Thierry Henry is eagerly awaiting the clash of two of his former managers, Arsenal coach Arsène Wenger and his old boss at Barça, Pep Guardiola, now working his magic at Bayern Munich. The two sides, both flying high again in the Premier League and Bundesliga respectively, meet on February 19 and March 11 in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League.
Henry’s relationship with Wenger is famously warm and continues to this day, but what is it that made them work so well together over his seven years at the Gunners and beyond?
Arsène knows when he has to talk to you and he knows when to let you… fly
“Just to be able to have his belief [in you] – he will let you take responsibility for your own future. He knows when he has to talk to you and he knows when to let you… fly,” says Henry. “He will help you along the way, but you need to want it.
“The way he sees the game is exactly the way I see the game. The thing with Arsène is that I can speak to him about everything, you know… life, a game, food, a destination… you name it. It’s like a father–son relationship. Sometimes you argue, sometimes it’s OK or not OK.
“We always keep in touch. He allows me to come and train with Arsenal whenever I want. That’s not something you can do everywhere.”
And how about Guardiola, who replaced Frank Rijkaard in the top job at Camp Nou after Henry’s first season with Barcelona?
“Arsène Wenger will always be special to me, but Pep Guardiola is very special, trust me, I worked with him and he’s a great guy, a great leader,” Henry says. “And you can see… Bayern Munich were already playing well, and now they are playing even better with Pep, with more discipline.”
As far as their coaching is concerned, the two men are the same – but also different, according to Henry.
“They’re maybe different in the shape of the team they put out there, but their mentality and the way they want their team to play is the same – on the ground, through the line, lots of passes, short and long,” he says. “Barcelona have a different way of playing, always with wingers – when I was at Arsenal, we always played four–four–two.
I know when the draw came out everyone was worried for Arsenal, but I can assure you that Bayern were also not too happy to draw them
“But they’re basically the same. That why I was fortunate, always playing for teams that wanted to play football. That’s what I love, and in that way Arsène and Pep are very similar.”
So how does he see the upcoming tie in the first knockout stage of the UCL? After losing 3–1 at the Emirates and then agonisingly just missing out on away goals with a 2–0 win at the AllianzArena last season, can Arsenal get their revenge this year on the German side who went on to win last year’s competition?
“Bayern Munich are already the best team in the world,” says Henry. “It’s going to be very difficult, but if Arsenal can repeat what they did last year against Bayern at their place, it’s also possible. They just have to manage two games, because in the Champions League you can’t just play well in one game, it’s not enough. If you have five minutes when you are not in the game, then you can get punished. I guess Arsenal have the quality to do it and Bayern know that.
“I know when the draw came out everyone was worried for Arsenal, and rightly so, because Bayern are a great team, but I can assure you that Bayern were also not too happy to draw them.
“We’ll see. I guess for the neutral it’s going to be a great game of football. If you love Arsenal, I guess we are going to have to suffer a bit!”
Thierry Henry’s quotes are from his interview with ServusTV.