No.7: 16th November 2002
Thierry Henry v Tottenham – Emirates Stadium
(13 minutes played, score Arsenal 0-0 Tottenham)
Games against Tottenham always occupy the mind for days in advance. You turn over the permutations of victory or defeat throughout the working day, and at night when you go to bed and want your mind to clear they are still there gnawing away. You accept you will be happy with any victory no matter how it comes, no matter how well or badly you play, but it must be victory, anything else is just too painful to contemplate. Thierry Henry understood how the fans feel about these games…
With just 13 minutes on the clock, Vieira rose to send a towering header clear of our penalty area. It fell to Henry who took the ball, twisted away from his marker, Etherington, and left him gasping in his wake as he crossed the halfway line. The speed of Henry’s run had the Tottenham defenders pouring back, but as he closed on their penalty area three formed a solid barrier in front of him. Making the slightest feint to suggest he was about to shoot for goal with his right foot, instead, Henry touched it to his left across the line of Tottenham’s backtracking defenders then smashed it into the bottom corner of the net. While I and every other Arsenal fan in the stadium that day went wild, Henry was in the mood to make a point too as he sprinted back the other way, running the entire length of the field to slide on his knees and pose arrogantly in front of the Tottenham fans. At that moment he became every Arsenal fan. While recalling this moment, I wondered how Tottenham fans viewed this posturing. I checked a few of their websites and found this amusing and honest summing up:
"The Frenchman then ran all the way back to his own half to taunt the Spurs contingent at the Clock End with his celebrations. Spurs struggle to find the energy to run up the field once, never mind there and back again."
It was an iconic moment, a moment not lost on the club either. Nine years later, as part of the 125th anniversary celebrations in December 2011, a statue was unveiled capturing the moment forever in bronze. Erected outside the stadium it ensures no one will ever forget that delicious, delirious, joyous moment – as if we could. And in years to come, when future generations of Gooners not yet born come to the ground for the first time, their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandfathers or grandmothers will relish the chance to stand in front of the statue, tell them about that goal and proudly say “I was there!”