They put up a united front yesterday but as more details of the dispute between Arsène Wenger and Thierry Henry emerged, it is evident that in private, the Arsenal captain is still upset at the way he has been treated by his manager. Henry himself decided he would take a month's break after Wenger told him he was to be dropped for Saturday's match against Tottenham.
In an interview in the French sports newspaper L'Equipe yesterday, Henry adopted a more conciliatory tone, admitting he "could be a pig" and "sometimes, I feel that I am in the right even when I am wrong" - in private he is known to feel very differently about the dispute. The attempt to patch up their rift in public may have superficially headed off a crisis, but Henry's relationship with Wenger has reached a critical stage.
In a statement yesterday Wenger said: "There is no problem between myself and Thierry," and that after talks between them, the medical team had decided Henry would be out "for at least a few weeks".
Originally pulled aside by Wenger at training on Friday, Henry was told that his performances had been below par and that he was to be rested for the following day's match. Henry responded by saying that if that was the case, he would take the full amount of time required to recover completely from a neck injury that has plagued him all season and then left the training ground. While Henry has conceded in private that his decision to leave in a fit of temper was not a judicious move, he is understood to feel betrayed at having been dropped.
It was Wenger's decision to leave him out for the Tottenham game and Henry will now dictate when he is fit enough to return to the side. There are still many other issues underlying the tension between the manager and his captain, many of them relating to the signing of new players and the promises made to Henry when he agreed a new four-year contract in the summer. There have been some doomsday predictions within the club about the potential fallout should they fail to qualify for the Champions' League this season which has also increased the pressure on Henry and the players. Where the dispute leaves Henry's future is unclear although the player himself said that his "life was at Arsenal".
Given that last year he announced in January that he would be signing a new contract - and then took five months to actually do just that - no one at Arsenal will be taking anything for granted.
With Barcelona's lead at the top of La Liga down to one point, and tonight's crucial Group A match against Werder Bremen a must-win fixture if they are to progress to the next round, it is clear that the European champions are hardly invincible. Whether Henry would be prepared to turn his back on the adulation of the Arsenal fans should he decide to leave in the summer must be another complication.Reuse content