HENRY’S HOME­COM­ING

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HAV­ING BEEN ONE OF THE GREATS OF HIS ERA AND WORKED AS ROBERTO MARTINEZ’S AS­SIS­TANT WITH BEL­GIUM, THIERRY HENRY IS NOW IN CHARGE OF MONACO. BILLY WILKIN­SON LOOKS AT THE DIF­FI­CULT START HE’S EN­DURED…

Are­turn to his boy­hood club to be­gin his coach­ing ca­reer was meant to be a football ro­man­tic’s dream. How­ever, it hasn’t worked out that way for Monaco’s new Coach, Thierry Henry, as he finds man­age­rial life tougher than he pos­si­bly imag­ined.

It’s easy to en­vi­sion great play­ers be­com­ing great Coaches. Af­ter all, an ex­ten­sive knowl­edge and feel for the game is surely trans­fer­able whether you’re play­ing on the pitch or watch­ing it all un­fold be­fore you. But that’s not al­ways the case, and some of the most cel­e­brated play­ers in the sport’s his­tory have strug­gled when tak­ing to the dugout.

For­mer Coach Leonardo Jardim had left Monaco lan­guish­ing in 18th place, be­fore Henry, who played in the Prin­ci­pal­ity be­tween 1994 and 1999, took over in MIDOC­TO­BER. Af­ter his ar­rival, Monaco dipped down to 19th and crashed out of the Cham­pi­ons League. Along the way they lost seven of his first 10 games, drew two and won only one in the League. And some of those losses were eye-wa­ter­ing, in­clud­ing a 4-0 home drub­bing to Club Bruges and de­feats to Paris Saint-Ger­main in back-to­back games.

To un­der­stand how Henry got to this point, it’s im­por­tant to take a look back at his over­all ca­reer. There are not many play­ers who have a bet­ter foot­balling CV than the three-time Pre­mier League win­ner, and that’s not even in­clud­ing the man­agers he played un­der.

Henry came through the club’s youth academy, and made 105 ap­pear­ances be­fore leav­ing for Ju­ven­tus. He was ini­tially blooded by Arsene Wenger af­ter a spell at the na­tional academy, the much-vaunted

Claire­fontaine. Hav­ing im­pressed in Ligue 1, largely on the left wing, the Old Lady made their move and Henry found him­self play­ing un­der Carlo Ancelotti next.

The tor­rid time Henry ex­pe­ri­enced in Turin has been well-doc­u­mented. He lasted only six months in Serie A, and it wasn’t due to a lack of play­ing time that he was so un­happy. Henry fea­tured 16 times for the Turin club, but only scored three goals. Juve paid £11m for Henry and were ea­ger to re­coup their out­lay, al­low­ing Henry to head to Ar­se­nal for a re­union with Wenger.

De­spite strug­gling to ad­just to the English game and a dip in his con­fi­dence from his days in Turin, Henry still fin­ished the 199900 sea­son with a might­ily im­pres­sive 17 goals in 31 games. Af­ter be­ing sep­a­rated for five sea­sons, Wenger had clearly de­cided it was time to trans­form his young winger into the striker he’d al­ways en­vi­sioned him to be. Rather fa­mously, the tran­si­tion from winger to striker proved to be a mas­ter­class for both par­ties. Dur­ing his time with the Gun­ners, Henry scored 174 goals in 254 goals to be­come the club’s all-time lead­ing goalscorer. Par­tic­u­lar high­lights in­clude scor­ing 24 goals and as­sist­ing a fur­ther 20

dur­ing the 2002-03 Pre­mier League sea­son, while the fol­low­ing sea­son he scored 30 goals in 37 games to help the club to an un­de­feated Pre­mier League cam­paign. How­ever, whilst pay­ing off the debts that had been ac­cu­mu­lated by build­ing the Emi­rates Sta­dium, Wenger had adopted a pol­icy of sell­ing his key play­ers once they reached the age of 30, or just be­fore if he was sens­ing they were be­gin­ning to de­cline. De­spite his record, Henry was no ex­cep­tion. Af­ter the 2006-07 cam­paign, in which he only fea­tured in 17 games, Ar­se­nal’s best ever player was snapped up by Cata­lan gi­ants Barcelona to help the Pep Guardi­ola rev­o­lu­tion. Un­der Guardi­ola, Henry be­came part of ar­guably the great­est club side ever, To­tal Football rein­car­nated, as Guardi­ola’s Barcelona daz­zled and blew away ev­ery­one be­fore them.

The tro­phies con­tin­ued. Af­ter two Pre­mier League ti­tles at Ar­se­nal, as well as two FA Cups and a Cham­pi­ons League run­ner­sup medal, Henry won two La Liga ti­tles, the Cham­pi­ons League, UEFA Su­per Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, prov­ing to be a cru­cial part of Barca’s global dom­i­na­tion, and be­ing ex­posed to the bril­liant ideas and meth­ods of Guardi­ola.

Henry wound down at New York Red Bulls, scor­ing more than 50 goals in fewer than 150 ap­pear­ances, be­fore hang­ing up his boots in De­cem­ber 2014. Al­most four years later, af­ter work­ing briefly with the Ar­se­nal youth team, ap­pear­ing as a tele­vi­sion pun­dit and as­sist­ing Roberto Martinez with Bel­gium, he was ready to take the plunge into man­age­ment.

Few play­ers have had the school­ing of Henry, work­ing un­der Wenger, Ancelotti and Guardi­ola. In his open­ing Press con­fer­ence, Henry in­sisted he wouldn’t fol­low the ex­act path of any of his man­agers, in­stead aim­ing to merge a com­bi­na­tion of their ideas into the Thierry Henry way. Per­haps that’s where he’s gone wrong. Each of his teach­ers ploughed their own fur­row — bor­row­ing from one or all of them is likely to lead to a con­fused ap­proach.

There’s still time for Henry to turn things around at Monaco. It’s not all doom and gloom, either. A play­ing ca­reer spent at the top level is also a short­cut to man­ag­ing at the top level. If it doesn’t work out at Monaco, Henry’s rep­u­ta­tion and his easy charm will en­sure he gets fur­ther

op­por­tu­ni­ties, for bet­ter or worse.

It’s also easy to for­get that Henry’s only

41. When he was an­nounced as Jardim’s suc­ces­sor there were a num­ber of on­look­ers who felt it was too early for Henry — that maybe he should have cut his teeth else­where first — and with hind­sight, it’s hard to dis­agree with them. But maybe Henry’s com­pet­i­tive­ness and con­fi­dence came into play. He backed him­self to suc­ceed, and still might, but it’s been a night­mare start.

Henry can take so­lace from the fact that some of the game’s great­est man­agers have had their share of rocky patches. Ancelotti, one of the most dec­o­rated Coaches in his­tory, was sacked by Ju­ven­tus two years af­ter Henry left the club, while Wenger was hounded out of Ar­se­nal. If Henry doesn’t last the course at Monaco, it won’t be the end for him. It would be step back, for sure, but if he learns from the ex­pe­ri­ence then in the long run, it’d be two steps for­ward.

His big name might have played a part in get­ting the Monaco job but Henry can’t be ac­cused of tak­ing an easy first post. Jardim won the ti­tle ahead of the fi­nan­cial might of PSG in 2016-17, at the helm of a thrilling young side that also reached the last four of the Cham­pi­ons League. Since then, though, the squad has been gut­ted, Monaco un­able to re­place the tal­ent lost at nearly the same rate.

Kylian Mbappe, Tiemoue Bakayoko,

Bernardo Silva, Ben­jamin Mendy, Fabinho and Joao Moutinho were all sold af­ter the 2017 suc­cess. Jardim didn’t even get a chance to de­velop the re­place­ments, sacked af­ter win­ning only one of Monaco’s first nine Ligue 1 fix­tures in 2018-19. From ti­tle win­ners lit­tle more than a year ago, Monaco are firmly in a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle.

So Henry finds him­self hav­ing to fight fires in his first po­si­tion as a Coach. It may prove to be too big a job, even if it’s easy to see why he took it — a re­turn to his first club, with the emo­tional cap­i­tal that brings, in the top flight of a ma­jor Euro­pean League. It’s also clear why Monaco made the ap­point­ment — a big name to re­vi­talise the club, in­spire the play­ers who, to a man, would have looked up to Henry as he was win­ning ti­tles at ma­jor clubs. It could still prove to be a match made in heaven, but there’s a lot of work still to do.

‘Thierry Henry lost seven of his first 10 games, drew two and won only one in the League’ ABOVE:Thierry Henry started his play­ing ca­reer at Monaco and re­turned to be­gin life as a CoachBOT­TOM LEFT:What will a rough start at Monaco mean for Henry’s fu­ture on the bench?

ABOVE:Henry's time at Bel­gium was a great pre­lude.BOT­TOM:Pres­i­dent Vadim Vasi­lyev with Henry

‘Few play­ers have had the school­ing of Henry, work­ing un­der Arsene Wenger, Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardi­ola’ ABOVE & BOT­TOM: Arsene Wenger gave Henry his de­but and moulded him into one of the world’s great­est for­wardsTOP (OP­PO­SITE PAGE):Henry also played un­der Pep Guardi­ola, part of the all-con­quer­ing Barcelona sideBOT­TOM RIGHT: Henry isn’t the only great of the past decade to en­ter coach­ing — Steven Ger­rard and Frank Lam­pard have done the same

No one can for­get the Henry's time at New York.

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