HenryThierry Henry followed the script to a tee last night when he came off the bench to score the winner against Leeds United on his second Arsenal 'debut'.
The Gunners legend is back in North London on loan from New York Red Bulls during the MLS off-season, and he hit his mark and delivered his lines on his return from the Big Apple with as much precision and finesse as any star on Broadway.
All of the platitudes about his 78th-minute winner that sends Arsenal into the fourth round of the FA Cup - "It had to be him", "He's rolling back the years", "Like he'd never been away" etc — may be about as clichéd and fawning as they come, but that does not make them any less fitting after the way he turned the Emirates Stadium into a cauldron of quasi-religious fervour last night.
Who would have thought that an FA Cup win over Championship opposition would have provided Arsenal fans with possibly their most joyous moment since Andrei Arshavin scored against Barcelona at the same end 11 months ago? The movement, the deft touch and the right-footed finish stroked low into the far corner all seemed to come from the French forward's muscle memory, so often had he repeated that same action with equal success during his glorious eight years at the club.
All that was missing was a tender embrace with Robert Pires by way of celebration, but instead the 34-year-old's unbridled joy at scoring upon his return was far more endearing than his cool Gallic posturing ever was.
With his old shaved head and his new beard Henry may look like rapper Common, but Arsenal fans will find that infinitely more preferable to Marouane Chamakh's continued resemblance to a baby giraffe. In 516 minutes of action for Arsenal this season in all competitions Chamakh — who has now departed for the African Cup of Nations where he will be representing Morocco — has scored one goal. It took Henry just 10 minutes to match his colleague's mark for the campaign.
The initial signs that there will be plenty more where that came from over the next seven weeks or so look good, but Arsenal supporters must be careful not to be seduced by the illusion. Henry is one of the greatest players ever to grace the Premier League and he is Arsenal's all-time top goal scorer (227 after last night's effort), but he is also a player deemed a saleable asset by the same club four-and-a-half years ago.
As productive as his three years at Barcelona were (43 goals in 106 games, one Champions League and two league titles), Henry was never the same player after leading the Gunners to their first European Cup final in 2006. His 14 goals in 26 regular season games for the Red Bulls last season offer evidence that he is still able to perform, though that is no evidence that he will fire Arsenal back into the title race.
His deific aura will never be fully restored after his infamous double dribble against Republic of Ireland and France's subsequent meltdown at the 2010 World Cup.
Still, few in the red half of north London will be thinking about little else than enjoying having their hero back in town for one final hurrah which takes in matches against Manchester United, Milan and Tottenham. If Arsene Wenger gets his way, he will also have his former captain and talisman available for the second leg of the Champions League tie against the Rossoneri.
Never mind Arsenal fans: everyone who enjoys football should be pleased to see Henry back in the Premier League, but managing our expectations is key. Perhaps it would be better to try and regard him as a legendary player of equal stature at another club from abroad who just fancied dipping their toe into English football late in their career.
Unblinkered by his brilliant exploits of days gone by, that would be the best way to assess Henry's true value to Arsenal over the next few weeks. Though, of course, that's a lot easier than it sounds.
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While they were getting ready for action at the Emirates, over in Switzerland the glitzy ceremony held for the unveiling of the FIFA Ballon d'Or award was in full swing.
At the Kongresshaus in Zurich, the annual Sepp Blatter hosted shindig held the usual mix of worthiness and ostentatious back-slapping.
The world football overlord could well have planned the party details himself, as he was sat in between Pele and Shakira for most of the ceremony and seemed to enjoy the performance of James Blunt more than any reasonable human should. For what it's worth, that was the moment Eurosport decided to cut to a commercial break during their live television coverage of the event.
Despite that, he still managed to deliver his speech in tribute to Alex Ferguson — who was handed the FIFA Presidential award in honour of his glorious career - with all the joie de vivre of Walter Cronkite breaking news of JFK's assassination.
If Messi's career ended tomorrow, by Early Doors' reckoning he would be the third-greatest footballer of all time behind only Pele and Maradona.
At the age of just 24, Messi has already won three European Cups, five Spanish league titles and three World Player of the Year awards.
He is yet to lift a major international trophy with Argentina, but the argument that you can never be classed as a true great until you lift the World Cup is a hugely flawed. Aside from the fact that it realistically limits those who could qualify as the best of all-time to just a handful of countries, international football is no longer the unquestionable pinnacle of the game.
Perhaps a more thorough examination of a European-based player in this era would be how they fare with the rigours of the Champions League on a regular basis. Messi has been the competition's top scorer for the past three seasons, and heads the scoring charts again this term with six goals, alongside Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez.
But aside from the cold statistics and facts, it is easy to forget just how brilliant a player Messi is when he serves up such excellence on a weekly basis.
He has revolutionised the role of the Number 10 every bit as much as Franz Beckenbauer did for that of sweeper or Johan Cruyff transformed the idea of what a forward could be.
If Messi maintains his current trajectory, he will surely be unanimously regarded as the greatest who ever played the game by the time he hangs up his boots.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I didn't spend too much time pondering the ethics of how a story was gained nor over-worry about whether to publish or not. If we believed the story to be true and we felt Sun readers should know the facts, we published it and we left it to them to decide if we had done the right thing. They could decide we were correct and carry on purchasing us - in my time in ever-increasing numbers - or could decide we were wrong, in which they could decline to buy us again, i.e. Hillsborough." - Kelvin MacKenzie, who was editor of The Sun at the time the paper printed shocking and false claims about the Hillsborough disaster, gives the Leveson Inquiry an insight into his own skewed media ethics.
WEIRD MOMENT OF THE DAY: Andre Villas-Boas and Marcelo Lippi doing the Scottish Cup draw at Hampden Park yesterday afternoon. Lippi could not have looked less enthused if he tried, even when he drew Celtic for a potential trip to Cup nemesis Inverness Caley Thistle.
FOREIGN VIEW: "This engagement obliges me to speak, more earnestly than usual, but also with a keen sense of my responsibility, at a time when our country faces difficult choices which will be decisive for its future." - Former Manchester United star Eric Cantona wants to run in this year's presidential election in France and is trying to gather the signatures needed to do so, the newspaper Liberation said.
COMING UP: There's live coverage of the first Carling Cup semi-final first leg clash at Selhurst Park — Crystal Palace v Cardiff City kicks off at 20:00. Before that, there is the latest instalment of the Euro Club Index.