Pires blames Barça for Henry's dull start

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The Independent Football

With his "ten-to-two" feet and his awkward running style Robert Pires could never quite compete with Thierry Henry in terms of grace and beauty in their days together at Arsenal but the midfielder left his old team-mate in his slip-stream as the star of Villarreal's 3-1 win over Barcelona on Saturday.

Having won the battle of the Arsenal old boys Pires then blamed Barcelona for Henry's indifferent start to his La Liga career saying they did not know how to get the best out of the French striker.

Henry was largely anonymous in Barcelona's first defeat of the season as Pires won two first-half penalties in an outstanding individual display. But Pires believes Barcelona's persistence with their pretty-patterns football at the expense of the occasional early ball to the flying Frenchman is behind Henry's failure to perform in Spain.

He became France's all-time record scorer in midweek but this game largely passed him by. A moment midway through the first half, when he did have time on the ball but was easily dispossessed out wide on the left by another former Gunner Pascal Cygan, summed up this performance.

Pires said: "I believe that the players of Barcelona are not playing as they have to with Henry. They are not looking for him with the ball. He hardly touched the ball against us. He is a player that needs to be in possession.

"At Arsenal, when we had the ball we would look for him and at Barcelona that is just not happening.

"They both have to adapt to each other. Barcelona have to adapt, and Titi also, but he is a player who is very easy to play with."

If leaving Arsène Wenger has done little for Henry, Pires is thriving under Manuel Pelligrini at Villarreal who went second with this win, ahead of Barcelona and a point behind leaders Real Madrid who also slipped up losing away to Espanyol.

Playing just behind a lone-striker, he twice surged into Barcelona's penalty box in the first 35 minutes only to be brought down – and twice Marcos Senna scored the subsequent penalty.

That after Santi Cazorla had put the home side ahead as early as the third minute. Between the two Senna penalties Bojan Krkic, at 17 years and two months, became the youngest goalscorer in Barcelona's history firing home a Leo Messi pass.

Barcelona must pick themselves up against Rangers in the Champions League tomorrow but they may do so without Henry. He missed training yesterday and needs a test before he can play his first competitive match in Britain since leaving Arsenal in the summer.