Henry's artistry edges Arsenal closer to securing the two prizes they most want

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The Independent Football

The symbolism was heavy. Thierry Henry returning to the place where he felt so unloved with the team he himself may now forsake. But every advance Arsenal make in their wonderful Champions' League campaign makes it that little bit more likely that their captain and cherished asset may, just, stay after all.

A script is already written, of course. And Henry is enough of a romantic to follow it. There he is on the pitch at the Stade de France in Paris, the city where he was raised in the "projects", with television cameras all around having just won the European Cup and pledging his future to Arsenal.

Just as Steven Gerrard was forced to do last May in Istanbul with Liverpool - before his stressful fandango with Chelsea. The European Cup final seems to have that effect on people.

It would also complete a stellar set of medals for Henry and, with each eye-catching display by Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Eboué and the cadre of young Gunners urged on by their manager, Arsène Wenger, it makes it more difficult for Henry to leave. And he knows it.

This was his 100th match in European football - and he was in search of his 50th goal. He nearly got it with the single best piece of skill in the first half by deftly controlling Fabregas' ball through, instantly dumping his marker on the turf, and forcing a sharp save by Gianluigi Buffon. It was a trademark Henry moment. Playing as a lone striker he cleverly occupied both of Juventus' central defenders, with that mixture of grace and power, while also finding the time to drift in front of the right-back Gianluca Zambrotta.

Indeed, his first intervention of the contest was to flick the ball wonderfully to Jose Antonio Reyes. It was a mixture of balletic elasticity and threat as was his simple chest-down to Alexander Hleb which fashioned the half's best opportunity, wasted by Eboué.

Juventus would, with feverish eagerness, welcome back Henry who had an unhappy time here, after his move from Monaco, before joining Wenger at Arsenal in 1999. But he has no inclination to allow that to happen. If he does go, it will be to Spain. Indeed, he treats questions on the matter with the same indignation he showed when he was upended by Adrian Mutu. And no one quite does indignation quite like Henry. Even with his back turned, his pout can be felt, while his shoulder shrug could be patented.

A force of nature as spring blooms, Henry is irrepressible right now. His sore Achilles has improved and with it his displays and his demeanour. He was quick to outstrip the Juve defence after the interval but Buffon alertly thwarted him. Then there was a silky drag-back to outfox Pavel Nedved. By now, the Italians were playing with three strikers. But even collectively they were no match for Henry.

The Juventus coach, Fabio Capello, had called for a "miracolo" to overturn that 2-0 deficit and not so long ago that is exactly what Arsenal appeared to need to get Henry to sign a new contract and effectively finish his career with them.

Capello did not get his wish. In the soon to be vacated marble halls of Highbury, they are edging closer to theirs and with it a European Cup final as well. The trophy would be some symbol to take with them to their new stadium.

Wenger's pieces of eight

Since Markus Rosenberg scored for Ajax in Arsenal's 2-1 win in Amsterdam on 29 September 2005, Arsène Wenger's side have gone eight Champions' League games without conceding a goal, breaking AC Milan's competition record. Bookmakers William Hill are offering 40-1 on Arsenal winning the Champions' League without conceding another goal.

Sparta Prague 0 Arsenal 2 (18 October 2005)

Arsenal 3 Sparta Prague 0 (2 November)

Thun 0 Arsenal 1 (22 November)

Arsenal 0 Ajax 0 (7 December)

Real Madrid 0 Arsenal 1 (21 February 2006)

Arsenal 0 Real Madrid 0 (8 March)

Arsenal 2 Juventus 0 (28 March)

Juventus 0 Arsenal 0 (5 April)

Semi-finals draw and dates

Arsenal v Villarreal

First leg: Wednesday 19 April; Second leg: Tuesday 25 April

Milan v Barcelona

First leg: Tuesday 18 April; Second leg: Wednesday 26 April.

Final: 17 May (Stade de France, Paris)

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