Arsenal legend Thierry Henry chats about the Gunners' Premier League title prospects, compatriot Franck Ribery missing out on the Ballon d'Or and France's hopes at the 2014 World Cup...
Speaking at the launch of PUMA's new evoPOWER football boots in Barcelona, Arsenal's all-time leading goalscorer with 228 in all competitions says he is confident Arsene Wenger's men can continue to hold off the challenges of Manchester City and Chelsea and secure their first Premier League title since 2004.
Henry, now plying his trade across the Atlantic with New York Red Bulls, admits his disappointment at seeing fellow countryman Franck Ribery finish third in the race for the 2013 Ballon d'Or. Henry himself came second in 2003 behind Pavel Nedved and third three years later, and he believes Ribery deserved to take top spot after spearheading Bayern Munich's treble triumph.
The World Cup and European Championship winner also reveals what is required to enjoy major tournament success and has high hopes for Les Bleus under Didier Deschamps, who captained them to a victorious Euro 2000 campaign.
Are Arsenal strong enough to win the Premier League this season?
Well, only the future will tell us if that is going to happen but right now they’ve shown us from the beginning of the season they can compete so it is a good sign. Like I said, we can all be talking about it now, “are they? Are they not?” but we will see at the end if they’re going to be around the corner to fight for the title or fully win it, but they’ve been showing everybody, proving everybody wrong because every time people are expecting them to fall they are not falling, so hopefully they can carry on like this.
They are in the right position right now so hopefully they can go all the way. As an Arsenal man that is what you would like to see at the end of the season so I think they can go all the way.
What has been the difference this season?
Experience. They all get one more year, with obviously the arrival of Mesut Ozil – that was very important for the club. [Olivier] Giroud has got another year under his belt, so you can see the difference between one year and another and that is basically it. That team suffered so much and I’m sure they want to be successful.
What dynamic has Ozil brought to Arsenal’s attack?
Well to everything. His calmness, his quality on the ball, his vision; he is a great player and can give an assist at any moment. He also has the quality and capacity to score goals at any moment so it’s always great to have a player like that around in the dressing room on a daily basis and at the weekend at the game.
Does Ribery having something to prove in Brazil, after missing out on the Ballon d’Or?
I don’t think Franck Ribery has to show anyone anything, he’s shown that he’s a world class player. He doesn’t have to show anyone what he can do – he’s been doing that for a very long time with Bayern Munich. He won everything but the Super Cup of Germany at the beginning of the season so everybody knows what Franck Ribery can do. I’m sure he’s going to want to show his team-mates that he can perform as a team with them and obviously sometimes alone and make that team win, but he doesn’t have to show anything to anyone.
He’s a great player and will remain in the history of our country and history of Bayern Munich as a great player, so he just has to go out there and play. Once again I was disappointed for French football and for him that he didn’t win the golden ball, he should have won it, but having said that you can’t say that Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t deserve it. You cannot say also that [Lionel] Messi wouldn’t have been a great winner, but still I won’t be objective because he’s French but I genuinely thought that it was going to be a great win.
How far can France go at the World Cup?
I do believe they can go through. You have some amazing teams at the World Cup; Spain are still the team to beat, who’s going to be able to beat Brazil at their own place? That won’t be easy. Germany and Italy are always around. Then you have Argentina, is it going to be the World Cup of Messi? You just don’t know, then I can name a lot of teams who are usually around the semi-final or win it in the history of the game so we’ll just see.
As a Frenchman I would love to see them performing well and especially for Didier Deschamps and all the guys because Didi has had a thing, and I don’t know why, but wherever he is in charge of something, whether as a player or a manager, he’s always successful with it, so hopefully that can carry on. And then they can maybe take what they’re going to do at the World Cup, maybe they won’t win it – hopefully they can I’m saying as a Frenchman, but even if they don’t win it having a good World Cup can be good for the Euros in France in 2016. Hopefully they can play well, make us proud and go all the way.
What does a team need to win the World Cup?
You need togetherness, you need results because you can have great quality and great individuals and have a great squad but when you don’t win that first game you’re already in trouble. People are going to question you, you might question yourself a bit, that’s not always easy to prepare for the second game and you’re already in a situation where you have to win to stay in the World Cup and that’s not always an easy one.
Start well, obviously having quality helps, and that togetherness, team effort – that’s very important because most of the time the team that starts the tournament is not often the one that finishes it. That’s why you need to have great players, not only 11 guys but the guys on the bench, great staff too – that’s pretty important, others going sometimes have to accept that they won’t play and you might need them in the quarter-final.
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