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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 22:33 GMT 23:33 UK
Henry miss may be defining moment
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Thierry Henry's failure to beat Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes and give Arsenal a two-goal lead was a defining moment in the Champions League final - and may prove just as critical to the Gunners' immediate future.

Arsene Wenger must now wait for Henry's decision
Arsene Wenger must now wait for Henry's decision

If Henry had taken the sort of opportunity he often accepts with ease with just 21 minutes left in the Stade de France, it would surely have taken the biggest prize in European football to north London.

But Valdes denied the Frenchman, leaving the door ajar for Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti to score the late goals that broke the wonderful resistance of Arsene Wenger's side.

Now all of Arsenal waits for Henry to decide on his future.

Will he feel he has gone far enough with Arsene Wenger or decide defeat leaves him with unfinished business at the club he has served so brilliantly?

Would taking that chance make it easier for him to stay? Or does it make it harder for him to leave?

Henry was giving no clues, although if he is to join Barcelona, his unexpected after-match criticism of the Catalans will hardly smooth his path.

It is the great unanswered question that Wenger is left to ponder after a night that threatened glory for so long and yet ended in bitter disappointment.

Henry may have played his final game for the Gunners. So, too, might have Ashley Cole. As for Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires, they are definitely on the way.

And until Henry shows his hand, all of Wenger's plans, as Arsenal start a new life at Ashburton Grove, must remain on hold.

Arsenal captain Henry consoles keeper Lehmann after his red card
Arsenal captain Henry consoles keeper Lehmann after his red card

Henry may have missed Arsenal's best opportunities in the rain-soaked Stade de France, but he delivered a performance of which he can be proud.

The same can apply to every member of Wenger's team.

Arsenal's captain literally led from the front, setting the tone for early domination, only to find Valdes an immovable object.

The striker ran tirelessly, tackled back relentlessly, gave Ronaldinho an example of work rate and team play, and would have been a worthy recipient of the trophy had Arsenal held out in the face of Barcelona's pressure.

In the end it was Eto'o - the striker who may be threatened by Henry's possible arrival - who drove home the equaliser and established the platform for Barcelona's win.

And even if Henry leaves, Arsenal boss Wenger will see through the bitterness of defeat to witness the emergence of future Gunners greats.

Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure gave towering performances way beyond their years, while the unfortunate duo of Philippe Senderos and Mathieu Flamini, left out of the starting line-up in Paris, have proved their quality.

But Henry is the talisman, the leader who Arsenal hope will guide them into a new era at a new home.

And they must hope that in that pivotal moment as the clock ticked down in Paris, Barcelona's Valdes did not just alter Arsenal's immediate future but also their long-term destiny.




SEE ALSO
Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal
17 May 06 |  Europe
Champions League final photos
17 May 06 |  Photo Galleries


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