It’s been 21 years since the Highbury turf was graced by a fresh-faced Thierry Henry, proudly holding aloft the number 14 shirt and wearing a smile as wide as the Clock End.
The Frenchman enjoyed eight trophy-laden years at Arsenal (plus a seven-game cameo in 2012 while on loan from New York Red Bulls), and the legacy he left behind is still as fondly remembered by Gunners fans as it was the day he departed for Barcelona.
Henry arrived at Arsenal from Juventus just a year after being crowned a World Cup winner at France’s home tournament.
Having spent the majority of his fledgling career as a left winger, the 21-year-old was deployed a striker by Arsène Wenger, a man who knew all about the youngster’s prodigious talent having worked together at Monaco.
12 games into Henry’s Gunners career and questions were already beginning to be asked by the Highbury faithful, with the former Juve man notching just once in his opening Premier League outings.
However, 16 goals in his next 19 league games laid the foundations for an illustrious spell in north London, with Henry going on to become the club’s all-time leading goalscorer after his 226 goals in 369 games eclipsed the record set by Ian Wright.
Undoubtedly the finest moment of the Frenchman’s time in England came during his fifth season at Arsenal, as the club were crowned ‘Invincibles’ having gone the full 38-game league season unbeaten.
While gooey-eyed Arsenal fans will regularly reminisce over the 2003/04 side – with Patrick Vieira’s drive, Sol Campbell’s steel and Robert Pires’ wing wizardry all high on the list of things to gush over in the pub – the undeniable brilliance of the club’s spearhead will forever be top of the agenda.
Every now and again a team is graced with sheer brilliance, and those tasked with following in the footsteps of said brilliance are constantly weighed down by the expectancy of reaching similar heights (take any Newcastle striker who wears the number nine shirt for example).
Henry’s departure from Arsenal weighed heavy on a number of strikers tasked with shouldering the burden of becoming the Gunners’ main man, with a whole host falling to the wayside.
The Frenchman’s signature finish of opening up his body and effortlessly curling the ball out of the goalkeeper’s reach and into the bottom corner will forever be synonymous with his time in the capital.
Such was the legacy left by the frontman. A poll on Arsenal’s official club website in 2008 saw Henry voted their greatest ever player, beating Dennis Bergkamp and Tony Adams to the top spot.
The villain-status that has been placed upon the likes of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fàbregas since their Arsenal departures is further testament to the impact Henry had on the Gunners faithful.
There was no ill-feeling towards the Frenchman – a sentiment even Wenger wasn’t afforded by some sections of their fan base – and he was welcomed back with open arms in January 2012 during MLS’s offseason, before once again being given a hero’s farewell.
The statue outside the Emirates Stadium will forever be a constant reminder of just how influential Henry’s time at the club was. However, no Gunners fan needs reminding of the Frenchman’s time on these shores.
He’s Arsenal’s greatest ever player and arguably the Premier League’s greatest ever player.