Arsenal 2 Cardiff City 1: Henry vow is Arsenal turning point, says Wenger

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger is confident that Thierry Henry's decision to commit his future to Arsenal could prove a turning point in the club's fortunes as he vowed to build a team around his captain.

Wenger admitted that "negative vibes" had surrounded Highbury since the start of the season following the departure of Patrick Vieira and the team's slump in Premiership fortunes.

However, he revealed his determination to start talks with Henry "the quicker, the better" as he looked to transform Arsenal's season after such a huge psychological boost.

Henry's declaration that he intended to see out his career at Arsenal - provided the club prove they can match his ambitions - was followed by a 2-1 win against Cardiff in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.

Wenger paid tribute to his exciting young players who have shown their rich promise, but he hailed Henry as the foundation stone of the club's future.

The Arsenal manager said: "We have young players developing very well and maturing quickly into great players. But they need to be surrounded by players of top class with experience.

"In the next three or four years, Thierry [Henry] is, of course, the person who can do that. Can we build a team around him? Yes.

"It's an exciting period for the club and a difficult one as well. There's a lot of potential in the side but you don't know how quickly they will explode. I believe we can be a surprising team in the second part of the season.

"There were a lot of negative vibes around the club from the start of the season because Patrick Vieira left and because we didn't do as well in the Premiership as we are used to.

"So it's important we turn that around. Thierry is, of course, part of that. But we believe we will turn it around and we are a club with huge ambition."

Arsenal's Cup success was achieved without Henry, who was rested along with Sol Campbell, Jens Lehmann and Cesc Fabregas, while Kolo Touré and Emmanuel Eboué were on international duty.

The Gunners suffered as a result in defence, with Philippe Senderos continuing to look shaky, not having fully recovered from his confidence being undermined by Didier Drogba earlier in the season.

Indeed, Senderos was caught out in the first minute as Cameron Jerome stole in behind him, only to lob his shot over the bar, and he was fortunate not to be sent off for at least two subsequent fouls. However, Robert Pires struck twice in the first 18 minutes - firstly after fine approach work by Dennis Bergkamp and Jose Antonio Reyes, while his second goal came after a neat move involving Bergkamp and Robin Van Persie. With Van Persie hitting the bar, Arsenal missed chances to make sure of victory before Jerome struck from close range with three minutes left.

The Cardiff manager Dave Jones was nevertheless impressed with the way his side battled on gamely as he set their long-term sights on achieving promotion to the Premiership.

"Our bigger picture is building a new stadium and training ground, and trying to get out of the division we're in so we can play Arsenal for many seasons to come," he said.

"Four months ago, this club was classed as cannon fodder for relegation. Now I'm asking all the players to crank up the machine to get close to a play-off spot. We've got 18 games to do it."

Goals: Pires (6) 1-0; Pires (18) 2-0; Jerome 87 (2-1).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Almunia; Lauren, Senderos, Djourou, Gilbert; Pires, Silva, Flamini, Reyes (Owusu-Abeyie 45); Bergkamp, Van Persie (Larsson, 77). Substitutes not used: Poom (gk), Hleb, Lupoli.

Cardiff City (4-4-2): Alexander; Weston, Loovens (Koskela, 64), Purse, Cox; Barker, Ardley, Cooper (Lee, 89), Whitley; Ledley, Jerome. Substitutes not used: Margetson (gk), Darlington, Mulryne.

Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

Booked: Arsenal Senderos; Cardiff Whitley, Loovens.

Man of the match: Pires.

Attendance: 36,552.