Why Arsenal legend Thierry Henry remains unique, as ex-striker turns 40
As Thierry Henry turns 40, it's safe to say that Arsenal will probably never see another player like their record goal scorer. But will the English football?
Henry celebrates his landmark birthday on Thursday and his status as one of the Premier League's greatest ever players remains unchallenged -- especially in an era when most of the game's biggest stars are playing in other countries. In honour of the French striker's milestone, here's a look at five things that made him so unique.
Plenty of strikers have put up a 30-goal season at some point during their career. But five straight? Before the era of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Henry was one of the few players who achieved that feat.
In that stretch between 2001-02 and 2005-06 he also won a record four Premier League Golden Boot awards (finishing one goal behind Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2002-03). Henry is the only player to score at least 20 Premier League goals in five straight seasons, while only Alan Shearer can match his three straight Golden Boots.
Henry will always be best remembered for his goal scoring, but one of his most impressive Premier League records is for assists: he had 20 of them during the 2002-03 season. Current Arsenal star Mesut Ozil, a pure playmaker, finished one short of that number two years ago, the closest anyone has come. Henry also scored 24 league goals that season for a 20-20 double that is unlikely to ever be matched.
No one has turned a Premier League stadium into their personal theatre the way Henry did at Highbury. Of Henry's 228 Arsenal goals, exactly half came at Highbury in the league -- including a hat trick against Wigan in the last game played at the stadium. Those 114 goals are the most any player has scored at a single Premier League ground.
Arsenal's unbeaten season in 2003-04 was of course down to more players than just Henry, but his contribution to the "Invincibles" can't be overstated.
That was the striker's most prolific season, with 30 league goals and 39 overall, and he almost single-handedly kept the unbeaten streak going with a hat trick in the 4-2 win over Liverpool -- a game where the Gunners had trailed twice. Henry himself recently singled out his legendary solo effort to make it 3-2 as his favourite Arsenal goal. "It's the only time in my life that I felt a stadium breathing again," he said.
At his best against the best
Since Henry left the club in 2007, Arsenal have often been accused of being flat-track bullies, easily beating up on lesser clubs but struggling against their big rivals. Henry, however, was usually at his best against top opponents.
Many of his most memorable goals came against Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham -- the teams Arsenal fans most badly wanted to beat at the time. On the European stage, his solo effort against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu put Arsenal into the 2006 Champions League final.
Henry scored nine goals against both United and Liverpool; 10 against Chelsea. In addition, he never lost a league game against Spurs, with six wins and four draws in 10 meetings.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.