Wenger upbeat on Henry future

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The Independent Online

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger remains convinced Thierry Henry is not finished and can still have an impact as a central striker.

Henry - who left the Gunners in the summer of 2006 after becoming the club's all-time leading goalscorer - will demand showdown talks with Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola if he continues to be played out on the left wing for the Spanish giants.

Wenger feels his former protege, who was also at Monaco with the French coach before coming to Highbury in 1999 when he was converted into a world-class striker, has plenty of football left in him - if utilised to his strengths.

"I want him to be happy first of all because he made us happy for years. The least you want for him is to be happy and at the moment he is not," observed the Arsenal manager.

"But that unfortunately is part of the career of a player. He has gone through these kinds of times at the start of his career and at the end of his career."

Wenger, though, insisted: "I feel at the moment that he is too young for the end of his career.

"I found him quite sharp playing for France in the World Cup qualifiers against Austria and Serbia - but there is tough competition up there.

"I believe he should play through the centre where he feels more comfortable. It is more difficult to be a winger when you are over 30."

Henry, meanwhile, is willing to put up with the situation for now, especially with Barca having just won three games in a row for the first time in seven months - but he is adamant it cannot last forever.

"For the moment, there is nothing to talk about," he said.

"But if this continues, of course we will have to talk about it.

"It is true that I had talks with the coach before the start of the season. For me, the talks were clear."

Playing in his favoured central role, Henry was in inspired form for France in the World Cup qualifying victory against Serbia earlier this month, scoring the opener as Les Bleus ran out 2-1 winners.

In that game, Henry was allowed to drift across the front line at will and some of his link-up play with playmaker Yoann Gourcuff was a joy to watch.

But he is not afforded that freedom at Barca and is forced to stay out on his wing.

"When the ball is being passed around quickly and I have licence to move around, I play," added Henry, when asked for the reasons for his return to form against Serbia.

"And then Gourcuff was playing in a 'Zidanesque' way that night.

"But Barcelona have a well-grounded game plan where you have to respect certain rules. When you play on the wing, you have to stay there to open the game up and wait for the ball.

"It is like that here. You must accept it."

Henry chose to stay at Barca following those summer talks with new coach Guardiola but his situation has clearly changed over the past few months.

But Les Bleus' captain told L'Equipe: "I have no regrets. I did what I had to do at a time when I had to do it.

"All I want is to play and enjoy myself on the pitch."

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