set up another six to complete an astounding league season.
Henry’s Arsenal career got off to a rocky start. He was a wiry youngster who arrived to replace Nicolas Anelka. By the time 2004 elapsed, he was one of the most feared goalscorers in the world. Strong, powerful, fast, with an eye for goal and a defence-splitting pass. Everything your attacking talisman should have. Henry played with the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, and Patrick Vieira, but he was the apparent driving force for Wenger.
The previous season had been a belter in itself for Henry. He eclipsed 20 in both goals and assists, a record which is still standing. Henry arguably bettered that the next campaign. He scored 30 out of Arsenal’s 73 goals, which is 41% of the total. The sheer number in itself is astounding, but the quality surpasses that.
A simple YouTube clip will make you gawk in wonder about his goals. The aesthetic aspect of Henry’s play was second to none. He scored solo goals, he scored screamers from outside the box, he scored with delicate dinks over the goalkeeper. He did everything. The likes of Pires and Bergkamp complemented him perfectly, and his six assists testify to just that.
Henry delivered week after week, and some of his performances were hard to believe. The four goals against Leeds, a hat-trick against Liverpool, that volley against Manchester United, and so many more. Henry did something incredible each week, but it amazed the viewers each time.
He shined in the Champions League as well, and the highlight came at the San Siro. Arsenal blitzed Inter Milan 5-1, and Henry starred that night. He has said that he never watches his clips on TV, but that night he made an exception. “The only game I watched was Inter Milan away,” he said. “Because it was special.”
Arsenal won the title by 11 points, as Chelsea in second were left gasping in the end. Henry took home the PFA Players’ Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. He played for Arsenal after that season, and he had played for them before that. But nothing quite came close to it. Arsenal followed his lead and achieved a record which still stands.
Thierry Henry defied logic in that season. He was a one-man wrecking force and terrorised Premier League defences hugely. As Arsene Wenger said, “It was embarrassing for the defenders. He just scored when he wanted.” Thank God he did, which enabled us to appreciate their embarrassment and his greatness.