For the second FA Cup final in succession Thierry Henry had failed to walk the walk, but this time there was a winner's medal in his pocket and he talked the talk better than anyone. The words tumbled out triumphantly but also defiantly, with the air of one who – like many professional footballers – is more sensitive to criticism than he cares to admit.
A year ago Henry had watched Liverpool's Michael Owen mug Arsenal in the last seven minutes by taking two of the sort of chances he himself had been spurning all afternoon, which led to the French striker's mournful speech about his team needing to sign "a fox in the box". For much of this season Henry has been that fox, with 30 goals to his name, and although on Saturday he was again a fox on the run, Arsenal had a couple of midfield wolves ready to devour Chelsea's sheepish defence.
So, standing in the same draughty corridors at the Millennium Stadium, he was able to reflect this time on the additional ruthlessness that has taken Arsène Wenger's team to the verge of the Double: "When we're not playing well this season, and we've had some bad games, we've still managed to win. We didn't play that well against West Ham in the League or against Middlesbrough in the semi-final. But we came through both.
"That's where we were failing last season. I was delighted even though I didn't score. All that mattered was bringing the Cup home. We've been through a lot this season but we haven't done anything yet in the League."
It should not take long to remedy that and the impression is that Arsenal would love it – really love it – if they were to take Manchester United's Premiership title away after three years on Wednesday rather than waiting for the apparent formality of a home game with Everton three days later. Last year's 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford is a blemish on the record of every Arsenal player involved, and Sir Alex Ferguson's comments about United being the best team in the country have not gone down well.
"That's a game he and the boss play," said Henry. "As we say in France, I look in front of my door. I'm playing for Arsenal, not for someone else. I'm not trying to disturb someone else – you hardly ever see Arsenal players talking about other teams. We say in France 'jealousy can make people talk a bit wrong'."
Henry was full of praise for Ray Parlour, who tends to find the spotlight shining elsewhere but is not underestimated by his team-mates: "I know I am biased but I really cannot understand why he is not in the England team. Today he was the man. He was running everywhere, getting the ball back for us at the back and at the front and he scored a magnificent goal."
The man himself admitted that his World Cup chance had gone, and might have reflected that failing to score a single Premiership goal this season had something to do with it. That made Saturday's effort all the more spectacular: "There wasn't a lot of support for me and I thought 'what am I going to do here?' then thought 'why not?' I caught it well and the next thing I knew it was in the back of the net. I'm in that role where you don't get as much limelight as the other players but that's fine with me if I win my second Double this year. It will be a fantastic achievement because not many players have done it."
Celebrations have been muted so far, for the days of the Essex boys Parlour and Tony Adams going on a bender together are long gone; Wenger imposed a midnight curfew after the squad had flown back from Cardiff to Luton on Saturday night. They can expect to be parading two trophies round Islington next Sunday.Reuse content