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Henry eases past Wright to claim record
Robert Woodward | October 19, 2005 10:40 IST
Last Updated: October 19, 2005 11:00 IST
If style and skill on the ball were the only attributes that mattered, Thierry Henry would have no rival as Arsenal's greatest goalscorer.
If, however, you like your strikers to be passionate leaders of the line who are as happy with a scrambled touch over the line as a screamer from 20 metres, then Ian Wright was your man.
Henry moved past Wright in Tuesday's 2-0 Champions League win at Sparta Prague to become the top goalscorer in Arsenal's history and it is hard to imagine two more different marksmen.
England's Wright scored 185 goals between September 1991 and July 1998. France's Henry, who joined the north London club in August 1999 from Juventus, has now hit 186.
Statistics underline Henry's astonishing consistency. Top Premier League goalscorer for three of the past four seasons, he has reached the club landmark in 303 games.
However, Henry was signed as a winger and converted reluctantly into a central striker by manager Arsene Wenger, unsuccessfully at the beginning of the process.
The supply chain feeding Henry is also of a different class to that enjoyed by Wright in the 1990s when Arsenal were often accused of being a boring, defence-obsessed team.
After Wenger's arrival in 1996, Arsenal won three league titles and four FA Cups with a dazzling brand of fluent, attacking football which has had Henry at its head.
Runner-up as World Player of the Year in 2004 and 2003, the Frenchman can rarely be contained. His pace, vision and ability to drag defenders out to the wings before accelerating into the penalty area are added to a deadly eye for goal.
Henry's goals are often things of beauty be it an outrageous backheel under pressure, as against Charlton last season, a deft chip or a thunderous free kick.
His record-breaker on Tuesday was a sublime strike, with the Frenchman deftly collecting a long ball forward before swivelling to fire home a curling shot from the edge of the area.
It was Henry's first game for nearly six weeks following a groin injury.
Wright was much more of a grafter than an artisan. Henry, now 28, signed for Monaco aged 13 - Wright started adult life as a building labourer before being signed by Crystal Palace.
He was a losing FA Cup finalist with Palace, scoring twice in the final against Manchester United after coming on as a substitute. On joining Arsenal, he scored on his home and away league, League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup debuts.
Wright, built like Kevin Keegan, hit a hat-trick in his first league start for Arsenal and ended the 1991-92 season with 24 goals in 30 games, the league's top scorer.
In 1993 Arsenal won the FA Cup and in 1994-95 Wright scored in 10 successive games.
Wright's ability to beat defences on the counter-attack were Arsenal's main - some rival fans would say only - attacking weapon before Wenger's arrival and he rarely let the side down.
It was his unerring goal sense, which set him apart. When the ball bobbled in the opposition penalty area, Wright would be on the end of it, jabbing it home before exploding in delight.
In 1997 Wright moved past Cliff Bastin's record of 178 goals (in 395 games) and was still scoring regularly aged 33 after Wenger arrived. Shortly after Arsenal won the League and Cup double in 1998, Wright moved on to West Ham United and then Celtic.
Wright, volatile and vociferous, was adored by the Arsenal faithful who felt he was one of them. Henry, a quieter character, is also hugely popular but the fans' attitude is more one of reverence.
Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp has played alongside both strikers at Arsenal and feels any comparison is unfair.
"At the time I played with him [Ian], I didn't think I would ever play with another quite like him. I really didn't think that his record would ever be broken," Bergkamp said in August.
"It was always going to take a quite extraordinary player to break the record - and we have one.
"I would say that Thierry is the complete player. It is quite amazing he can do so many things at this level of football. Ian was an out-and-out goalscorer who could score goals out of situations that even I thought were impossible.
"It is difficult to compare them, but I have been very lucky to have played with them both."
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