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Life before Arsenal

Remembering Thierry Henry’s days as a left-winger with Monaco and Juventus

One of the Premier League's greatest ever forwards started life as a left-winger content with four league goals a season

Thierry Henry arrived in North London as a pacey left-winger with an eye for goal.

Eight seasons later he left as one of the best forwards to ever grace English shores.

Arsene Wenger rightfully gets plenty of credit for creating one of Europe’s greatest ever forwards.

But did you know it was his fault Henry was shafted out wide in the first place?

The exact moment Wenger knew he’d signed a world class forward that nobody knew existed

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The exact moment Wenger knew he’d signed a world class forward that nobody knew existed

Henry made his debut for Monaco just two weeks before Wenger was sacked as first-team coach in 1994.

He was deployed as a left-winger because of his raw pace and dribbling ability, despite the fact he had been invited to join the academy after a scout witnessed him score six goals in a 6-0 win playing as a centre-forward.

So when Jean Tigana took over as manager he simply left Henry on the wing.

Different position, different hairstyle

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Different position, different hairstyle

Henry’s finishing wasn’t always as composed as the side-footing, corner-seeking Henry that Arsenal fans treasure so dearly.

Nevertheless he gave Ligue 1 right-backs a torrid time and in 1996/97 he was named Young Player of the Year as Monaco won the league.

Until recently he held Monaco’s club record for youngest ever scorer; a certain Kylian Mbappe now has that honour.

Nine goals in 36 appearances represented a decent campaign for a lively young winger but his devastating goalscoring potential remained hidden to the coaching staff.

There’s a lethal finisher lurking inside that naive youngster

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There’s a lethal finisher lurking inside that naive youngster

The season after was David Trezeguet’s breakout year.

18 goals in 27 games meant that Monaco had no reason to look for more forwards.

Little did they know that their left-winger would go on to become the only player other than Michel Platini to score more goals for France than Trezeguet.

Trezeguet distracted from Henry’s potential… a welcome distraction mind

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Trezeguet distracted from Henry’s potential… a welcome distraction mind

Henry’s prowess as a wide man is not to be underestimated.

He was a key member of France’s 1998 squad that united a nation with a World Cup win on home soil.

An undeniably great side, Aime Jacquet’s squad actually could have done with a decent centre-forward.

Stephane Guivarc’h led the line in the final, a player later dubbed ‘the worst forward in Premier League history’ after his spell with Newcastle.

Henry will always be a World Cup winning winger

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Henry will always be a World Cup winning winger

In 1997/98, Henry scored more goals in Monaco’s Champions League run to the semi-finals than he did in 30 league appearances.

In fact only future team-mate Alessandro Del Piero (10) boasted a greater tally than Henry’s total of seven.

Success in Europe, coupled with World Cup glory, was to draw a £10.5million bid from Serie A’s Old Lady.

A rare lowlight in his magnificent career

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A rare lowlight in his magnificent career

There’s no hiding from the fact that Henry flopped at Juventus.

Serie A defences were more organised and competent than their French equivalents.

Henry was also asked to do his fair share of defending, something he wasn’t built for and which massively hindered his morale.

Reflecting on his time in Italy, Henry said: “I wasn’t enjoying myself at all. I felt like I’d lost the desire to play football.”

Juventus made him wear No6, no wonder it didn’t work out

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Juventus made him wear No6, no wonder it didn’t work out

Neither Marcello Lippi or Carlo Ancelotti showed much interest in employing Henry primarily as a forward.

Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi were seen as the goalscorers, with Daniel Fonseca in reserve.

So, four months after joining, in which time he scored just three goals, Juventus director Luciano Moggi attempted to use him as a bargaining chip.

Udinese’s Marcio Amoroso was high on the club’s wishlist and Henry was offered as part of the deal.

PICTURED: Things clicking into place

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PICTURED: Things clicking into place

However, around that time a twinge in Wenger’s memory reminded him of a young forward with huge potential that he once shifted to the wing.

Henry signed for Arsenal in 1999 and was restored to the centre-forward position of his youth.

Although all those seasons on the wing meant there were teething problems.

Why spend you time crossing when you could be scoring?

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Why spend you time crossing when you could be scoring?

He failed to score in his first seven Premier League games and even considered asking Wenger if he could play as a left winger again.

But he persisted and once he understood the genius of Dennis Bergkamp, the goals began to flow and the rest is history.

So ends Henry’s life as a left-winger.

Arguably the best strike partnership in Premier League history

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Arguably the best strike partnership in Premier League history

Although he never fully abandoned his old life.

He loved to drift out wide and begin his lightning fast attacks from Highbury’s touchline.

And at Barcelona he was instructed to whiten his boots with chalk out left, much like Neymar does these days, to make the most of the wide Nou Camp pitch.

But there’s a distinct difference between Henry the winger, content with four league goals a season, and Henry the wide forward, who scored 30+ goals in all competitions five seasons in a row.

Monaco and Juventus must still wish they’d given him a chance to lead the line to this day.