Focus is football not farewells, says departing Henry

 

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The Independent Football

Thierry Henry has promised that he will not get distracted by dreams of a goodbye goal for Arsenal tomorrow night. The Champions League last-16 first leg at Milan will be Henry's last before he returns to parent club New York Red Bulls, but Arsenal's all-time leading goal-scorer insisted that his focus remained on the task in hand.

"I have not thought about it," he said of the potential dream scenario. "I just want to help Arsenal on the night. I am an Arsenal player for one more game. Milan is Milan. It is another type of game and it is never easy to win away in the Champions League."

Henry does know something about winning at San Siro, though. In one of his most famous Arsenal displays, he scored twice in the 5-1 victory over Internazionale in the group stage in November 2003.

That game is an important piece of the Henry legend at Arsenal, but his return this winter will also be part of the story in future years. He has scored two crucial goals during his loan: a winner from the bench in his return in the FA Cup against Leeds United, and another winner from the bench, deep in stoppage time, at Sunderland last Saturday.

The significance of these moments has not yet sunk in for the man of whom there is already a statue outside the Emirates stadium. "I will look back on it afterwards and see what happened," he said. "It has all been kind of unreal."

Aaron Ramsey, who scored the equaliser in Saturday's 2-1 win, knows the importance of Henry's return. "It's been a fantastic period for him coming back to the club that he supports and has done so much for," he said. "It's a great story for him so far."

Focusing on tomorrow's game, Ramsey has urged his team to score some crucial away goals. Arsenal beat Milan at this stage four years ago, although that involved winning 2-0 in Milan after drawing 0-0 at home. This year the away leg is first, but Ramsey believes that they should try to seize the initiative early.

"If we can go there and get a few goals and then come back to the Emirates then that's going to be a fantastic result for us," Ramsey said. "Hopefully, we can get a couple of goals and keep them out as well."

After the weekend victory, Arsenal are back in the Champions League qualification places, to Ramsey's pleasure. "It's nice to be level on points in fourth place and back in a Champions League place, where we want to be," he said. "We're going to take each game as it comes. Now we'll concentrate on the big game on Wednesday."

Spanish 17-year-old midfielder Jon Miquel Toral has signed his first professional contract with Arsenal. The attacking midfielder joined the Arsenal academy as a scholar from Barcelona last summer. Barcelona gave up any claim on Toral, as well as on Hector Bellerin, who joined under similar circumstances, as part of the deal for Cesc Fabregas.

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