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Arsene Wenger has confirmed Thierry Henry will make his second ‘debut’ for Arsenal during the FA Cup third-round clash against Leeds, more than 12 years since he made his first appearance for the club.
Henry was registered in time for Monday’s game at the Emirates, although Wenger is unsure whether the 34-year-old will start against their Championship opponents or come off the bench as he attempts to add to his 226 Arsenal goals.
The Frenchman is expected to receive a huge ovation from supporters following his six-and-a-half week loan deal from New York Red Bulls.
“It took a little while to get the paperwork done but finally it is done,” Arsenal boss Wenger said. “He will be involved against Leeds but I haven’t decided yet what I will do.
“He works hard, he is a bit behind physically of course. I think in one or two weeks he will be fine. Everybody is happy that he has joined the team.”
It was only recently that Arsenal erected a statue to honour Henry’s achievements with the club, with the striker moved to tears when it was unveiled before Christmas.
Wenger is confident Henry’s legacy will not be tarnished by his second spell at the club.
“You cannot take away from people what they have done, and what he has delivered will stay forever,” he said. “It can just make the statue a bit bigger, let’s hope he will do that.”
“He still has the quality. He is a bit less strong physically, because we all go down physically every day, nobody can stop that, you can only slow it down.
“Thierry had so many physical qualities, that he is still at a good level. His other quality was he always had a healthy life, he cared about his diet and usually these players go down as well, but less quickly than ones who do not do that.”
Henry himself insists he is there to compliment the form of Robin van Persie, who has carried the club since the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
Henry said: “Right now Robin is flying, I can be around and talk to him but he is doing what he does best: scoring goals.
“You don’t want to disturb that, you want to help that and make sure you can give him some help.
“He went to the final of the World Cup and like the fans say, he scores when he wants. When the boss spoke to me about coming back, I wanted to make sure I didn’t disturb the team that was in place.
“That was important to me, I am a fan don’t forget that. The team did something incredible to come back to where they are right now, we are far from the first position but if you talk about what the team has done since (defeat at) Man United, they have done pretty well.”
Van Persie is expected to be rested against Leeds, with fringe players given their chance following a busy Christmas schedule.
Meanwhile, Andros Townsend has more reason than most to want to dump Arsenal out at the first hurdle when Simon Grayson’s Leeds side head to the Emirates Stadium.
Townsend, 20, is on loan from the Gunners’ north London rivals Tottenham, having made an immediate impact by setting up the winner on his recent debut against Burnley to maintain the Yorkshire club’s Championship promotion hopes.
The 20-year-old will have plenty of backing from family and friends in the stands, and the midfielder said: “It’s a dream tie for Leeds and especially for me, being a Spurs boy. If I can score in that game, I can make myself a hero at White Hart Lane.
“All my family will be coming down and it’s on the telly as well, so I’ve got a big chance to impress. I’m a big Spurs fan and it would be great to get one over the Gunners.”
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