London (AFP) – Arsenal’s all-time record goalscorer Thierry Henry insists a barren end to Arsene Wenger’s 22-year reign as the Gunners’ manager shouldn’t tarnish his legacy.
Wenger announced on Friday he will step aside at the end of the season, having won three Premier League titles and a record seven FA Cups during his time in charge.
However, the Frenchman, who brought Henry to the club in 1999, has been under increasing pressure to leave due to a 14-year drought without winning the Premier League and even failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years last season.
“Recently people were always confusing what he is doing at the minute and his legacy,” Henry told Sky Sports. “Once you announce you are leaving people are going to talk about your legacy and his legacy is untouchable.”
Arsenal are on course for their lowest ever league finish under Wenger as they sit in sixth with just five Premier League games of the season remaining.
However, they do possess one final shot at qualifying for next season’s Champions League should they win the Europa League.
For Wenger’s final game in charge to come in the Europa League final in his homeland in Lyon next month, Arsenal need to get past Spanish giants Atletico Madrid over two legs in their semi-final on April 27 and May 4.
“I remember when I used to play for Arsenal people used to talk about the way we were playing, not what we won, but they way we were doing it, and how Arsene changed Arsenal into a well-recognised club in the world,” added Henry.
“I’m happy now we can all talk about his legacy and, yes, let’s not forget that we still have to win the Europa League.
“Let’s not get lost in celebrating the end of his era. The team has to win the Europa League, it would be an amazing achievement and Arsene never won in Europe before so it would be a great way to give him a good exit.”
Henry sparked speculation that he could succeed Wenger in February when he conceded managing Arsenal would “be a dream” of his.
However, he backed down from those comments when quizzed who should replace Wenger and whether he is interested in the role.
“Look at me laughing,” he said. “This is a funny one because I am not going to go that way again. I was trying to talk from the heart and it went I would say too far.
“There is one person who you can ask that question, though, it’s (Arsenal Chief Executive) Ivan Gazidis. He’s the one that should answer the question.”