By Chris Harris
There was a real feel-good factor at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night - and Thierry Henry was responsible for much of it.
If any hangover remained after Saturday's numbing defeat at Bramall Lane, it was replaced by a sense of anticipation when the team news filtered through. Henry himself could not have wished for a more satisfying return.
The Arsenal captain scored a penalty, set up Justin Hoyte's first goal for the Club and earned a spot kick for Robin van Persie. Henry could have had five or six goals - he also hit the post and saw one effort kicked off the line - but that didn't matter. The Frenchman was just happy to be injury free after a frustrating first half of the season.
"It is never easy to come back when you have been out for that long and I only started training with the team on Monday," said Henry. "But Manu Adebayor and now Julio Baptista are injured so the boss called me back a bit earlier than planned.
"I didn't know what to expect because you don't know where your body is going to be when you've been out [for five weeks]. But in a surprising way I was feeling fresh.
"Because of the kind of player I am, when I'm not well within my body it shows straight away because I don't come and take the ball and have a go at defenders. That's what I tried to do today and I was very pleased with the way we played.
"My sciatic problem was very bad and the mistake I made was to carry on playing with it. I did get hammered about the way I was playing, I would rather be on the pitch but it got stupid and I stopped. You saw tonight that when I am fresh and my legs are better it shows.
"We have played 22 games in the Premiership now and I have missed nine of them. It is a lot and when you are not well within your body you get upset with yourself because you can't help the team as much as you would like. But now I am well and I can enjoy the game straight away. You saw that tonight."
In his matchday programme notes, Henry revealed that he has finally had the 'pre-season' he was denied in the summer. That means Arsenal's talisman is fit, fresh and raring to go. The Premiership - and Europe - have been warned.
3 Jan 2007