Let's Leave the Past in the Past

There is nothing wrong with nostalgia in its proper time and place. Barely a month goes by that I don't take a night to chill out with a cold one and watch great moments on YouTube - Landon Donovan's winner against Algeria, a Dennis Bergkamp (praise be his name) highlight package, the Montreal Canadiens' 1993 Stanley Cup run, and so on.

Great moments and personalities are there to be re-lived. Reliving something from a safe distance of time and reflection is healthy...but attempting to raise it from the dead and expecting it to be as you remembered it is a good way to ruin your old memories as well as frustrate your current and future plans. Necromancy never ends well.

All of this is my characteristically long-winded way of saying "For the love of Dennis, please do NOT re-sign Thierry Henry."

Believe me, I am as frustrated at our non-Dutch striking options as anyone else is. We badly need to ring the doorbell of some random Ligue 1 club, leave Marouane Chamakh in a picnic basket on their doorstep and high-tail it out of there before they know it's us. While not technically a striker, Andrei Arshavin needs a high-speed rail ticket back to St. Petersburg with our thanks for that one magic night at Anfield.

Park-Ju Young? I'm increasingly coming around to the idea that he was signed entirely to flog replica shirts in the lucrative Asian market - a Junichi Inamoto for the new millennium.

So, it is beyond debate that attacking reinforcements are badly needed in the January sales. It's also beyond debate that purchases made in this window are a) ridiculously overpriced, b) a bit shit or c) all of the above. Arsene Wenger has my sympathies for what is undoubtedly a difficult decision, with little in the way of seriously viable options.

You know what, though? That's why he makes the big bucks.

Henry recently received the richly-deserved honor of having a statue bearing his likeness placed outside Ashburton Grove. Other than perhaps Tony Adams or Dennis himself, no other player in Arsenal's storied history deserves it more than he does. From 1999 to 2007, there was no striker more fearsome than he. I don't give a flying one what the brain surgeons at UEFA say, he should have been Player of the Year on numerous occasions.

I mean, that back-heel against Charlton Athletic alone...

But, before we succumb to misty-eyed paeans to the past, let's be realistic here. Thierry Henry is 34 years old. He is coming off a 14-goal, 4-assist season for the New York Red Bulls of MLS. That was good enough to lead the team, and he was only two off of Dwayne De Rosario's Golden Boot-winning tally of 16. When you further factor in that MLS has a shocking degree of parity (thus meaning far fewer weak sisters to hit 2 or 3 against each time), it's a solid figure taken in a vacuum.

The problem is - have you seen an MLS game? I'm glad it exists, it's great for the American national side, but it is unwatchable at times. It's a league where up-and-coming talents dominate on their way to European contracts, and where aging veterans go to have a safe landing on their way down. Defenses are average ranging to shocking, goalkeepers are...old. Really, really, really, really old.

It is a league played at a slower pace, where he does not nearly have as many defensive responsibilities as he would in the English Premier League. It is a league where he can take the PATH train to work and is largely left alone (outside special cases like when we NYC Arsenal Supporters crashed the party, that is). It is a league that seemingly has a new expansion team every other season (Montreal's coming next season, if memory serves).

Really? This fills you with confidence? This is the guy you want to rescue our season if Robin gets hurt?

Again, I adore Thierry Henry as a player and am thankful for the multitude of accomplishments he produced in an Arsenal shirt. His status as a legend of the sport is unassailable.

But, we are now on the precipice of 2012. There has to be better options out there, right?

Not according to Per Mertesacker, apparently. I'm hoping that this is just a fluff piece or a misdirection ploy from Le Boss, but there are two other things in here that immediately set my internal rage meter to "Jules Winfield".

Wenger suggested last week that short-term deals in January would suit him best, as he not only had a "big squad"

OK, seriously, you can stick that "big squad" shit directly up your ass.

When your second-best option is a guy who is already dreaming of playing against St. Etienne and Montpellier every week again (oh, and who is going to the African Cup of Nations anyway), and your third-best option is someone who the same article mentions has been told to "step up" and couldn't be found in Premier League play by Sherlock Holmes if you spotted him two clues and a six-week headstart, you categorically do not have a big squad.

J'ai peut-être né pendant la journée, M. Wenger, mais ce n'était pas hier.

but there was the need "to see how we can balance our books as well."

While you're at it, this can join the big squad excuse where the sun don't shine.

We have made a profit in every transfer window since Eddie Hapgood's day, so unless Arsenal Football Club is secretly a money-laundering front sending cash to the Mafia, the Illuminati or space aliens, I am so far beyond wanting to hear this, it's left Earth orbit and is somewhere on the way to Alpha Centauri.

Honestly, the combination of this and the Wayne Bridge rumor has left me wondering whether anger or resignation is the proper response. My question to the powers that be with Arsenal is simply this - are we a big club or not?

If the answer is no, then fine! I'd honestly be OK with that...the game changes, power shifts and then shifts again, and every so often every club finds itself in the wilderness without a compass for a while. If we have to wait out this rash of oligarchs using the Premier League as their latest plaything, that's reality and we have to accept it. Just be honest, and manage our expectations appropriately. Are we still supposed to be challenging the Manchester clubs for supremacy? Great! But, please oh please tell me then why we are simultaneously dumpster-diving in Manchester City's dustbin and the attic of our own history?

You can't have it both ways.

I think we would all agree that ideally, we'd bring someone with an actual name tag in from one of the other big leagues. Lukas Podolski would be the absolute least among that number for my money (tell me he wouldn't mope like Dimitar Berbatov at the end of his Scum days the second anything went wrong), but at least it would be a positive step. I just don't see this manager making the leap and spending the money, though.

In my heart, I don't think it's a matter of available capital. After Sylvain Wiltord, Francis Jeffers and Andrei Arshavin, I think he's simply paralyzed by the fear of failing in the high-stakes transfer market again.

Look, if we have to go trawling in every dollar store and flea market for a bargain, I would much rather see us get a young kid from the lower leagues and see if he pans out rather than lower ourselves to go to our rivals with hat in hand begging for whatever bits of flotsam they can deign to grant to us. I'll even stick my neck out and give a name - Jordan Rhodes, from Huddersfield Town. Yes, I am painfully aware that this is a kid from the third tier who, at best, would have a harsh adjustment period to the Premier League. That said, he has 18 league goals already on the season, is only 21, and there's already some young guy on our roster that is absolutely killing it after having played at that level.

Would it in all probability fail? Sure! But, I'd much rather roll the dice by spending 8M or 10M on him rather than, for example, whatever we'd have to pony up for this Johnny Big Britches. Seriously, mate...you need your agent to slow his roll before you end up getting found out in your own league. The funny thing is that Newcastle would be perfect for this guy - they'd doubtless overpay him by a factor if 10 while giving him a guaranteed platform for a bigger-money move if he somehow was able to hack it in the Premier League. But, given our recent track record of mining Ligue 1...well...I think this well's dry, Arsene.

This season has felt like it's been one crossroads moment after another, and yet this transfer window may be the most crucial of the lot. Our identity, our place in the hierarchy of the league, our cachet with future transfer targets...all of it is at stake. If the manager's big idea is a left back whose last encounter with us saw him responsible for three goals conceded and a striker who with all due respect is a museum piece at this point, then I fear we may find ourselves bringing a knife to a gunfight as the season approaches the serious bit.

Over to you, Arsene.