Henry acclaims Arsenal's new generation

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The Independent Football

Thierry Henry is backing Cesc Fabregas and Arsenal's 'generation next' to make the club contenders for top honours again.

The former Gunners skipper left the Emirates Stadium for Barcelona during the summer in a £16m move after leading them to the 2006 Champions League final and having played a key role when Arsène Wenger's men dominated the English game.

The departure of Arsenal's long-time talisman has allowed the current squad to play with a new-found freedom and panache, with Fabregas admitting they had all been "a bit inhibited" by the commanding presence of such an important individual.

Arsenal have stormed to the top of the Barclays Premier League, with five wins from six games and were again impressive as they beat Sevilla 3-0 to kick-off their European campaign.

Henry believes Wenger's emerging side have all the foundations to mount a sustained assault on the title race once again.

"It is their generation. It is their Arsenal now and it is up to them to win stuff – and with the team they have, I do not know why they wouldn't," Henry said.

Fabregas has been in inspirational form for the Gunners this season – already chalking up six goals, and claiming another against Sevilla with the aid of a deflection.

Henry had always been impressed by the burning hunger for success shown by the 20-year-old former Barcelona trainee, who has so far spurned the advances of several Spanish clubs to return home.

He reflected: "When you look at Cesc and the way he plays, it is like he is 30 with the way he sees the game, the way he does everything. His mentality is already there. What I love about Cesc is that he does not like to lose."

Henry scored his first goal for Barcelona in the final minute of their 3-0 Champions League win over Lyon at the Nou Camp last week, and the 30-year-old is enjoying life at his new club, but admitted the intense media spotlight in Spain did take some getting used to.

"Life is great," he said. "Everybody has been really good to me since I arrived. The town and the stadium are great, so are the team. Everybody is cool here, the staff and the fans have been great so far.

"I feel OK, the only difference is in training you have the press – and they want to come back home and sleep with you. They are just always there. It is a big change from England and Arsenal. The press were never there in training, you had no fans in training and here it is always like this. At the beginning it is not like a shock, but you are like 'Whoa, it is always like this?' After, though, you do get used to it."

Ronaldinho, Henry's team-mate at Barca, must be used to it already and the club moved yesterday to defend their striker from media accusations that he has been spending too much time in nightclubs.

The Brazil playmaker has had a lacklustre start to the season, being substituted in three games, and the local media has questioned the legitimacy of a calf strain that is keeping him sidelined this week.

"He's not in his best moment ... he is suffering because he is injured," Barcelona president Joan Laporta said Tuesday. "The only therapy is to help him and ensure he does not feel apart. We need to be together with him."

Laporta said he was not concerned about media questioning Ronaldinho's dedication to soccer and allegations that his play has been affected by too many late-night visits to Barcelona's nightclubs.

"I have not spoken with him [about his private life] because it is a question for the dressing room," Laporta said. "The players know how far they can go in their private lives."