Arsenal 4 Charlton Athletic 0: Henry returns to punish Pardew

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The Independent Football

This time there was to be no manic jig from Alan Pardew, no hint of a confrontation from Arsène Wenger. Instead Charlton were easily brushed aside by Arsenal with the absence of Darren Bent for the visitors, who could be out for a month, as vital as the return of Thierry Henry for the home side.

There was also an early dismissal, Osei Sankofa sent off after half an hour, which killed any semblance of a contest, a flurry of missed opportunities for Arsenal and some fine saves from Scott Carson. Despite the scoreline it was no capitulation from Charlton.

Wenger said that, with its one-sideness, it was the perfect game for Henry, who has been absent for eight games with a neck injury, to make his return. "I'm convinced you will see a great Thierry Henry from now until May," Wenger said. "He comes back hungry and fresh and we have a lot to go for." That starts with Saturday's FA Cup tie against Liverpool.

Henry himself claimed he had "had the pre-season that I didn't get in the summer", and that his absence had given him a "different perspective", which included a reaffirmation of his commitment to Arsenal. He attempted to show that commitment on the field as well, high-fiving Wenger after scoring the penalty that followed Sankofa's dismissal, dancing with the injured Emmanuel Adebayor on the touchline, and then handing over spot-kick duties to Robin van Persie when he was pulled back in the second-half.

The Dutch striker was at the centre of controversy with Pardew, stating that Van Persie was "two yards offside" as he tried to reach Cesc Fabregas' deflected shot after it cannoned off the crossbar. Sankofa, in desperation, tugged his shirt, Pardew said, but Van Persie fell "dramatically" and that the chain of events constituted a "triple whammy" for Charlton.

"In all honesty this was a game to nothing for us tonight," said Pardew, who will have his personal hearing at the Football Assocation tomorrow following his dust-up with Wenger at Upton Park last autumn. "The important games are to come." Worryingly for him, Bent's damaged knee ligaments will take another week to assess. At least three Premiership games are expected to be missed. That could prove costly.

At the final whistle the two managers shook hands. "You got what you wanted," Wenger said with a half-smile. "But maybe you did not get what you wanted." In fact, there was no danger of a repeat of last autumn's proceedings. For that a contest needed to break out and it never did.

Before Arsenal scored they had already struck the post, through an Henry header, and had another header, by Philippe Senderos, volleyed off the line. Carson had also saved alertly from Fabregas' fierce shot before, once behind, clawing away Henry's dipping free-kick.

But the young goalkeeper was beaten again before the break. It was a moment of history - and not just because it was Justin Hoyte's first goal for Arsenal. The right-back charged forward and exchanged passes with Henry before beating Carson from a tight angle. It was the first Premiership goal scored by an Englishman for Arsenal since Sol Campbell struck twice against Everton in September 2005.

By now, for Charlton, it was about limiting the damage, although there was fortune as Tomas Rosicky's low shot beat Carson, only to strike a post again, and when Henry had a tap-in ruled out for an offside that seemed a close call.

Finally, Henry burst through and was pulled back by Souleymane Diawara. Van Persie scored from the spot and, in the 90th minute, he was there as the ball broke inside the area. He dinked his shot into the net to complete the rout.

Goals: Henry pen (30) 1-0; Hoyte (45) 2-0; Van Persie pen (76) 3-0; Van Persie (90) 4-0.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Hoyte, Senderos, Touré, Clichy; Hleb, Gilberto (Flamini, 70), Fabregas (Denilson, 82), Rosicky (Aliadière, 77); Van Persie, Henry. Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Djourou.

Charlton Athletic (4-5-1): Carson; Sankofa, El Karkouri, Diawara, Traoré; Ambrose (Thomas, 63), Hughes (Fortune, 33), Holland, Faye (Kishishev, 77), Rommedahl; M Bent. Substitutes not used: Myhre (gk), Hasselbaink.

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Charlton Diawara.

Sent off: Sankofa (29).

Man of the match: Fabregas.

Attendance: 60,057